Bologna’s Portico di San Luca is the road to Sanctuary of the Madonna. It’s actually not a road but a 3.7-kilometer covered pathway that goes to a Catholic Sanctuary on a hill. Whether it’s a sunny or a rainy day; snowy or windy, visitors can always shelter themselves against extreme weather conditions. Locals, young and old, use the portico as a hiking and jogging trail, anytime of the day. I can’t blame them. It’s a comfortable hike on the hill and steps aren’t narrow and steep but sweat is guaranteed.
Bologna has the world’s longest portico. If you don’t know what a portico is, let me explain it to you. It is a structure with a roof and supported by columns in regular intervals. The photos below will give you a visual representation of what it is. And oh, did I say that Bologna has 40 kilometres of porticos? You can find them anywhere in the city. So, even if you have a phobia of the searing summer heat, you’ll be fine walking under the porticos. No need to apply sunblock every 20 minutes. LOL… 😀
Why the portico to the hill was built? As you know, Sanctuario di Madonna di San Luca sits on the hill that’s 300 meters above sea level. To protect the pilgrims from bad weather, this portico was built. It’s been said that at one time during the construction of the portico, volunteers formed a human chain. They passed on building materials from one hand to another to reach the difficult hilly area. The porticos connect the city to the Sanctuary that houses a Byzantine Madonna and Child. Every year, during the Ascension Week, a large religious procession happens here.
The Lie. Don’t believe someone if he said that there are 666 arches on your way to the sanctuary. No, there are a little more than that. Once you reach that little cross on top (before you turn left), you are nearing the 666 arch. The guidebooks must have been the one spreading the lie. 😀
Along the Pathway. There are 15 small chapels along the pathway. These chapels represent the 15 mysteries of the Holy Rosary. If you’re a die hard catholic, you’ll figure out what mystery you are in by looking at the mural. Also take notice of the fading frescoes along the way.
This time, I stayed away from hostels. After travelling for sometime, all I needed was a ME-time. So, I stayed at a BnB type room. I booked myself at Stazione Centrale, which is 20 meters away from the back entrance of Bologna Central Station. Though bathroom was shared, I had my own room with a tiny refrigerator and a small sink. Internet connection was good and cleanliness was ok. From here, you can walk to Plaza Maggiore for 20-30 minutes. There are restaurants and fast-food chains in front of the train station. You can book it via Booking.com.