The remarkable covered walk up to the hilltop church of San Luca in Bologna seems to be largely taken for granted by the locals.
It will be mentioned in any decent guide-book but you won’t find any leaflets dedicated to it at the tourist information office. If there was anything as unique as this in Britain it would be heavily promoted in order to attract more visitors.
A friend of mine had learnt of it from reading John Grisham’s The Broker which is set in the city. Today, following his example, I finally did the walk myself and survived to tell the tale.
The carriers of the icon of the Virgin Mary must have feared that its miraculous qualities could be damaged by freak weather since the 666 portico arches were built as protection during the steep climb up to the church. Nowadays, this excursion is popular with pilgrims, joggers and day trippers.
The arcade begins at the Porta Saragozza, one of 12 gates of the ancient walls of Bologna, and is , at 3.5 km, one of the longest of its kind in the world.
The most difficult section is the heavy-duty hike up from the foot of Via San Luca which took 25 minutes and reduced me to a sweaty, but satisfied, blob.
The present domed basilica church (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca) on the hill-top (Monte della Guardia) was built in 1723 and is a distinctive landmark although doesn’t contain any notable artistic treasures. The views from the top and en route make the trek well worth the effort.
If you are visiting Bologna I’d strongly recommend setting aside a morning for this excursion. You need strong shoes, light clothing and a music playlist of ambient drones to put you the right spiritual zone and take your mind off your aching limbs.