Bologna and the porticos are an inseparable. In the past the life of this beautiful city took place in the shade of the porticos. The porticos are the heart of Bologna. Intimate yet public places where, today as in the past, trade and social exchanges take place here. To understand why there are so many of them (as many as 62km) in the city, we have to go back to the Middle Ages. After several dark centuries, finally from the 11th century Bologna flourished again thanks to the silk trade and the University. Its population grew, and so it became necessary to expand housing space. Bolognese people began to build “overhangs,” similar to enclosed balconies, attached to the facades of houses with wooden beams, first inserted into the walls of the dwelling itself, and later grafted directly onto the street level.
Given the wide use of this solution, in 1288 the municipality decided to make it official and regulate it through a decree: every new house had to have a portico. The Municipality also gave indications on the construction criteria, for example each portico had to be high enough to allow the passage of a man on horseback.
The portico became the places of city life, here people met, trades were conducted, and even artisans used to extend their workshops into the space of the arcade in front of the store.
Even today it is possible to admire wonderful wooden porticos, such as that of Casa Isolani on Strada Maggiore, that tell us the earliest story of these architectural elements.
In Bologna we have porticos of every type: tall porticoes, narrow or spacious porticoes, elegant porticoes such as the Renaissance one in Via Zamboni, or more modern such as the one in Via Farini, which on its frescoed vault depicts the history of Italy before and after Unification. Each portico has a story to tell, many anecdotes and curiosities that it is nice to listen to as the eyes become enchanted.
If you would also like to experience the excitement of walking under the portico of Bologna, which have finally become a UNESCO site since 2021, book a guided tour to discover this wonderful World Heritage Site!