Italy's Communist Party, the country's second biggest political party, may have changed its name - it's now known as the Party of the Democratic Let - but it's maintained its tradition of hosting annual open-air festivals. Dozens were held throughout Italy this summer. Our Political Correspondent, Andrew Whitehead, went to one of the biggest - in Bologna, a city which has been under Communist control since 1945:
It was one of the best meals I've ever had. The people of Bologna are rightly renowned for their cuisine. These dishes did them proud - pates, delicately-filled tortellini, duck in a delicious sauce, Catalan custard, washed down with four fine wines. An open-air setting; a balmy September evening; the deputy head of police at the next table; and the Communist Party was picking up the bill.
It's not actually called the Communist Party any more. It's now the Party of the Democratic Let; it no longer espouses Leninism; it's joining the Socialist International, alongside the British Labour Party, the German Social Democrats and the French and Spanish Socialists. But the party still enjoys political pre-eminence in Bologna - the showcase of Italian municipal Communi. And the Festa dell'Unita survives as its annual celebration.
There's never been anything austere about Communism Bologna-style. This is one of the most prosperous cities in Italy; architecturally and academically distinguished. With stylish shops. Just next door to the party headquarters in Via Barberia is a store selling very expensive furs. Indeed, at the Bologna Festa, there were no less than three stalls selling fur coats. I looked at the price tag on one. Eight-million lira. That's almost four-thousand Pounds.
Not that politics has been abandoned. There are plenty of propaganda stalls, and well- attended talks and debates - many involving political rivals. But as one ex-Communist commented, this is not a party festival but a people's festival. And people have been turning up, every night for three weeks or so, in their tens of thousands. There are dozens of bars and restaurants, most staffed by volunteers - though not all quite as exclusive as the one I was taken to. There are stalls selling everything from sweets to fitted kitchens; all the fun of the fair; an open-air disco. concerts and poetry readings as well.
The proprietor of the restaurant - a party member and head of a party-dominated agricultural collective - explained to me how communism had become so strong in Bologna. First, because the communists were the most militant against Mussolini, the most organised among the partisans. After the war, the communists came to embody efficiency and integrity. There wasn't too much ideology. Indeed the party was the means of promoting social mobility, The agricultural co-ops brought prosperity to the countryside; in the towns, the party helped workers set up their own businesses. Here in Bologna, he said, the Communist Party turned proletarians into proprietors.
The me, the Bologna Festa dell'Unita looked a wild success. Crowds everywhere. But I was told attendance was down on previous years. The festival was being extended by a few days to try to recoup losses.
The storm clouds are gathering over the party. The Democratic Left's share of the vote in Bologna is down to 37%; party membership is down too; the average age of the card-carrying ex-Communist is up to fifty-three. The party's reputation for clean hands has been compromised by the corruption scandal in nearby Milan. Young people see the Democratic Left as part of a failed political establishment - many are turning to regional and extreme right-wing parties.
And there are those on the left who cannot come to terms with the changes in what was the Communist Party. Just two or three miles from the Festa dell'Unita, the hardliners - proud of their Communist past - have been holding a rival Festa. Here all the old Communist symbolism, renounced by the Party of the Democratic Left, has been disinterred and put on display; portraits of Lenin, hammer and sickle symbols, red flags in profusion.
I ate there as well. Not really a memorable experience. Though as an organiser said, the portions were bigger. And the prices were lower. Just as well, because this time the BBC was paying.