Since the early nineteenth century political opposition became a central concept of political representation in constitutional monarchies. While this concept marked the political language of unified Italy on the national level, in local administration the legitimacy of political opposition remained an issue of dispute, as illustrated in this analysis of the political language in Bologna's local council. Local perceptions of national events, like the government's reaction to Garibaldi's unsuccessful Mentana-campaign, assumed major symbolic meaning in local politics and challenged traditional understandings of municipal administration by introducing the concept of political opposition. In Bologna, after Rome the second city of the former Papal State, the Moderates were able to grow into a position of political hegemony after the Unification of Italy and remained the predominant political force also after Italy's “parliamentary revolution” of 1876 and the electoral reforms of the 1880s. As a consequence of its limited influence on the local administration, Bologna's Left defined its ideological profile earlier and more clearly than the Left in other parts of Italy and integrated issues of national importance into local political discourse. Analysing the relationship between central administration and periphery, the article reveals the development of political language and the changing meanings of political representation between Unification and World War One and explains on this basis the escalation of social and political conflict in Finesecolo Italy.