Bologna's porticoes, the iconic arcades that make Bologna a one-of-a-kind town, have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the late middle ages, the University of Bologna - the oldest in Europe - started to grow rapidly: students of medicine, authors, intellectuals and men of letters headed to Bologna to live the vibrant and instructive community that was then flourishing in this town.
As more and more people settled down in town, the need to expand housing spaces grew larger. In fact, the old father of the portico is the sporto, which was simply a protruding wooden structure aimed at broadening housing spaces for people living in the upper floors of buildings. These sportos were initially built abusively and, as they became larger and heavier, they started to require columns to uphold them: these new promiscuous private-yet-public spaces became the porticoes that we walk under today.
Soon, while other towns banned the porticoes, the city council in Bologna decided to lay down some official rules and made porticoes compulsory as a public space.
With no doubt, the most famous arcades in town are the ones connecting porta Saragozza to the Sactuary of San Luca, up the Colle della Guardia (literally, the "hill of the guardian"). Climbing up the hill on one's knees while praying used to be a common habit in ancient times and was thought to be a miraculous practice. Nowadays, most people use this covered path to simply walk, jog or run up the hill, mostly to keep fit.
Join our Bologna Food Walking Tour to walk through the historical center of Bologna with an expert local host that will unveil more secrets of Bologna's ancient traditions and culture.