Whenever I travel, because I don’t drive, I am always at a disadvantage when it comes to REALLY getting out and seeing places in the middle of nowhere.
When in Bologna, this journey by bus going toward this sanctuary is a lovely walking escapade. It is a mini pilgrimage which is truly what it was designed for. I found it is extremely meditative if you walk alone, and something really does clean you out, something cleansing.
First from Bologna central, you can find the bus that gets you a bit outside. When in Bologna this is a very easy journey. From Bologna central find the 20 bus and this will take you to the beginning of the porticos, rather than take the bus to the door, Porta Saragozza. Simply because you get to walk through the various stunning porticos on the flat part of the journey through these arcades. The roofed arcade Portico di San Luca consists of 666 arches built in 1674 to 1793. The porticos were to protect the icon as it was paraded up the hill.
There are 40 kils. of porticos!
The one thing I didn’t realize is that it is about 40 kilometers of porticos and this journey takes a few hours and a bottle of water and endurance and maybe a few snacks in your bag? So take a packed lunch and water. I didn’t and I was finished by the time I arrived at the top. Still, I found the whole expedition something refreshing and revitalizing.
The porticos measure 3, 796 meters in length and it links the sanctuary and the town. I was told the porticos are the longest in the world.
Since 1433 the portico has been providing shelter for the annual procession which carries the Byzantine Madonna and Child to the cathedral in town during Ascension week. The construction of the portico began with the Bonaccorsi architecture by Gian Giacomo Monti at the old gate of Porta Saragozza. Monti is also the architect of the final design of the portico at the foot of the hill. The rest of the porticos along the hilly stretch, were designed by Carolo Francesco Dotti, charactereised by the dynamic succession of different perspective and vanishing point up to the final view of the Santuary.
The Sanctuary was built between 1723 and 1757 as a replacement for the previous 15th centuary church.
When you climb up high, I want to tell you this is a quest. You go way up and I would say this takes a while. You are climbing up and I repeat you are going UP UP UP maybe one hour climbing stairs!! Your focus is the top. I am pretty fit and in shape, but it got me breathing. This is a trek!
When I finally got there this is what I found:
This is what I saw when facing the gorgeous front of the church:
Oops… remember, always check the times of opening and closing.
I waited a while and found my way inside to see the Saint and the relics.
I sat, I meditated, I breathed and I gathered myself for this is truly a journey “way up”. Really, it is a brisk walk going high up this hill. For the ecclesiastical and spiritual, this signified an inner journey of traveling up to the higher levels, one could say! And you do reflect while going up, as there is a goal.
For the joggers, they have their goal. For me, I just wanted to see the treasures. And you do stand on line to see the holy relics, where many of the spiritual nature, looked upon with respect and reverence and devotion. No matter what you believe in, the act of humility is always moving. And so it was.
Humility was involved also when thinking about “how do I get down from here?” But it was easy. And one could sense the joggers were just laughing all the way down to the lower levels of street existence. And that is what you feel when getting back to street level. “Oh, not you again?” There is a sense of being on a “higher” level, when “up there.” It is all about personal transformation if you want it to be! It is all what you make it and how you define it!