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Umarells observing re-paving at the corner of Palazzo Re Enzo and via Rizzoli, Bologna (2016)

Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛlː]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term popular in Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.[1] Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin), and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a l and a final s (out of English influence).[2] The term is increasingly used in other parts of Italy[3], sometimes in association with zdaura (or żdåura [ˈðdʌu̯ra]) referring to an umarell's wife.[4] With the above-described meaning, the term has been admittedly created by the writer Danilo Masotti in 2005, deliberately distorting the classical dialect of Bologna[5][6]. Masotti subsequently wrote two books and created an associated successful blog.[7][8]

Instances of use[edit]

In 2015, the city of Riccione, approximately 130 km (81 mi) to the South-East of Bologna, allocated an €11,000 budget to pay a stipend to umarells to oversee worksites in the city – counting the number of trucks in and out to ensure materials were delivered/removed according to the receipts, and guard against theft when the site was otherwise unattended.[9] The town of San Lazzaro di Savena, 6 km (3.7 mi) to the South-East of Bologna, awarded the "Umarell of the year" prize to a local resident, Mr. Franco Bonini.[10][11]

In 2016, the local cultural association Succede solo a Bologna ["It only happens in Bologna"] released the "Umarèl card" as a fundraiser for continued restoration of the San Petronio church.[12][13] Separately, a smartphone app called Umarells was released that tracked the location of ongoing roadworks and construction sites.[14][15] The fast food restaurant chain Burger King also "hired" several umarells as part of a social media marketing campaign promoting its increased presence in the country.[16]

In July 2017, the Bologna city council's "consultative commission for the naming of street" approved the naming of a public square to the East of the city centre in the Cirenaica district Piazzetta degli Umarells in recognition of the local fame of the concept and the name – noting with conscious irony that the square was under construction at the time.[17][18][19][20] In April 2018 the public square was inaugurated by city councillor Matteo Lepore, the district president Simone Borsari, the "lord of the umarells" Franco Bonini, the stand-up comedian Maurizio Pagliari aka Duilio Pizzocchi and the writer Danilo Masotti.[21] In October 2019 the street-sign for the square was stolen.[22]. In April 2020 the comic magazine Topolino dedicated an episode to the umarell Gerindo Persichetti.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Umarèlls a Bologna, pensionati in prima fila per assistere ai lavori in corso. "Ogni giorno controlliamo quel che succede nei cantieri" (VIDEO, FOTO)". L’Huffington Post. 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  2. ^ "I libri che parlano degli UMARELLS". Umarells (in Italian). 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  3. ^ "Gli umarells da Bologna si sono spostati a Firenze -". (in Italian). 2016-06-04. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  4. ^ Bianchini, Margherita (2011). 101 cose da fare a Bologna almeno una volta nella vita. Newton Compton Editori. pp. Item 40. ISBN 9788854125469.
  5. ^ "stravolgendo il dialetto bolognese classico"
  6. ^
  7. ^ ""Oltre il cantiere. Fenomenologia degli umarells": se ne parla con Masotti". BolognaToday. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  8. ^ "Esce 'Oltre il cantiere' di Masotti - Emilia-Romagna". (in Italian). 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  9. ^ "Riccione, il Comune paga i pensionati per sorvegliare i cantieri". (in Italian). 2015-12-18. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  10. ^ "Anziano al cantiere: premiato il migliore del 2015". Corriere di Bologna (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  11. ^ "Un bolognese realizza il sogno dei pensionati: nominato capo cantiere - Tgcom24". Tgcom24. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  12. ^ "Le nostre Card". (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  13. ^ "Bologna per gli anziani: ecco la Umarèl card per seguire i cantieri in prima fila". La Repubblica. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  14. ^ ""Trova il cantiere": una app per gli umarells". (in Italian). 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  15. ^ "Ecco Umarells, l'app che segnala ai pensionati tutti i lavori in corso". Corriere della Sera. 2016-01-14. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  16. ^ "Burger King Recruits Construction-Spotting Pensioners to Oversee its Expansion in Italy - Video - Creativity Online". Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  17. ^ "L'omaggio del Comune Nasce in Cirenaica la piazza degli Umarells - la". Archivio - la (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  18. ^ online, Redazione. "A Bologna arriva la piazzetta dedicata agli "Umarells"". Corriere di Bologna (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  19. ^ "'Umarell': una piazza dedicata in Cirenaica". BolognaToday. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  20. ^ "Blog | Bologna, e piazzetta degli umarells sia". Il Fatto Quotidiano. 2017-07-23. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Bologna, rubato il cartello di piazzetta degli Umarells". La Repubblica. 2019-10-16. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  23. ^ "Gli Umarells vigilano anche a Paperopoli". Il Resto del Carlino. 2020-04-21. Retrieved 2020-04-21.


  • Umarells 2.0. Sono tanti, vivono in mezzo a noi, ci osservano... e noi osserviamo loro [Umarells 2.0. They are many, they live amongst us, they obvserve us... and we observe them]. Bologna, Pendragon Press (2010) by Danilo Masotti. ISBN 978-8883428579
  • Oltre il cantiere: fenomenologia degli Umarells [Beyond the construction site: the phenomenology of the Umarells]. Bologna, Pendragon Press (2016) by Danilo Masotti. ISBN 978-8865988077

External links[edit]