Under The Porticos Of Bologna.

By Posted in - Italy on May 29th, 2013

There are over 666 porticos in Bologna. Actually I should clarify, there are 666 porticos on the walk going to the Basilica of San Luca and over 40 kilometers of porticos throughout the city.

That is a LOT of porticos and it is impossible to walk throughout the city and not become instantly enamored with them.

They were first built in the Middle Ages when the Bologna population exploded with students attending the University of Bologna, the oldest and largest University in the western world. They simply needed more living space so they built porticos that would support the expanded living space of the upper floors.

Over time the porticos became public space – shop owners occupied them, happy to have shelter from the sun and rain and plenty of natural light to sell their wares. Citizens and visitors walked under them to escape the elements and in 1288 a law was passed that all new houses should be built with a portico and the minimum height would need be seven feet. Why seven feet? This was so that any man riding a horse could easily pass under them.

“If I ever needed another reason to move to Italy, Bologna provided it — daily beauty in every day life under centuries old porticos.”

Today Bologna is still a University town with a hip, youthful spirit and walking under the porticos (which are now a UNESCO World Heritage site) is part of daily life. A beautiful part of life – at the right time of day, the porticos create beautiful warm hues and long shadows. At night they become the ultimate hang out spots. If only the rinky dink town where I grew up had some porticos – instead we hung out at the local gas station. Definitely not the same. If I ever needed another reason to move to Italy, Bologna provided it — daily beauty in every day life under centuries old porticos.

Although Bologna is an undoubtedly gorgeous city I was stuggling with ideas for how I should photograph it. Of course, I could do just the normal around town shots of eating, drinking and walking (which I did) or I could shoot the porticos themselves but I knew a lot of bloggers would be passing through Bologna in the coming months as part of the BlogVille project and I wanted to do something unique. Bologna was a blank slate but sadly my mind and eyes were as well and I spent the first couple of days just trying to find what it was I was supposed to see.

Strangely enough, Randy and I didn’t actually spend that much time in Bologna even though we stayed in an apartment there for an entire week. It seemed that we were always on day trips somewhere – Parma, Modena, San Marino, Piecenza and we did an overnight in Bobbio. One morning in on our way to Parma we were running late and as a result we ended up sprinting under the porticos to catch our train. It was during this sprint that I saw an Italian couple out for a run. Suddenly they stopped, argued and then the girl ran away alone, crying her eyes out. This caught my attention because there were very few people out this early (around 6:30am).

In an instant she was gone and he was left looking glumly at this sneakers. We continued our sprint and made our train with a couple minutes to spare. I sat down and thought about the crying girl running away from her boyfriend under the portico and that’s when it dawned on me. The inspiration I was looking for was right in front of me – it wasn’t the porticos themselves, it was the life that happened underneath them.

The loving, the fighting, the friendships, the families, the wining and the dining. The Bolognese way of life that for centuries has occurred right under the 40 kilometers of porticos that embody the city.

We came home during the late afternoon glow and on our walk back to the apartment I started shooting the series. Later that night I went out and shot a bit more then planned to follow up on the last couple of days. Sadly, I never got to finish the series – the last couple of nights were haunted by rain. Normally I love shooting in the rain but the problem was that no one else was out. There was no life happening under the porticos of Bologna.

The reality is, this series is probably unending and it’s hard to imagine it ever really being ‘finished’. So while I left Bologna with a barely started series it’s ok, because it just means that I’ll have to return one day to continue it.

Welcome to Under The Porticos starter series – I hope you like them! I think my favorite is the one of the three girls walking, the light reminds me of Caravaggio and I like the way it falls on her face. If you have a favorite let me know in the comments.  More importantly, if you’re headed to Italy be sure to visit Bologna to soak up the warm sun, walk along the porticos and enjoy the youthful spirit of this beautiful city.

I know the next time I go to Bologna I’m going to stay put. I’m going to drink many a spritz, eat many a gelato and shoot life under the porticos as the late afternoon sun surrounds Bologna like a blanket it doesn’t even know it has.



*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!

*This is story is part of Blog Ville, a campaign created and managed by iAmbassador in partnership with the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board. As always, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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(10) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Susan -

    May 29, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Bethany, your photos just keep getting better. I agree with your choice, the color and contrast in that pic are so vibrant! I’ve wanted to see Bologna since I read the book Playing for Pizza by John Grisham, a fun read. That’s where I heard about the poticos for the first time and I look forward to the continued series of photos.

  • Naomi -

    May 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Serious photo envy Bethany! Shame the weather wasn’t on your side, it’s a great idea (especially as I’m the biggest people watcher!)

  • eemusings -

    June 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos. What a stunning place!

  • Sofie @ Wonderful Wanderings -

    June 3, 2013 at 5:12 am

    I’m sorry, this is not something content related, but did you change your font?
    It appears so tiny all of a sudden:/

  • Lindsay -

    June 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

    You have beautiful photos that are obviously professional quality, but I notice you have a very unobtrusive watermark and don’t block right click.. How do you protect your photos from theft?

    I have a blog with a much smaller audience than yours but I am already having a lot of trouble with other bloggers and even online news media sites reusing my photos without my permission.

    Do you have any problems with this? How do you deal with it?

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas -

    June 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    My sister had a friend growing up whose mother was from Bologna. She used to doodle the porticos all the time, so it was a really treat seeing them in person last January.

    By the way, Beth, I bought your e-book before even purchasing a DSLR. Now that Camarón and I have made friends, I still re-read it every so often as a refresher – it’s wonderful!

  • Alexandra -

    June 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I crashed BlogVille last year and also fell in love with Bologna. WIsh I could have returned this year. Such a charming town. I am with you… LET’S MOVE TO ITALY!

  • Andrea -

    July 1, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Beautiful! Love all the colours

  • Jennifer -

    July 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Beautiful photos as always! We pass through Bologna a lot on our way to other places, but also have never really spent time there.

  • Porticoes Of Bologna -

    September 9, 2013 at 3:20 am

    […] heard about was Bologna’s porticoes.  I had seen photos and read posts like the story Beers and Beans captured about the liveliness that happens beneath them.  But I didn’t quite “get […]