The Porticoes of Bologna

Built in wood, stone and brick as of the XII century, 12 sections of Bologna's famous porticoes have obtained UNESCO recognition in that they are "an identifying aspect of the city of Bologna and a landmark point for a sustainable urban lifestyle, where religious and civic spaces and the homes of all social classes are perfectly integrated.”

Integration is probably the concept behind the construction of these porticoes, which were created to meet the needs of expansion of business and artisan activities within the urban fabric, which had gained greater impetus after the inauguration of the University starting in 1088.

The porticoes are 62 km long, with 42 km in the historic centre itself.

The San Luca portico, that climbs from Porta Saragozza up to the Sanctuary on the Colle della Guardia, is the longest, while the Dei Servi portico, where the Santa Lucia fair is held, is the widest.

The porticoes that, overall, saw Bologna earn its second UNESCO recognition after being nominated a Creative City of Music in 2006, are listed below.

Santa Caterina and Saragozza

The Santa Caterina porticoes and their architraves are rare and precious testimony of popular architecture in the Middle Ages, since they have maintained their original appearance. These porticoes served as a kind of filter between the street, the stores and the artisan workshops on the ground floor, all closely related with the inner courtyards, as can still be clearly seen today.

Santo Stefano and Mercanzia

Porticoes of Via Santo Stefano - Photo by: Bologna Welcome

The Palazzo della Mercanzia portico opens into a large loggia overlooking the square of the same name, considered one of the finest in the city. The promenade from the loggia along the porticoes of Via Santo Stefano has many cafes and restaurants on its way to the Basilica of Santo Stefano: this is one of the sections where the porticoes become lively meeting places.


Today, the portico commissioned by Giovanni II Bentivoglio is the starting point for shopping in Via Santo Stefano or a stroll around the nearby Giardini Margherita. It was originally the entrance to the hostel for pilgrims and wayfarers.


Until the XIX century, the "noble" road of Bologna was an obligatory route for people arriving from the plains as well as the setting for important construction projects by the wealthiest families of the city in the XV-XVI centuries. They were responsible for building the imposing palaces and porticoes that best express the city's flourishing well-being in those centuries of cultural, economic and artistic wealth.

Pavaglione, Banchi and Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore - Photo by: Bologna Welcome

Built in the XV century with the intention of dividing the elegant Renaissance square from the ancient Mediaeval market, at the same time as creating a suitable place for the city bankers and their business, the Pavaglione is the main portico of Bologna: a majestic example of a Bolognese portico that embraces sections belonging to several palaces.

San Luca

San Luca Portico - Photo by: Bologna Welcome

With 666 arches by 3796 metres long, this is the longest portico in the world and connects the city centre with the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, on top of Colle della Guardia. Initially a devotional path to be taken in any weather condition by day or night, the portico of San Luca is today often used by athletes of all ages.

Università and Accademia

Piazza Verdi - Photo by: Bologna Welcome

The varying porticoes along Via Zamboni, home to the oldest university in the Western world, alternate as far as the majestic Teatro Comunale, overlooking Piazza Verdi, a night-life venue mainly popular with students who gather in front of the Theatre and along Via Zamboni.


The long, straight portico branching off from the portico of San Luca towards the Certosa Cemetery is a fine example of a modern sepulchral portico. It was designed after the Napoleonic edict of Saint-Cloud and was modelled on the ancient Roman sepulchral streets with the addition of the "covered street" in typical Bolognese style.

Cavour, Farini and Minghetti

Piazza Cavour - Photo by: Bologna Welcome

The portico along Via Farini is perhaps the most elegant and finely decorated portico in the historic centre of Bologna and home to art galleries, banks, pastry shops and luxury boutiques. The ceiling is painted in bright colours where designer Gaetano Lodi inserted historical episodes from ancient to modern times in each vault. The portico opens on to Piazza Minghetti, also famous because the beloved Bolognese singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla lived here.

“Treno della Barca”

This extremely long popular housing and commercial building and its portico were designed in the 1960s in keeping with strict functionalist principles, It brings a suburban area of the city to life by re-interpreting the strong identity tradition of Bolognese porticoes in a modern key.


The portico of the old public bakery, now home to the MAMbo-Bologna Museum of Modern Art, is one of the finest urban redevelopment projects of the early XX century, launched in a part of the city otherwise home to industrial activities. The portico in summer is the setting for the tables of the Caffè del Museo, one of the most dynamic cultural realities in Bologna, often also known as the "Ex-Forno" (Former Bakery). 

Strada Maggiore

The stroll along the porticoes of Bologna acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site ends at the Strada Maggiore, where visitors can admire the Portico of Casa Isolani, a majestic wooden artefact - probably the oldest Mediaeval portico still existing in a European city - the portico and four-sided portico of the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi and the so-called Portico degli Alemanni, the first example of a covered street outside the city walls.

Find Out More:

You may be interested in: