The Bologna Portico – A World Heritage Site:
It was raining when we arrived in Bologna and to say that I was disappointed was an understatement. I was so looking forward to seeing this historical city in all its summer glory, but instead what we have was grey skies and wet grounds. Not that I was begrudging the citizens of Bologna their summer showers, but balancing umbrella and camera is tricky for one who tends to take crooked pictures at the best of times. Yes, a bane of Tony’s life is straightening all the pictures that I take!
As we made our way in the rain from the coach stop into the city centre, we were more concentrated on dodging the rain than seeing the buildings we were walking past. When we got to the city centre, it was a pleasant relief to find shelter under the porticos of Bologna.
The Bologna Portico
With its inland location, Bologna gets hot and steamy in summer and it rains a lot in winter and it also can get very cold. To provide shade and shelter from the elements, the city built 53 kms of covered walkways which we were very thankful for during our visit. I looked up to the heavens and thanked the forefathers and town planners of Bologna who, as early as in the middle ages had the foresight to include such beautiful covered arcades into their town planning.
The extent of the Bologna porticos make them quite unique in the world and in fact they have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are a part of the city’s attractions. The covered walkways were built between 1200 and 1900 and an interesting way to learn about how this city has changed over time is to go on a Bologna Portico Walking Tour.
Portico of San Luca
We didn’t have time to walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, but for anyone who plans to go up to the Sanctuary, they’ll be walking along one of the longest Bologna portico. At almost 4 km in length, the Portico of San Luca is said to be one the longest arcades in the world. With its more than 600 arches, this arcade connects the Porta Saragozza (one of the twelve gates of the ancient city walls) with the Madonna of San Luca Sanctuary. This Bologna portico is also the path for the annual procession where an icon of the Madonna with Child is carried down from the Sanctuary to the cathedral during Ascension week.
Since the middle ages, the elegant porticos of Bologna have been a meeting place for the public as well as a place for business and today there are prestigious fashion brands, other specialist shops, art galleries and cafes along the arcades.
Thanks to the Bologna porticos we were able to continue on our walking tour of this city in spite of the rain. Towards the end of our visit, the weather cleared up, and we were able to step out from under the porticos and enjoy Bologna’s beautiful historical centre under the bright blue skies.