Bologna’s Museum for the Memory Of Ustica sounds like a mouthful, but in actual fact it’s a stunning museum, tucked away in a park in the city’s Bolognina zone (a 10-15 minute walk from the main train station).
Ustica is an island off the coast of Sicily – near where, on the 27th of June 1980, a small commercial flight flying between Bologna’s Marconi Airport and Palermo crashed into the sea. All 81 people on board were killed, in what has become known as the Strage di Ustica or Ustica Massacre.
The crash has been surrounded in mystery, and has been the subject of a long campaign to uncover the truth, undertaken by the families of the victims. There are a number of theories as to how the crash happened, ranging from a terrorist bomb aboard, through to the idea that the plane was shot down by a French missile in the mistaken belief that it was a Libyan airplane carrying Muammar al-Gaddafi; Libya had been officially put on the US list of states sponsoring terrorism in 1979, and tension in the Mediterranean was high in the summer of 1980.
Whatever the truth about the massacre – and there is virtually no doubt that the plane was brought down by a delibarately caused explosion – Bologna’s Museum for the memory of Ustica has created a haunting tribute to the real people behind the headline.
In July 2006 the remains of the aircraft wreckage were transferred from Rome to Bologna, and a year later this very special museum was opened. The museum consists of a single room, with a specially constructed installation by French artist Christian_Boltanski, famed for his work in creating haunting testimonial work on the Holocaust. Boltanski worked with the airplane wreckage, with objects and material collected from the personal effects of the 81 passengers, and created something profoundly moving.
At the centre of the museum space is the remains of the plane’s structure – a frightening and thought-provoking view in itself. Around the plane, hanging from the ceiling are 81 lights that blink on and off in the rythm of a heartbeat. Around the plane are 81 stations, with speakers and voices narrating everyday seeming banalities, reminding you how fragile life is, and how these 81 people’s existence was changed dramatically in seconds.
The Museum is tucked away in a corner of a tiny park (Parco Zucca) in Bologna’s Bolognina suburb. The easiest way to get there is to either walk or get the #25 bus in the direction ‘Dozza’, and get off at the ‘zucca’ stop.
Walking from Piazza XX Setembre (at the bottom of Via Indipendenza)
Head out of town, crossing the main viale road, and head over the bridge to Via Matteoti. Continue to the end of Via Matteoti, into Piazza dell’Unita. Continue straight in the Piazza to the top right hand corner (Via Mazza). Walk down Via Mazza until the next junction, and turn left on to Via Di Saliceto (you’ll see a pharmacy on the corner of the junction). A short way down Via di Saliceto, on the right hand side, after the ‘ATC’ headquarters and carpark, you’ll see an entrance into Parco Zucca, which in reality is simply a large field with a children’s playground, rather than an actual park. The museum is tucked away in the top left hand corner of the park, in a building that resembles a big warehouse.
To mark the anniversary, every year on the 27th of June, the association of relatives of the victims of Ustica hold a special series of events, recently including a concert in Bologna’s Parco Zucca, in front of the museum. Patti Smith has played the event, as has Italian songwriter Franco Battiato. The concert raises funds for the association, and entrance to the museum is included in the ticket price usually.
The Museum is run in collaboration with Mambo – Bologna’s Museum of Modern Art