Umarell is a term in Bologna for men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.

It’s literal meaning is ‘little man’ and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a final s (out of English influence). The wife of an umarell is called a ‘zdaura.’

In 2015, the city of Riccione 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.

In  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. In 2018, the public square was inaugurated by city councillor Matteo Lepore, the district president Simone Borsari, the ‘lord of the umarells’ Franco Bonini.

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