This Writer Gal

Kakul Ehsan Butt

Bologna: City of Arches

Bologna was the last pitstop in my Italian adventure. With only three days to spend here, I decided to focus on doing one amazing thing to round up my whirlwind Bolognese experience. So, I did a quick Google search and found a travel blog suggesting an activity to do in Bologna.

It was an activity that reflects the city well. You may or may not know, Bologna is known for its many porticoes. This city is obsessed with them. I learned that Bologna has the longest porticoes in the world called the Portico of San Luca, which has 666 arches. It is an uninterrupted walkaway that leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Now, the travel blog did not mention any uphill activity, and if it did, I may have missed it. As I wrote earlier, I had done a quick Google search.

I had assumed that it would be a simple walk on flat ground activity. I apparently did not do my homework. Well, let’s just say I was in for a huge surprise.

The first half was spent walking under the arches, with shops and restaurants lined next to one another. Each arch is helpfully numbered. Once I reached the half way point, the path led me away from the shops and restaurants to a flight of stairs. After climbing the stairs, and walking uphill for a bit, I soon realised what I had signed up for. The further I walked, the steeper the path became.

The views were spectacular with beautiful hillside homes, but I was too annoyed to admire them properly. Time seriously dragged and I was exhausted. Generally, I consider myself quite active, but the steep hike tired me out. Any thoughts of giving up, was met with a wonderful view of the city.

As I ascended the final flight of stairs, I saw a wooden cross. And just behind it was a serene view of clear blues skies. There should have been choral music rising in crescendo as I reached the last step. In my head, I could hear the angels chorusing Hallelujah, she did it.  

At the top was the basilica, with a panoramic view of the San Luca hills. There is a garden, below, which allows visitors to take in the beautiful sight of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Outside the grounds of the sanctuary is a road that leads to hilly horizon. A lot of walkers use this route to explore the hills.

Getting back to the city centre was a mission. There were two options presented to me; to take the San Luca Express tourist train or walk. I initially waited for the train but after waiting for more than half hour, I decided to walk back using the route I had come from. If the uphill climb was torture, downhill was scary. I spent most of the time trying to grip the ground hard with my trainers to stop me from tripping over.

Once I was back on flat ground, I found my way into the city centre and decided that I deserved a champion’s dinner – a large pizza, and tiramisu for dessert.

Maybe it was my post-hike exhaustion talking, but I felt three days had been more enough to be around porticoes. I am no photographer (as evident from this post!), but for photographers, this is one photogenic city filled with stunning porticoes and decorated arched ceilings.

Walking the Portico of San Luca is perfect for hikers who are used to steep hills. But for anyone else, it might be a challenge. You can always cheat and catch a ride up there.

Bologna is a well-preserved medieval city, with stunning red brick buildings and towers at the heart of its centre, making it a great city to explore on foot. If I had more time, I would have joined a history tour and spend a bit of time learning about Bologna’s past. There is so much more to this city than porticoes!

Until next time, darling Bologna x

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