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Free Things to Do in Bologna, Italy

The Best City for a Stroll

One of the best things to do in Italy is also free. The passeggiata, or evening stroll, is the quintessential Italian experience and nowhere is it more revered than in Bologna. Virtually every evening, and especially on Sunday, the entire city seems to take to the streets. Thanks to a culture that enjoys the slower things in life and miles and miles of shade, this nightly ritual has as much to do with exercise, socializing, and architecture as it does with history.


Image: Rufo, Flickr

To begin with, the Bolognese were a rather well-off populous that began exploding when one of the oldest universities in the world was founded here. The influx of immigrants to Bologna created a shortage of living space within the walled city, and so to accommodate the growth, the people began building extensions to their homes overtop the sidewalks, these became the first porticos. By 1289, it was mandated that if you erected a new building it had to incorporate a portico. In addition, each portico had to be seven “Bolognese feet” high, tall enough for a man on horseback to pass under comfortably.

Today, more than 40 kilometers of arched walkways snake their way across the city, providing shelter from the rain and relief from the blazing sun. Perhaps the widest of any city in Italy, they offer an ideal way to people watch or simply pass the time. To see how porticos evolved, visit Via Santo Stefano on the way to the Piazza, or Via Clavature, and the Jewish Quarter to view the oldest porticos in the city.

You can visit Bologna on Travcoa’s O Italia Mia Escorted Journey of Italy.

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Topics: Italy