Bologna snuggles into the hills just to its south and there are a number of walks that take you from the suburbs up into a pleasant rural countryside.
Some of these have been signposted following the CAI or Club Alpina Italiana numbering system. One of my favourites is CAI 904 which takes you up to Villa Ghigi park and from there continues up into the hills.
To arrive at the starting point for this walk, follow Via D’Azeglio until you arrive at the ring road marking the line of Bologna’s last set of walls (see The Walls of Bologna for more detail). After crossing at the lights, continue along Via San Mamolo. Before long, you’ll see Via Dell’Osservanza on the right. It’s a steep walk up this road, passing the Osservanza church on the left, until you reach an unlocked gate also on the left. This part of the walk can be quite muddy after rain, in which case you can veer left onto Via Gaibola before you get the Osservanza church.
In either case you’ll soon reach the car park for the Villa Ghigi park. This is a very attractive city park, filled with various fruit trees making it especially pretty in spring when the trees are in flower.
The park also has an interesting collection of heritage fruit trees and vines from the Emilia-Romagna Region. Amongst these is a grape vine taken from a cutting of a vine thought to be over 200 years old growing in the middle of Bologna. If you go into the Teatro Arena del Sole on Via D’Independenza you’ll get a view of it growing in the ancient cloister.
If you’re looking for a shorter walk, you can continue along the main path through the park, admiring the views of Bologna. This path will eventually take you back down to Via San Mamolo where you started from.
This is a round trip of around 4.5km from Porto San Mamolo, which is in turn about 1 km from San Petronio in the centre of Bologna.
Otherwise continue following the red and white signs further up the hill. Sometimes, the track can be a little crowded!
At the top is the Eremo di Lonzano, part of a monastery dating back to the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century. The area has been inhabited for a long time and Iron Age as well as Etruscan and Roman artefacts have been uncovered here.
If you’re lucky, the church will be open and you’ll be able to admire the frescoes. It’s usually open on weekends.
The path continues on a mixture of tracks and sealed roadway to Monte Paderno, another city park, changing designation from CAI 904 to 900 along the way. The total distance to this point from San Mamolo is around 5km. From here, the choice is to either retrace your steps back to Bologna or to continue along a circular path that eventually will take you back down to the city.
The first section follows a continuation of path 900 which takes you across to another city park called Forte Bandiera. This is about 2.5km of pleasant walking through a section of woods and then across an open meadow.
At Forte Bandiera you can take path 902 back down towards Bologna, a further 4km away. A landmark to look out for is the hill with 3 TV towers at Colle Barbiano.
There are views of the Basilica of San Luca off in the distance (see my previous post The Descent of the Madonna of San Luca.)
Similarly to the 904 route, this one dives off through sections of woods to avoid walking along bitumen. However, it’s best to stick to the bitumen after rain.
You’ll eventually arrive at the rear of the Rizzoli Hospital and a bit later the church of San Michele in Bosco which is worth a visit.
From here it’s a short walk down Via Codavilla to return to the starting point of Piazza San Mamolo.
A useful purchase from a local bookshop is the “Carta Escursionistica (Hiking Map) 01 BO entitled “Colline di San Luca” published by the Club Alpina Italiana (CAI) which shows all of these routes.
Summary of distances :
From San Petronio up Villa Ghigi, walk through the park and return – approx.7.5km
From San Petronio up to Monte Paderno and return the same way – approx. 12km
From San Petronio up to Monte Paderno across to Forte Bandiera and back down on CAI902 – approx. 14km