No, not the quarter-slurping type of arcade. The arcades in Bologna are covered walkways built to shade pedestrians from rain, snow, and the sweltering summer sun. There are nearly twenty-four miles of these arcades in Bologna's historic center (and even more just beyond its borders), making the city as famous for its protected walkways as it is for the towers that cast leaning shadows atop them.
If you're physically challenged, the steps along the Portico of San Luca are a tourist opportunity you would be better off skipping. You can still get up to the top of the hill, where the sanctuary is located, by way of a road, and then view the portico itself from a distance as you look over the entire city of Bologna.
The definition of an arcade is a walkway covered by arches or vaults, and the longest one in Bologna — and perhaps the world — is the arcade that leads up a hillside to the Madonna of San Luca Sanctuary. There are 666 arches along this walkway, known as the Portico of San Luca, which was built from the mid-1600s to the late 1700s. Even if the sanctuary itself doesn't interest you, the walk is quite lovely — and there's a great view of Bologna from the top of the hill, perfect for taking keepsake photos.
Vast churches, serpentine arcades, skyscraping towers — all of these sights within Bologna's borders are symbols of wealth and power from generations past. Today, the world's movers and shakers often own mammoth buildings and donate mightily to cultural institutions and municipal projects, but they also put their fortunes into extreme playthings, such as sports cars. Some of the most prominent builders of these toys are located just beyond the Bologna borders — so many so, in fact, that the region is known as the “Land of Motors.”
Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. is in the village of Sant'Agata Bolognese, which has just 6,500 or so residents but is known the world over by car aficionados who worship the models that have been built here since the early 1960s. The company was founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini, a tractor manufacturer who had a love of fast cars. His preferred brand was Ferrari, but he kept having trouble with the clutches on the models he brought home. He took his complaints to none other than company founder Enzo Ferrari, who told him that a man of his occupation was in no position to criticize a world-class carmaker. Lamborghini went back home and fixed the clutches himself — using his tractor parts, no less — and then went on to build what he deemed better and faster cars than Ferrari, just to prove that he could.
Today, the Lamborghini brand name is synonymous with extreme speed. The first Lamborghini model, the 350 GT, went 170 miles per hour. The company's newest speedster, the Reventón, hits a top speed of 214 miles per hour. (The price? A cool $1.4 million.) And yes, that's a Lamborghini that Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter ego, is driving through the streets of Gotham in the 2008 worldwide blockbuster The Black Knight.
The company inaugurated a museum in 2001, and it is open for public tours. You can see the original 350 GT here, along with other collectors' favorites and small-scale models and designs from throughout Lamborghini history. Entry is 7 for students, and free for children age ten and younger who are accompanied by an adult. (Small children, typically those younger than six, are not allowed on the factory floor for tours.) The museum is open Monday through Friday, with various holiday closings throughout the year. A complete schedule with hours is online at
Ferruccio Lamborghini's zodiac sign is Taurus, which is known for its determination, stubbornness, creativity, and resourcefulness. Taurus is the inspiration for the bull on the modern Lamborghini crest, and some of the maker's models, such as the Muira and Islero, are named for fighting bulls and breeders.
Ferrari S.p.A. continues to go strong in Maranello, to the west of Bologna. The sports car builder was founded in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari, who actually wanted to focus on race cars instead of personal roadsters. Allied forces bombed his factory during World War II, and the location was rebuilt in 1946. Ferrari's first road car, the 125 S, was produced in 1947 as a way to replenish lost income. Ferrari himself remained loyal to racing above all and often resented the wealthy people whom he felt were buying his vehicles for prestige, with no real understanding of or appreciation for how they worked.
Now owned by the Fiat group, Ferrari welcomes paying customers from all over the world, whether they're gear-heads or not. A Ferrari museum called Galleria Ferrari opened in 2005. There, you can see not just production models but also some of the race cars that have kept the brand name famous for decades. Expect to see a lot of red, which is Ferrari's signature color. Also be prepared to drop a pretty penny in the gift shop on the way out, unless you want to continue going through life without the benefit of a Ferrari Barbie or logo-embroidered bathrobe.
For true sports car lovers, TheBigDay company offers a three-day package that includes a factory tour in the region plus a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Maserati for you to drive along the local streets. It's not cheap, at about 2,500 per person — but that's still six or seven figures less than actually buying one of these cars. Learn more at
The Ferrari museum is open seven days a week excluding some holidays, with an entrance fee of 8 for children. Learn more at
Maserati was founded in Bologna in 1914 and is now headquartered in Modena, just north of the city. Racing cars were the factory's primary output until 1957, when road cars such as coupes and roadsters began rolling off the production line in greater numbers. Today, the company is owned by Fiat, sharing the corporation's luxury car division with Alfa Romeo.
Maserati doesn't have a museum itself, but you can tour the Panini Collection, a private institution that houses about forty cars from a collection started by the original Maserati brothers. Interestingly, the Panini family is best known for producing Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and thus they keep the world's most extensive collection of Maseratis in a building next to their cow barn. There's no website, but you can get more information (about cheese and sports cars alike) in English by calling (011) 39 359 51073.
If you prefer two wheels to four, then Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A. inside the Bologna city limits is the place to visit. The company was founded in 1926 by three brothers who originally made radio components; the original motorcycles came off the line in 1950. The first Ducati motorcycle went just forty miles per hour. Today's models go more than 180 miles per hour. They're known for their flashy good looks, even making a cameo appearance as the toy of choice for the fictional Hollywood star Vincent Chase in the blockbuster HBO series Entourage.
You can see current Ducati models, as well as their predecessors, at the Ducati Museum at the factory headquarters. Opened in 1998, the museum displays the motorcycles around an illuminated racetrack for a truly memorable presentation. Side rooms detail Ducati history and people who have played an integral role in design and racing efforts. Guided tours are available twice a day in English from Monday through Saturday, and they include the factory as well as the museum. There is no entry fee. Details are online at