Bologna is the biggest city (and capital) in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, lying in the centre of a one-million-person metropolitan region (legally recognized by the Italian government as a città metropolitana).
The earliest villages were constructed about 1000 BC. The city was an urban center under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) and the Celts (Bona), then the Romans (Bononia), and again in the Middle Ages as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population). Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, the University of Bologna, which was established in 1088. Thousands of students enhance the city’s social and cultural life. Bologna, famous for its towers and long porticoes, has a well-preserved historical center (one of the largest in Italy) thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy that began at the end of the 1970s, on the heels of serious damage caused by urban demolition at the end of the 19th century as well as wars.
An important cultural and artistic center, its significance in terms of landmarks can be attributed to a diverse mixture of monuments and architectural examples (medieval towers, antique buildings, churches, the layout of its historical center) as well as works of art resulting from a first-rate architectural and artistic history. Bologna is also a major transportation crossroads for Northern Italy’s roads and railroads, and it is home to numerous key mechanical, electrical, and nutritional businesses. According to the most current statistics from the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) of 2009, Bologna ranks first in Italy and 47th in Europe in terms of economic growth rate.
Bologna is home to a number of prominent artistic, economic, and political institutions, as well as one of Europe’s most stunning trade fair areas. In 2000, it was named European Capital of Culture, and in 2006, it was designated a UNESCO “city of music.” Bologna, along with 45 other towns from across the globe, was chosen to participate in the Universal Exposition of Shanghai 2010. Bologna is also one of the richest cities in Italy, often rating as one of the top cities in the nation in terms of quality of life: in 2011, it rated first out of 107 Italian cities.