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Walk from downtown to the top of the hill
Basilica di San Luca is a great Bologna landmark. Wherever you are in town or in the villages around you can always see it and it help you navigate the area.
The church story start around the XII century when it is said a icon representing The Virgin and attributed to San Luca, the apostle, was brought here from Costantinopolis.
The Sanctuary of the Holy Virgin in San Luca is a place of devotions visited by many pilgrims and they usually walk all the way up to the top of the hill from the center of Bologna.
The entire path is covered by a outstanding porch made of 666 arches for the amazing length of 3796 meters. Along with the pilgrims a lot of Bologna's citizens use the porch as a training path for their daily jogging so it is interesting to see old women slowly walking up praying together with fit girls in sweat shirts or tight tops running all together!
The view from the top is great and worth the visit no matter what.
There are Several way to visit the Basilica:
- walk under the porch all the way from Porta Saragozza in Bologna (the #20 bus from piazza maggiore will take you to meloncello, the base of the portico)
- take the tourist train on wheels San Luca Express that with 10 Euros will take you to the top (lazy pilgrims option)
- drive your car to the top (lazy AND CHEAP pilgrims option ^_^)
- until the '70 it was also possible to take a funicular to the top, but it is not available anymore.
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San Luca Church
The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca in Bologna is a basilica church sited atop Monte della Guardia, in a forested hill some 300 meters above the plain, just south-west of the historical center of Bologna. It is easily spotted from afar as one nears Bologna.
While a road now leads up to the sanctuary, it is also possible to reach it by traversing a long (3.7 km) monumental roofed arcade (Portico di San Luca) consisting of 666 arches, which was built 1674-1793. It was meant to protect the icon as it was paraded up the hill. A yearly procession proceed from the church of San Pietro in the center of Bologna to the Sanctuary along this path.
The Sanctuary was meant to house a miraculous icon of the virgin. A church or chapel existed atop the hill for about a thousand years. The present church was constructed in 1723 using designs of Carlo Francesco Dotti.
This is a lovely church and certainly worth the effort of climbing the hill, athough its the uniqueness of the porticos themselves that grabs you. Be aware that I learnt the church itself opens and closes due to services so your walk up the porticos may be fruitless if you wanted to get inside the basilica. When we were leaving, they locked the gate behind us and there were a few confused tourists who didn't seem too happy at its closure at 5pm.
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San Luca Porticos
The 666 vaults of the arcade - unique for his length covering almost four kilometres (3,796 m), link the shrine with the town and provide a shelter for the procession which every year since 1433 has brought the Byzantine Madonna with Child to the cathedral downtown during the Ascension week. The porticos unite Saragozza Gate to San Luca's Church situated at a height of 291 m on Colle della Guardia.
The construction of the Portico of San Luca began in 1657 upon the initiative of faithful church-goers financed by donations. Every arch was realized thanks to the donations of noble families, religious congregations, simple citizens, artisans and even from the servants of wealthy families.
The first level part of the portico, that runs along Via Saragozza, unites with the second part which climbs the hill through the Arch of Meloncello, completed in 1732 by the architect Carlo Francesco Dotti. Even the sanctuary was restructured under a project by the same architect which acquired his characteristic elliptic form.
I discovered this archway portico on Google Earth just before we left for Bologna having missed it in many guidebooks. Its absolutely amazing but you do need a certain level of fitness to climb it. Its not just a slope upward for 3.7 km but there are also about 300 steps along the way. It took us over 2 hrs to get there (including numerous stops) and about 40m to walk back down (without stops). What amazed us both is the number of joggers that passed us running up and down its length. Sheer madness!!! Definately one of the highlights of Bologna.
Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca
The Sanctuary on the Monte della Guardia is an ancient place of worship; it contains a painting of the Madonna reputed to have been the work of Saint Luke the Evangelist.
From this hill-top sanctuary you can have a great view on the city and it is visible on a clear day from most parts of Bologna
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Basilica of San Luca
The sanctuary is located on one of the hills sorrounding Bologna and is linked to one of the city's ancient gates (the Meloncello) through a long portico (San Luca's portico). Built between 1674 and 1739, 3 km long, it includes 666 arches. In San Luca the most important thing is the painting of the Virgin Mary, object of the devotion by the bolognaise.
This Basilica is like a symbol of Bologna for me, because you see it from very far, and when you have been away for a while and you are going back, you spot the hill with the church from the train or car, and you realize that you are nearly home ;) A sweet feeling :)
Porticato to Madonna di San Luca
The basilica, built in the eighteenth century, is connected to the city walls by a lovely long portico, or covered walkway, made up of 666 arches (a number of some theological significance).
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