I was standing in the Piazza Giuseppi Verdi, the site of the Bologna opera house, luxuriating in the mellifluous sounds of a classic soprano broadcast by loudspeakers into the square. A fellow pulled up in his motorcycle, switched off the engine, and announced to his girlfriend seated behind him, "Il rumor del modernità," the sound of modernity!
It was to me a symbolic moment for a city that glories in its past but is socially hospitable to its citizens and visitors. Music is for everyone, not just for those who can afford to buy a ticket. And so is all culture. When I asked a guard at the Palazzo Comunale on Piazza Maggiore, the grand central square, where I could buy a ticket to the exhibits, he answered proudly, "Museums in Bologna are free." It's true for government museums; the notion that culture should be accessible to all was promoted by years of Communist government.