Rete civica Iperbole

The porticoes in the Grand tour d’Italie / 1

Foreign travellers and writers, who happened to make a stop in Bologna during their grand tour d'Italie, reported interesting and bizarre comments about porticoes in their travel journals.

In a writing dated late Seventeenth Century, a French Benedictine monk, Casimir Freschot, who until 1689 stayed at San Procolo monastery, the building connected with some city porticoes, inside and outside the city walls, reports not only about San Luca portico but also about the previous one, the Alemanni portico:
"Not only has the city of Bologna porticoes along its main streets, where one can walk under covered ways; but there are also some out of the city walls; the ones lead to the Carmelitan Cloister, more than one mile away, the others even lead up to the San Luca Sanctuary, which is even more distant. These porticoes out of town are meant to facilitate the believers' visit to the said churches, and were built not at the expense of the municipality, but of private citizens, each of them contributing to the expenses for one, two, or more arcades under condition that they could have them painted with their name and family coat of arms."

In the 18th Century, a renowned French astronomer, Joseph-Jérôme Lefrançais de Lalande, stopped in Italy between the years 1765 and 1766. In Bologna, he was struck by the system of porticoes connecting all the parts of the town:
"This city is very well-built, but it does not look as 'beautitful'. Convenience was preferred to decoration, thus porticoes were built in every street along the houses: people can walk under them protected from sun and rain, and most of these porticoes are paved like they were an apartment".

At the end of the 18th Century, the Spanish writer and playwright Leandro Fernandez De Moratin travelled through Italy from 1793 to 1796, mostly staying in Bologna at the prestigious Royal College of Spain. In his travel notes, he gives a few vivid and sharp descriptions of Bolognese habits and traditions and of the city porticoes leading to the San Luca portico:
"In Bologna women wear large skirts and black shawls, so short that they hardly cover half of their back. The whole town is full of porticoes, convenient both when it's warm and when it rains, and some of them are so long and wide that they perfectly do for the public walk, when the season does not allow it to go out in the country. One of these, leading to the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca, is two miles long [...]. It's a noteworthy thing, that such a large town does not have any public lighting system: it's very dangerous to walk through the town by night, because not only may you experience bad encounters, you can also easily end up bumping into some portico column, or stumbling upon the steps that face the streets. This bad habit is generally spread in most of Italy."

More travellers' comments following with next article.


References and Photo Sources:
Pier Luca Gamberini, "Il portico del santuario di  San Luca: una ricerca iconografica e storico artistica", dissertation in Art History,  University of Bologna;
Sorbelli, "Bologna negli scrittori stranieri", Bologna 2007;
P. Menarini, "Bologna nelle pagine di un viaggiatore spagnolo del Settecento Leandro Fernandez De Moratin – in “Quaderni Culturali Bolognesi”, Year III/12, Bologna 1979;
Photo of the book cover and second mentioned quoting by Jérôme La Lande, "Voyage d'un François en Italie, fait dans les années 1756 et 1766", volume two, XIII edition, Paris, 1790; preserved in thne Library of Carducci House, Bologna.

Courtesy of the Foundation Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna, from "Art and History Collections":
Bolognese anonymous, Via del Ricovero e Portico degli Alemanni, watercoloured pen, 181x287 mm, end of 18th century;
Antonio Basoli, Portico di via S. Donato e facciata di S. Giacomo Maggiore, watercolour, 330x460 mm, mid of 19th century.