At first you don’t notice it, walking down the Via dell’Independencia. After all you’re just following the herds late on a Saturday afternoon. After about 10 minutes it suddenly hits you. You’ve been walking on what you think is the pavement and yet this pavement has a roof and really the only time you lose a roof is when you cross a street that cuts across your path. Turns out Bologna has porticoes. Lots of them. Almost 38 kilometres of them to be honest.
I think porticoes are a marvellous idea for pedestrians. You don’t have to worried about being roasted by the sun or being drenched in the rain. Although it might not be ideal on days when its cold and you want a bit of sun to warm you up. In medieval times (10-11th Centuries, porticoes were apparently a feature of all big cities. Porticoes helped house owners encroach on public space through the first floor.
While most cities banned the construction of porticoes after a while, Bologna went and made it compulsory for buildings to have porticoes and added rules and regulations about the size and height. I think that was quite forward thinking of them. But then Bologna hosts the oldest university in the Western world so maybe it isn’t all surprising that they did something like that.
The most spectacular stretch of porticoes is a 4km long section that goes uphill to reach the chapel of Madonna di San Luca. I didn’t get to walk this but I got a quick glance of it on the train coming to Bologna Centrale.
What do you think about porticoes?