The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is a basilica church in Bologna, northern Italy, sited atop a forested hill, Colle or Monte della Guardia, some 300 meters above the city plain, just south-west of the historical centre of the city. While a road now leads up to the sanctuary, it is also possible to reach it along a 3.8 km monumental roofed arcade (Portico di San Luca) consisting of 666 arches, which was built in 1674-1793. It was meant to protect the icon as it was paraded up the hill. A yearly procession from the Cathedral of San Pietro in the centre of Bologna to the Sanctuary goes along this path. Originally the arches held icons or chapels erected by the patron family.
San Luca Sanctuary Tours
1. Colle Della Guardia
Colle della Guardia, the hill on which the Basilica stands, has an affective value for the citizens of Bologna, who can see it from the highway just before taking the direction to their beloved city, a true synonym of “home”. From the top of the hill, you can enjoy the panorama of the entire Emilian capital with its towers; here the Sanctuary of San Luca stands, a beautiful basilica in perfect Baroque style, which houses a precious representation of the Madonna and Child.
2. The 666 Arches
There's a road leading up to the Sanctuary, but the Bolognese way to reach it is on foot. It is a must thing to do at San Luca Sanctuary.Y ou can begin your walk at the Meloncello Arch, along via Saragozza. The portico consists of 666 arches, which originally contained icons or chapels erected by patron families. The number of arches has been the subject of much speculation – 666 is often associated with the devil. Because the length and shape of the portico resemble a snake, the number of arches was likely chosen to symbolize the Madonna defeating the Devil.
3. 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 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 that the city will experience a good harvest in the upcoming season.
How to Get Tickets?
You can access without reservation to the viewpoint. Once you get to the entrance, there will be a ticket office where you can buy your tickets. The tickets don't cost much and you don't have to buy tickets if you hold the Bologna Welcome Card.
How To Get Around?
You can get around San Luca Sanctuary on foot. You need to walk to see everything in this area.
What Should I Wear?
There is no dress code at San Luca Sanctuary, but you need a comfortable shoes if you plan to hike there. Bring your sunscreen when it's sunny.
Best Time to Visit
San Luca Sanctuary is beautiful at any time of the year. It is best to visit it in the morning or afternoon, when the sun is not too hot for the hike.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, you won't need a guide to visit San Luca Sanctuary. It is easy to find and to explore by yourself. Just make sure you read about it before you go to learn about the story of the sanctuary.
How To Get There?
The most direct way to reach the basilica is on the San Luca Express, a tourist 'train' that leaves Piazza Maggiore six times daily, four days a week during peak tourist season. Alternatively, take bus 20 from the city centre to Villa Spada, where you can catch minibus 58 up to the sanctuary, or continue one more stop on bus 20 to the Meloncello arch and walk the remaining 2 km under the arches. Alternatively, you can hike for 4 km through the 666 arches from Piazza di Porta Saragozza.