From the Middle Ages through the Novecento, these arched porticoes give the Old Town its unmistakable look
Bologna's true signature
The towers are terrific, of course, but what really most defines the look and feel of Bologna's historic centre is its arched porticoes, dating back to the middle of the Middle Ages, starting around the 11th century and continuing through the 19th. So while there are subtle differences for those in the know, on the whole, the abundance of porticoes (38 kilometres/24 miles' worth, actually) truly gives the historic centre its particular flavour. The oldest are those of the Palazzo Isolani, while the tallest and perhaps the most impressive are those of the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi - nearly 10 metres (33 feet) high. Perhaps the most iconic of all are not even downtown - they're the porticoes of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of St. Luke, up in the hills outside the city.
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