M.P:So…I don’t actually know from who and when I got to know this thing, but everyone I know, even people that come to study in Bologna from abroad know this. So basically it is said that college students do not have for any reason go on top of the Asinelli Tower in Bologna before they get their degree or otherwise, they won’t graduate. Now, I don’t have any idea about the reason behind this belief or what kind of energy the tower has [laughs], thing is, everyone I know, me included, respect this tradition.
My informant is a 23 years old girl who was born in Bologna, Italy, and who is now getting her master degree in archaeology and Egyptology at the city’s university, and who got her bachelor degree in anthropology and oriental studies 2 years ago always at Bologna’s Alma Mater Studiorum. This superstitious legend and folk belief came to her attention as soon as she started college, or maybe even before, when she was younger, but what makes it particularly interesting to her is that also people who are not originally from Bologna and come to study in the city from abroad get to know and follow this. Another thing that makes this belief exceptionally curious to her is that she is not an especially superstitious person; however, she has always -consciously or not- respected this tradition, and, until she won’t have concluded her studies, she won’t “for any reason go on top of that place”.
This is a well-known belief of my city, which, even if I am not a student at Bologna’s university, I got to know in time. My informant told me about this while we were chatting at a restaurant in the city center of Bologna.
Various are the things that make this particular folk piece particularly compelling.
First of all, it can be considered an intersection of belief, legend and superstition, and it’s possible to see how the three genres overlap and leak one into the other. Specifically, it is interesting to notice how the concept of aesthetic of belief is, in this example, perfectly encapsulated, it being the solid foundation on which the piece is established. My informant made it perfectly clear when stating that, despite not being particularly superstitious, she was convinced of its truthfulness because persuasively influenced by multiple sources from the most different backgrounds and identities. Moreover, this belief is somethings which unites a specific social and peer group, the one of the students who are currently attending university and, therefore, sharing the same life experience.
What makes it even more interesting is that this tradition doesn’t unite only students attending Bologna’s university, but all those people who are currently attending a college, and this is due to two main reasons. First, if you are a college student in another city and you come to visit Bologna, you should follow, anyway, the tradition, because the belief is said to concern every person who is identifiable with the categorization of ‘university student’. Second, -and here comes the really curious part- every Italian city who as an Atheneum has a similar belief connected to itself. University students shouldn’t go on top of Pisa’s Tower or Turin’s Mole Antoneliana, they shouldn’t look at Minerva’s statue in Rome and Sanmartino’s Cristo Velato in Naples, and they shouldn’t visit Ferrara’s Castello Estense or cross Pavia University’s courtyard, or, otherwise, they won’t get their degree.