Notable Porticoes in Bologna

The sidewalks of a city are rarely going to be one of its main attractions, but in Bologna the fact that more than 38 kilometers of sidewalks in the historic center are covered by porticoes makes them worthy of note. In fact, there are guided tours in Bologna dedicated solely to the city’s porticoes.

Originally, porticoes were nothing more than a byproduct of expanding the living space on the main floor of a building by building out into the space over the street below. Those expansions had to be propped up - and, just like that, there were porticoes being built all over the city. Eventually, Bologna city officials began to put rules in place about the construction of the porticoes, so today they appear as if they were intended to be part of the cityscape all along.

Bologna’s porticoes protect from all sorts of weather — cold rain and sweltering sun — and many of them are decorative as well as functional. There is often tilework on the sidewalk and frescoes on the ceilings, so it pays to look up and down while you’re walking through the city. There are more than 45 kilometers of porticoes throughout the entire city (more than 38 kilometers in the historic center alone), and the world’s longest portico is in Bologna, as well. It stretches nearly four kilometers, from the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca church to the Porta Saragozza city gate.

While Bologna itself is a UNESCO “City of Music,” the porticoes have been on UNESCO’s “tentative” list for World Heritage Site consideration since 2006. UNESCO notes the long-standing use of the porticoes — more than 1,000 years — and their architectural, religious, and cultural significance. Take a private walking tour of Bologna’s porticoes to further understand how important they are to the identity of the city.
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