Anne's Blog

Sardine: Flash Mob in Bologna

Date: January 21, 2020 - categories: , , , , , - 4 Comments

On January 19, 2020, there was no water in the Bologna piazza –and certainly not desired by the forty-thousand sardines there.

In Bologna, Pino and I joined the protesting Sardine who have been filling Italy’s piazzas since November, 2019.

Who are these Sardine? Where did they come from?

The movement started with the Internet-solicited flash mob of four young friends in Bologna in November, 2019 as a response to the rally to be held there of anti-immigrant politician Matteo Salvini.

Their hopes had been for a show of a few thousand but 12,000 – 15, 000 had filled Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, inspite of pouring rain; Salvini’s own rally had attracted about 3,000.

Why the name? “We wanted to give the message that we will be packed tight like sardines, because we will be many,” Mattia Santore (age 32), one of the four founders of the movement, had explained to journalists.

The anti-populist Sardine gatherings were soon popping up all over Italy. The Perugia Sardine rally was November 23, 2019 and we were there:

And also in Rome for the December Sardine gathering:

In Bologna – as at all the Sardine gatherings – little “fish” joined older ones:

And at this rally, many a sign affirmed “Bologna non si lega” (literally, Bologna does not bind” – and a clever play on the word “Lega,” Salvini’s party).

And not just Bologna “does not bind”: Sardine from all over Italy had arrived by car, bus, train:

Many a poster summed up the aspirations of the Sardine: solidarity, welcome, respect, human rights, intelligence (in choices made), non-violence, anti-fascism

And that inimitable Italian creativity was on stage in many a sardina creation – like the earrings young Margherita had made from a recycled tin can:

…..while another woman in a sardina headband wore silver-plated copper sardine earrings made by her husband, a goldsmith:

There were even ceramic sardines made by two young artisans from the region of Campania:

A teen-ager (and his mother) wore white T-shirts over their parkas with rows of sardines dangling on the shirt fronts. On the back, the locations and dates of the Sardine gatherings to date were set out, as the woman indicated to me on her son’s shirt. New York, Boston and San Francisco were included in the list as well as Lyon, Grenoble, Stockholm, Berlin, Edinburgh, London, Helsinki…and not only.

And such variety in those homemade signs:


  • the one proclaiming “Italia non abbocca” (“Italy doesn’t take the bait”) with those words floating out of the wide-open mouth of a rubber fish:
  • the artisanal wicker sardines people wove on their own:
  • that battery-operated illuminated one that we passed on our way to our bus back to Umbria.

Thousands were in the piazza as we left and the crowd was growing. The rally would go on for a couple more hours.

That brisk January cold simply invigorated those Sardine. And bound them together.

To know more about the Sardine, click here for a short note.

Click here for news on the Bologna Sardine rally, January 19, 2020

Read about how the movement started with four young people

Read more on the Sardine – and the group’s objectives


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