Bologna’s Porticos are one of the defining features of the city’s architecture. Most famously there is the single longest portico in the world, 666 covered archways leading from the Porta Saragozza gate all the way up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca , but in actual fact most of the city centre is covered with porticos.
It’s worth taking a moment, as you stroll around the city, to look up and around, as many of these porticos have wonderful frescos and tilework (for example, take a look upwards when you are on Via Indipendenza, outside the Bar Canton de’ Fiori, you’ll see a fine fresco lauding the virtues of bread, canabis and wine – dating back to the days when Cannabis was legal, and Bologna was at the centre of a thriving hemp economy).
The porticos are not just beautiful – they’re very practical, offering shade and coolness in the blisteringly hot summer, and protection from the rain during the winter months. Wander around the city and they will keep your head dry and cool!
The porticos illustrate the particular nature of Bologna – the mix between private wealth and comunal work. The Porticos are public space, and yet there are also lots of privately sponsored art-works dotted around these walkways – and there is fascinating work ongoing by various associations, to uncover all the history and stories hidden in these covered paths.
With all of this, it should come as no surprise that Bologna’s porticos have been submitted for consideration to UNESCO for a special recognition. You can find details of the submission, and lots more information on the Porticos here.