Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca
The Santuario of the BV of SL can’t be missed as you approach Bologna from the southwest: it stands, in all its cantaloupe pinkness, upon the Colle della Guardia, about 300 m s.l.m. (metri sul livello del mare—just shy of 1000 feet above sea level, for those who haven’t yet made peace with metric). From Porta Saragozza, which the Bolognesi say with plenty of “ssss” on those Zs, it’s about 3 miles along a difficult-to-find road. Up until 1976, or so I am given to understand, there was a funivia …
… but now you have to take the car. Or walk up the porticato …
… which I have no intention of doing in my lifetime. Once it’s Spring, we can talk about walking down. I said talk about it.
I had a student, though—roughly ten years old than I—whose hobby was marathons. Let’s just stop there for a moment and marvel: Nothing like a nice, quiet hobby, like gardening or collecting 8-track tapes? No, for him it was marathons. He’d traveled all over the world to compete in various races and, for training, he ran up and down the San Luca porticato at least three times a week. I have just two words for that: Jim Fixx….
In any case, what’s marvelous about San Luca is that, on days when there is sun—and even on foggy days, there’s sometimes sun way up there—the light, shadows, and nearly liquid contours of the architecture are indescribably beautiful.
That “meloncello” color always makes me think of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque—they, too, were meant to be “watermelon colored” (hence the name), but were actually more the color of San Luca, an orange-pink that seems warm even on the most blustery of days.
The crowd at San Luca is generally mellow, and on weekends, along the road leading to the entrance, there are vendors selling candied peanuts and Willy Wonkaesque sweets of other, nefarious natures meant, one imagines, to counteract the healthfulness of getting there in the first place.
For those who walk, by the way, there are 666 arches (here is No. 655) …
… which is evidently not a number we are meant to examine too closely.