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the porticos tour

On-foot tour which can be divided into two stages, the first from the center to the west and the second from the center to the east.

Duration of the whole tourof about 3 hours and 30 minutes.

the history

Bologna is the city with the most porticos in the world: 53 km long, and it offers the tourist a view filled with lights, shadows and different perspectives. Bologna's porticos are considered an Italian cultural heritage, candidate as UNESCO's "world heritage". The portico came about as a result of the habit of ‘extending’ the first floor of houses out over the sidewalk with the objective to increase the living space. This extension was then supported with wooden beams resting on blocks of selenite or stone, a bit like crutches. At first considered an abusive construction, it was eventually sanctioned and regulated by the City, who then stated that the portico below the extension had to be relegated to public use even though they had been built by individual property owners on private space. Since then, most buildings were built with porticos, with exceptions granted only in a few cases for noble families especially during the renaissance ‘roman fashion’ times. Therefore, finely architected buildings as Davia Bargellini, Fantuzzi, Bevilacqua, Montanari-Aldrovandi and so on were built.

from the city centre towards east

Starting from Piazza Galvani, looking at Basilica di San Petronio's apse, on the right hand side you will find one the most known and frequented porticos of the city: the Portico del Pavaglione. Its name comes from the French word "pavillon". This in fact, together with the square next to it, is the place where was placed the silkworms market. In regarding to this activity, Bologna has always maintained the leadership, since the 1449. Moreover, Pavaglione, is a dialectical term which comes from "pavilion", the typical big top which was used for covering the silkworms of the market by the sun light. Below this Portico there are the Archaeological Museum and the Archiginnasio, one of the most important and representative building of the city since it has been the first location of the University of Bologna.


Out of the gallery you will be in Strada Maggiore exactly under the Portico of Isolani House. This is one of the most ancient houses with a wooden portico made up of nine-metre tall pillars on a chalk base. Continue on Strada Maggiore and you will reach the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi characterized by its four-sided portico facing Via Guerrazzi. The side of this Portico on Strada Maggiore it is the largest of the city. Every year, form December 8th until January 6th, a market called Santa Lucia is set up under the Portico which borders the church on Strada Maggiore. Inside, the church hosts the famous Maestà of Cimabue. If you want to continue until Porta Maggiore you will be able to admire the Alemanni Portico, which is the oldest portico outside the city walls, along Via Mazzini. This Portico was built by the religious order of the Carmelitani Scalzi between 1619 and 1631 to connect Porta Maggiore to the Alemanni Santa Maria Church which is composed by a succession of 167 arches for a total length of 650 meters.


Retrace your steps back down to the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi along Strada Maggiore and turn into Piazza Aldrovandi where you can see a typical food market. At the end of the square across Via San Vitale and take Via Giuseppe Petroni, a characteristic street of the university area. At the end of the street you will be in Piazza Verdi which is the heart of the University district. The square is dominated by the Municipal Theater, the Teatro Comunale which was built where once stood the palace of the Lords of Bologna, the Bentivoglio. Now take Via Zamboni, again a street with porticoes beside, and go towards to the Two Towers. Take the first street on the right Via Marsala where you can admire what is probably the oldest portico in Bologna; the Portico of Palazzo Grassi. Palazzo Grassi is one of the most interesting and ancient buildings in Bologna. The portico is made up of wooden beams as most of them were throughout medieval times, but in 1568 religious authorities banned wooden pillars and wanted them replaced by brick ones. Although those who did not respect this rule within three months of enforcement were fined, many pillars were not replaced until 1800 when it was decided that all the porticos of the city were to be standardized. It is only thanks to Count Giovanni Gozzadini if we can still admire some rare examples of wooden pillars that still survive today. At the end of Via Marsala, turn left onto Via dell'Indipendenza. Here, under the porticos, are dozens of fashion boutiques, shoe shops, and many other types of commercial activities. Go forward until you cross Via Altabella, take it and continue alongside the cathedral of San Peter  until the Portico of the Palace of the Archdiocese.  This is the highest portico of Bologna, almost 10 metres. Go back to Via dell'Indipendenza, turn left until the cross. Turn right and follow Via Ugo Bassi where it intersects with Piazza Malpighi.

from the city centre towards west

Here you will find the Portico of the former Convent of San Francesco which once consisted of 55 arches that started from the convent to Via Sant’Isaia. At the end of Piazza Malpighi, take Via Nosadella and turn left at the second cross into the narrow street Vicolo della Neve. Go on and turn right at the first cross Via Senzanome. At the end of the street you will see the narrowest portico of Bologna. The width of this portico it is just 95 cm. Now you are in Via Saragozza. Turn right and reach Porta Saragozza, cross the Viali (the lane road which circles the city centre) and you will find yourself under the Bonaccorsi Arc which is at the beginning of the most extraordinary portico of Bologna: the Portico of San Luca. This portico connects the city to the Sanctuary of the Holy Virgin of San Luca on the Guardia Hill. Its construction began in 1674 to facilitate the pilgrimages and the annual descends of the Holy Virgin into the city. The portico extends 3800 metres with 658 arches, overcoming a difference in altitude of 200 metres: it is the longest portico in the world today. In 1732 the monumental Meloncello Arc which is at the point where the porticoes start to rise in altitude was completed. From the Meloncello Arc to the Certosa (cemetery) runs the portico which borders the dall’Ara stadium. 

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