The porticoes of Bologna have always been the unquestioned symbol of the city together with the many medieval towers. Nominated in July 2021 UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a length of almost 62 km out of which 40 km just in the historical centre, they stand out in the world as a unique feature of Bologna.
The porticos became increasingly widespread in the 12th century following the growth of the University, which prompted the invention of a new urban space, and gradually turned into a both private and public place, a forum for socialising and commerce, a veritable open-air lounge, the very symbol of Bolognese hospitality.
Our itinerary through the UNESCO porticoes begins with arguably the most evocative of them all, namely the wooden ones. The 13th-century Casa Isolani in Strada Maggiore is the most representative symbol of this category. The wooden structure surprises and fascinates at first glance, and the famous arrows embedded in the ceiling spark the imagination while inspiring timeless legends.
Note: other charming wooden porticos can be found in Via Marsala, alongside the 14th-century "beccadelli", pillarless semi-porticoes such as the one found on the rear façade of Palazzo d'Accursio and in Palazzo Ghisilardi-Fava.
If you like Guinness records, here is the widest portico in the city: the quadriporticus of the basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi in Strada Maggiore, designed at the end of the 14th century.
While we're on the subject, just stop off at the city’s highest portico in Via Altabella, where the archbishop's palace boasts a covered gallery of almost 10 metres high.
We close your record book with the narrowest portico, 95 cm wide, located in Via Senzanome.
Moving away from the centre, we reach the Barca area to witness a very unusual portico: the Train. Symbol of the neighbourhood, this portico is the contemporary interpretation of the most representative and widespread element of Bolognese architecture. As a result of this concept, the portico not only represents a legacy of the past, but also a unifying element in the identity of the urban community, bridging the gap between the centre and the suburbs.
Last but not least, don't miss the long porticoed promenade of via Saragozza, marking the beginning of the world's longest arcade, eventually leading to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Halfway up from the first arch of Porta Saragozza (Bonaccorsi) we first reach the Arco del Meloncello and then climb up to the Monte della Guardia. The archway is made up of 664 arches and covers almost 4 km.