A Walk in Bologna’s Hills

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.

CAI 904 bologna hills
Typical signage.

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.

Bologna colli vineyard
A vineyard on the slopes above Villa Ghigi with Bologna in the distance.
villa ghigi bologna persimmons
Persimmons in Villa Ghigi – November.

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.

Villa ghigi fruit treesBologna
The collection of heritage fruit trees and vines has explanatory boards written in Italian

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!

sheep on the track
Sheep blocking the path above Villa Ghigi.

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.

Eremo lonzano bologna
The Eremo di Lonzano

If you’re lucky, the church will be open and you’ll be able to admire the frescoes. It’s usually open on weekends.

Fresco Eremo lonzano bologna
One of the frescoes in Eremo di Lonzano

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.

bologna hills 5
Along the path

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.

bologna hills 3
In spring, the meadow is covered in flowers.

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.

colle barbiano bologna
The 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.)

basilica of san luca viewed from bologna hills
The basilica of San Luca off in the distance.

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.

Bs autumn
An autumn view along the route.

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.

San Michele in Bosco Bologna lur player wood inloy
A wood inlay lutenist – San Michele in Bosco

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.

01BO hiking map
My well used copy of the 01 BO hiking map.

I’ve also recorded the total walk using Wikiloc. You can have a look at the track on a map by clicking the link below which will take you to Wikiloc. In addition, you can download the Wikiloc app for free and use my recorded path for any particular part of the walk you wish.

Bologna Hills Walk

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

A map of CAI 902.


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