Bologna Porticoes

Visit Bologna, the city of porticoes

An evocative walk beneath the city's wonderful arches

21 Mar 2024

Bologna is renowned worldwide for its culinary tradition and cultural richness, as well as for being home to the oldest university in the Western world, and the abundance of porticoes that grace its streets. 

In receipt of the UNESCO World Heritage denomination, these distinctive architectural features stretch for a total of over 60 kilometres, with 40 kilometres weaving through the historic centre alone, creating a spectacular tapestry that makes this city truly unique and drawing countless visitors each year.

If you want to discover everything there is to know about Bologna's porticoes, including the famous Portico di San Luca, we've crafted a brief guide for you, detailing their origins and must-see spots around the city. 


Bologna porticoes


History and fascinating facts about Bologna's porticoes


The history of Bologna's porticoes dates back to the Middle Ages when the growth of the university and the repopulation of the historic centre necessitated new building measures.

To address the lack of space, the upper floors of existing buildings expanded outward, leading to the requirement in the 1200s that every new residence be equipped with an arcade, or ‘portico’, transforming it from private to public property.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, all the wooden porticoes were replaced with masonry, creating the captivating spectacle that still enchants visitors and locals alike today.


Bologna Porticoes to be seen


Among the numerous porticoes in Bologna, some stand out for their uniqueness and notable features, earning them the title of "record-breaking porticoes." The widest is the quadruple portico of the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi in Strada Maggiore, while the narrowest is found in Via Senzanome, measuring a mere 95 centimetres. 

The tallest portico in the city is located on Via Altabella, where the loggia of the Archbishop's Palace reaches a height of 10 metres. The longest - and thus most famous - portico, however, is the one leading to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.


The Portico of San Luca


Almost 4 km long and featuring 666 consecutive arches, the Portico di San Luca holds the record for the world's longest portico and is undoubtedly the most famous in the city.

The starting point to explore its beauty is Via Saragozza, while the culmination is the picturesque Sanctuary of San Luca, after which the portico is named, located on Monte della Guardia

The route is divided into two main parts. The first part begins at Porta Saragozza, about a kilometre from Piazza Maggiore, and reaches Meloncello, a famous city crossroads: a flat 1.5-kilometre stretch allowing you to pass the first 316 arches.

The second part is characterised by a 2.2-kilometre ascent, along which you will also find fifteen chapels - one every twenty arches - until you reach the Sanctuary of San Luca. 


Sanctuary of San Luca


The large church, built in Baroque style, is the end-point of the route that continues to fascinate both tourists and inhabitants of the city: built between 1723 and 1757, it houses a Byzantine Madonna and Child that is paraded through the streets of the city annually. 

But that's not all: in recent years, thanks to the '"It happens only in Bologna" initiative, you can access a panoramic terrace located at the top of the Sanctuary. Climbing the hundred steps of the ancient spiral staircase, you'll be greeted with a unique 180-degree view that allows you to embrace Bologna and its hills with a single glance.


To fully appreciate the beauty of Bologna's porticoes and the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, it's ideal to spend a few days in the city. You'll find several UNAHOTELS properties that stand out for their inviting locations and great hospitality. 

UNAHOTELS Bologna Centro is located in the heart of Bologna, just 1.5 kilometres from the historic centre. Ideal for conveniently reaching some of the city's main attractions, it offers various amenities, including a convenient private garage for your car.

San Lazzaro di Savena is home to the UNAHOTELS Bologna San Lazzaro, ideal for those who want easy access to Bologna's key sites but without staying in the city centre. Located within the expansive grounds of Villa Cicogna, which offers over twenty hectares to explore, it boasts 152 rooms and modern communal areas.


The porticoes are Bologna's most fascinating architectural feature and a source of great pride for the Emilian capital: strolling beneath them on long, evocative walks is the best way to discover the city and its secrets.