Bologna is known for its arcades, but this one takes the cake. The Portico di San Luca, the world's longest portico, stretches from the city to the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca- more than 3.5 kilometers in all! Constructed in the early 1700s, this amazing architectural feat is a beautiful accomplishment that provides a lovely walkway where you can enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside, and be protected in any weather. There are 666 arches in all, some chapels, and lots of steps along the way. But the rewards of a brisk walk, nice scenery and a quiet country retreat at the end make up for it.

The pathway starts at the city gate known as Porta Saragozza and leads up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a beautiful Baroque church that houses an iconic image of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, attributed to St. Luke, the apostle (though others say it dates to the Byzantine period). The arcade was built to protect the holy icon from weather during the annual procession that transports it from its home in the church above down to the city center for veneration by the faithful.

If you want a longer walk you can start in Piazza Maggiore, and still be mostly under arcades for the majority of the way. Otherwise, start like most do at the Porta Saragozza. The path climbs upwards with many stairs and is sprinkled with little chapels along the way. There are 666 arches, or so they say. At some point someone must have counted them all, so we're taking their word for it! Go slowly and pace yourself as you wind uphill. As you near the top, the view opens up and you'll see the gently rolling hills that unfold to the plains of Emilia Romagna. At the top of Colle della Guardia (appropriately named the Guard's Hill, as it was once a look-out point), you'll find the ochre-colored cylindrical church capped by a dome and a lantern, and flanked by (what else?) -arcades.

Been there? Done that? Share your experience and tips!

Haven't visited yet? Have questions about World's Longest Portico? Ask them here!

Address in Bologna:

Porta Saragozza.

Enjoy the comfort of a vacation home in Emilia Romagna.