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Bologna - Off the beaten track

Cycling across Piazza Maggiore

Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca

This hill-top sanctuary, about 4km (2.4mi) from the centre of town, is visible on a clear day from most parts of Bologna. The basilica, built in the eighteenth century, is connected to the city walls by a lovely long portico, or covered walkway, made up of 666 arches (a number of some theological significance). You can take a bus from the town centre and change at Villa Spada for a minibus to the sanctuary; but when the sun is shining it's worth getting off at Meloncello and walking underneath the arches for the remaining 2km (1.2mi).


Located approximately 40km (25mi) northwest of Bologna, Modena is home to Italy's favourite tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, and the car manufacturers Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, and Lamborghini; all of whom contribute to making Modena one of the richest cities in Italy.

Modena has a fe cathedral, dedicated to the city's patron saint, San Geminiano. The cathedral facade bears 12th-century bas reliefs by the sculptor Wiligelmo, depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis. The Palazzo dei Musei houses several galleries which display works by artists such as Bernini, Guido Reni and Correggio. The palazzo also contains the Biblioteca Estense, which holds one of Italy's most valuable collections of books, letters and manuscripts, including the medieval Bible of Boors d'Este, illustrated by Ferrarese artists and considered the most ornate decorative bible in existence.


Accessible by car and by trains departing from Bologna and Florence, the tiny resort town of Porretta Terme, often known simply as Porretta, lies about 50km (30mi) south of Bologna, in the Apennine Mountains. Traditionally visited for its hot springs and therapeutic mineral waters, the town has recently, and rather bizarrely, become a meeting place for soul music lovers from all over Europe. Every year in July these Euro-dudes converge on the town for the Sweet Soul Music Festival, a three day tribute to Otis Redding and the Memphis sound.

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