....to climb the 4 kilometres up, up, up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca! This was one tough climb up the Colle, or Monte dell Guardia, even though I was shaded from the sizzling sun by the 666 porticos covering the steps up!
For centuries, pilgrims have made the journey, seeking a miracle from the venerated Black Madonna -- an icon attributed to St. Luke, according to one legend -- which is housed in the beautiful and peaceful Sanctuary church.
Apparently, a church or chapel of some kind existed atop the hill for about a thousand years (which is roughly how long it took me to reach the top!) Okay, it wasn't that bad. But I started out cranky, as it took almost an hour to walk from my hotel to the foot of the hill and the beginnings of the porticos.
Then, the walk turned out to be really steep -- I knew it would be a bit of a grunt, but Oh My God. This was steep. Worse, an elderly man was gaining on me the entire way up and, being obsessively competitive, I couldn't allow him to pass me.
I prayed every step of the way for the strength to not try and trip him, or strangle the two young women who dared to eventually pass me near the top. I caught up with them inside the church, constructed in 1723, and glared at them until they left. Then, I could enjoy the miraculous Black Madonna and art works including paintings by Guido Reni (a local boy who has an entire room devoted to him in Bologna's very good Pinacoteca Nazionale, which I visited Sunday.)
In reality (a site I don't enjoy), the walk up only took about an hour -- and several gallons of sweat. And the views were gorgeous. And I didn't hurt anyone, so all in all, it was an excellent morning.
I rewarded myself with a great lunch back at the bottom, at Trattoria Meloncello where I had two glasses of wine (after all, I WAS dehydrated) a fantastic plate of homemade tortelloni with a ragu sauce, a nice serving of grilled vegetables and because I was drunk by this point, homemade semifreddo.