The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca or Basilica di San Luca, sits plum atop of Monte della Guardia (aka Guardia hill), just south west of Bologna. Staring out across the Emilia Romagna region, the Basillica is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, looking to catch a view epic views on a sunny day.
Most visitors to the Emilia Romagna region catch their first view of the Basilica from atop the Asinelli Tower in the old town centre. One of Bologna’s two medieval towers.
Just two weeks ago I was part of a group that went in search of such views after spotting the Basilica from atop the Asineli Tower. Whilst we had planned on cheating and getting a bus up the rather large hill to the Basillica, our plan all went horribly wrong when we muddled the bus times and so we ended up walking half the way, or should I say climbing. It was a LONG hike/trek to the top, long and sweaty due to the midday heat, but the journey was also beautiful.
The beauty of the climb owed almost everything to the arches that lined our route to the top, these arches are plentiful throughout Bologna. The entire route, or portico as it is know, consists of 666 arches and stretches from Porta Saragozza (A) up to the Sanctuary of San Luca (C). Each of the arch is numbered, but admittedly we only started at number 307, at the Melloncello arch (B) on the edge of the ring road surrounding the Bologna old town.
The collection of 666 arches, the Portico, is the worlds longest measuring almost 4km. Thats quite a workout, and a number of local residents used the 4km stretch as running track and the worlds harshest step machine combined. The clever ones ran down the steps rather than up them though. Those that chose to run up them are simply mental!
Zig zagging its way up the hill, its hard to know how close to the top you actually are without being there. I realise that sounds a bit silly, but the zigging and zagging hide further steps from your vision, so once you conquer a set and think you’ve made it, you turn another corner only to be confronted with another set. Cruel!
The Madonna di San Luca
The Basilica that sits atop the Guardia hill is not the original that once housed the Icon – the Madonna di San Luca. This newer place of worship was built in 1723, it architect one architect Carlo Francesco Dotti.
The Madonna di San Luca is an artwork of legend, a now full restored painting of the Virgin Mary and child orginally painted by St Luke. Each May the Idol makes an annual journey from its home in the basilica atop the Guardia hill down to the Cathedral of San Pietro in the city centre. This annual trip is a tradition formed under two reasonings – Thanks and Prayer.
Thanks: Thanks that once upon a time the rains stopped. The Legend goes that in 1433 Bologna experienced three months of non stop rain. The rain only stopped once the Icon, as a gesture of prayer, was carried down from the basilica to the city.
Prayer: Prayer that the city will experience a good harvest in the upcoming season.
Of course the Portico now shields the Icon from getting wet along its journey, acting effectively as a 4km long umbrella. Rihanna would be proud!
As you can see the grounds and the views from the basilica of Bologna and the surrounding area were incredible, as was the architecture and design inside the church. Sadly but understandably no photos were allowed inside so I am unable to show you what I saw. You’ll just have to take my word that it was magnificent … or I guess you could just visit yourself :)
My visit to Bologna was supplied by Bologna Welcome as a part of their#SocialMediaFreeTrip initiative to promote tourism in Bologna through social media users like myself. I am under no obligation to write this post or any others that may follow, but have done so purely because I believe the towers to be a significant point of interest in Bologna. As such all opinions are my own. I tell you no lies!