The first suggestion I give to tourists who ask me what to visit in Bologna is to walk. Bologna is small enough to be covered in a few hours and walking around is the best way to discover its hidden secrets: gardens, painted porticos, canals and, most important, people are easier to meet if you walk around. Now spring has arrived so here are 3 nice day walks you can have, plus one very special trekking for the athletes readers.
San Luca Basilica represents a lot for Bolognese. It's the first thing you see when you arrive in town and, even for people who don't believe, its Virgin has a mystic value around it. Walking up there, after the 666 porticoes that connect Porta Saragozza to the Basilica, is a tradition for bolognese. You can find people jogging, pilgrims praying, or just families with children for a Sunday stroll.
I usually walk up there with my camera, especially during sunset or at night, to admire the beautiful lights and relax in the quiet of the hill. There's also a train that will bring you directly to San Luca, but I do agree with Eliot that says: "the journey, not the destination matters".
Where to start: Porta Saragozza
How long does it take: 55 minutes
My tip: go up there at night, even if the Basilica is closed the portico and its silence are invaluable
Villa Ghigi's park dominates Bologna from a hill near Porta San Mamolo. From there you get a beautiful view of Bologna's skyline and when the sky is clear you can also see Alps mountains.
This park is my favorite location for a Sunday picnic, a lot more chilled than Giardini Margherita . So grab some bread, mortadella and a bottle of Pignoletto and relax between the rows of vines.
Where to start: Porta San Mamolo
How long does it take: 45 minutes
My tip: visit Villa Ghigi in autumn, when the grape is ripe and the colors are beautiful
Parco della Chiusa (or Parco Talon)
A nice and unusual way to spend a sunny afternoon in Bologna is to visit Parco della Chiusa. Start your walk (or ride) at Certosa Cemetery and visit it: it's astonishing, then skirt one of the canal whose flow rate is controlled by la Chiusa of Casalecchio. La Chiusa (The Gate) is one of the oldest work of hydraulic in the world and helped the economic growth of Bologna during Middle Age by providing energy to its water mills to produce silk.
La Chiusa is near a huge park that in the nineteenth century Stendhal, frequent visitor of these places, compared to Paris' "Bois de Boulogne". Take your time to relax or enjoy a trekking to San Luca through "De Bregoli" road.
Where to start: Certosa Cemetery
How long does it take: 40min
My tip: rent a bike and ride to Parco della Chiusa. Then leave it there and start your trekking around
Via degli Dei
Ok, I'm lying, if you know me you don't expect me to walk the 130km that links Bologna to Florence through the old roman road called "Flaminia Militare". But a few athletic friends made it and told me how beautiful this walking is.
Via degli dei (The Way of Gods) is the trekking path created in the late 80s of the '900 by a group of Bolognese hikers, mostly follows these ancient tracks to rediscover some fine pavements of the Roman road.
Not exactly a walk but still a good way to be in shape after a food tour in Bologna or Modena.
Where to start: Piazza Maggiore or San Luca
How long does it take: 4/6 days
My tip: Take in in spring/late summer to avoid the bad or hot weather
[photo credits: Andrea Forni, Andrea Farina, Mar_Kor, Alice Verti]