The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca has a commanding presence in the landscape overlooking Bologna. We arrived knowing that it was connected to town by a 2.5 mile portico some say can be seen from space. We dropped our bags at the hotel, grabbed some water and headed for the hills. No map, no directions. There are signs that guide you, eventually. Get a map. The streets and neighborhoods heading up to this massive, covered staircase are wonderful to get lost in, which we easily did. Finding the entrance, we began our pilgrimage to the church at the top of the stairs.
There are 15 chapels celebrating the Mysteries of the Rosary, kind of like the stations of the cross for any of the Catholics in the audience. We hike/jogged up to the top, stopping along the way to enjoy the view and the artwork. The 18th century Sanctuary at the top provides spectacular views of the Emilia/Romagna countryside and of Bologna in the valley below. It was hot and sunny on our visit, but one of the locals told us it snows up on the hill during the winter.
We had a quick decent, then out to happy hour where the specialty is the appertivo bar. For the cost of a glass of wine or cocktail, many of Bologna's restaurants invite you to graze gratis at the traditional piccoli morsi trays laid out across the bar. It's easy to make an evening out of nibbling on a variety of meats, cheeses, pastas, pizzetes and deserts at any number of stops. After a long, inspiring walk; my kind of tradition.