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Umarells observing re-paving at the corners of Palazzo Re Enzo and via Rizzoli, Bologna (2015-16)

Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛl]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term in the Italo-Romance variety of 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).[2] The term is employed as lighthearted mockery or self-deprecation.

The modern term was popularised in 2005 by local writer Danilo Masotti[3][4] through two books and an associated blog.[5][6] In December 2020, the word was included in the Zingarelli dictionary.[7][8][9][10][11]

Instances of use[edit]

In 2015, the city of Riccione, approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Bologna, allocated an €11,000 budget to pay a wage 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 guarding against theft when the site was otherwise unattended.[12] The town of San Lazzaro di Savena, 6 km (3+12 mi) to the South-East of Bologna, awarded the "Umarell of the year" prize to a local resident, Franco Bonini.[13][14]

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.[15][16] Separately, a smartphone app called Umarells was released that tracked the location of ongoing roadworks and construction sites.[17][18] 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.[19]

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.[20][21][22][23]

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, and the writer Danilo Masotti.[24] A year later the street-sign for the square was stolen.[25] In April 2020, the comic magazine Topolino dedicated an episode to the umarell Gerindo Persichetti.[26]

Sarra, a real estate developer, installed windows to allow construction observation

In December 2020 in Pescara, the real estate developer Sarra installed windows to allow Umarells to observe three construction sites.[27][28]

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. ^ Bianchini, Margherita (2011). 101 cose da fare a Bologna almeno una volta nella vita. Newton Compton Editori. pp. Item 40. ISBN 9788854125469.
  3. ^ "stravolgendo il dialetto bolognese classico"
  4. ^ "La nostalgia degli 'umarells' è paralizzante. Bisogna cominciare a immaginarsi un futuro diverso". - Quotidiano di Ferrara - l'informazione verticale (in Italian). 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2020-12-17.
  5. ^ ""Oltre il cantiere. Fenomenologia degli umarells": se ne parla con Masotti". BolognaToday. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  6. ^ "Esce 'Oltre il cantiere' di Masotti - Emilia-Romagna". (in Italian). 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  7. ^ "La parola 'Umarell' entra nel vocabolario Zingarelli". Ansa. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  8. ^ "Gli 'umarells' bolognesi si aggirano ufficialmente nella lingua italiana". Dire. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  9. ^ "Bologna, gli «umarells» entrano nel vocabolario Zingarelli". Corriere di Bologna. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  10. ^ "Dal cantiere al dizionario: l'Umarèll è finito sullo Zingarelli". Repubblica. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  11. ^ ""Pensionato che si aggira, con le mani dietro la schiena...": la parola "Umarell" entra nel vocabolario"". Bolognatoday. 2020-12-03. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  12. ^ "Riccione, il Comune paga i pensionati per sorvegliare i cantieri". (in Italian). 2015-12-18. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  13. ^ "Anziano al cantiere: premiato il migliore del 2015". Corriere di Bologna (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  14. ^ "Un bolognese realizza il sogno dei pensionati: nominato capo cantiere - Tgcom24". Tgcom24. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  15. ^ "Le nostre Card". (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  16. ^ "Bologna per gli anziani: ecco la Umarèl card per seguire i cantieri in prima fila". La Repubblica. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  17. ^ ""Trova il cantiere": una app per gli umarells". (in Italian). 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  18. ^ "Ecco Umarells, l'app che segnala ai pensionati tutti i lavori in corso". Corriere della Sera. 2016-01-14. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  19. ^ "Burger King Recruits Construction-Spotting Pensioners to Oversee its Expansion in Italy - Video - Creativity Online". Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  20. ^ "L'omaggio del Comune Nasce in Cirenaica la piazza degli Umarells - la". Archivio - la (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  21. ^ online, Redazione. "A Bologna arriva la piazzetta dedicata agli "Umarells"". Corriere di Bologna (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  22. ^ "'Umarell': una piazza dedicata in Cirenaica". BolognaToday. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  23. ^ "Blog | Bologna, e piazzetta degli umarells sia". Il Fatto Quotidiano. 2017-07-23. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Bologna, rubato il cartello di piazzetta degli Umarells". La Repubblica. 2019-10-16. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  26. ^ "Gli Umarells vigilano anche a Paperopoli". Il Resto del Carlino. 2020-04-21. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  27. ^ "Ecco finestre per 'Umarell', così anziani osservano cantieri - Abruzzo". Agenzia ANSA (in Italian). 2020-12-12. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  28. ^ Ribaudo, Alessio (2020-12-12). "A Pescara finestre per umarell, così ritornano nei cantieri (in sicurezza)". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-03-05.


  • 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]