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Comune di Bologna
Coat of arms of Comune di Bologna
Municipal coat of arms
Country Italy Italy
Region Emilia-Romagna
Province Bologna (BO)
Mayor Sergio Cofferati
Elevation 54 m
Area 140 km²
 - Total (as of December 31, 2004) 374,425
 - Density 2,643/km²
Time zone CET, UTC+1
Coordinates 44°30′N 11°21′E
Gentilic Bolognesi
Dialing code 051
Postal code 40100
Patron St. Petronius
 - Day October 4

Location of Bologna in Italy

Bologna ( IPA [boˈloɲa], from Latin Bononia, Bulåggna in the local dialect) is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, in the Pianura Padana, between the Po River and the Apennines, exactly, between Reno River and Sàvena River.

The centre of the city.
The centre of the city.


Bologna was founded by the Etruscans with the name Felsina (ca. 534 BCE) in an area previously inhabited by the villanovians, a people of farmers and shepherds. The Etruscan city grew around a sanctuary built on a hill, and was surrounded by a necropolis.

In the 4th century BC the city was conquered by the Boii, a Gallic tribe, whence the ancient name Bononia of the Roman colony founded in c.189 BC. The settlers included 3,000 Latin families led by the consuls Lucius Valerius Flaccus, Marcus Atilius Seranus and Lucius Valerius Tappo. The building of the Via Aemilia in 187 BC made Bologna a road hub, connected to Arezzo through the Via Flaminia minor and to Aquileia through the Via Aemilia Altinate.

In 88 BC the city became a municipium: it had a rectilinear street plan with six cardi and eight decumani (intersecting streets) which are still discernible today. During the Roman era, its population varied between c.12,000 to c.30,000. At its peak, it was the 2nd city of Italy, and one of the most important of all the Empire) with various temples and baths, a theatre, and one arena. Pomponius Mela included Bononia among the five opulentissimae ("richest") cities of Italy. The city was rebuilt by the Emperor Nero after a fire.

After a long decline, Bologna was reborn in the 5th century under bishop Petronius, who traditionally built the church of S. Stefano. After the fall of Rome, Bologna was a frontier stronghold of the Exarchate of Ravenna in the Po plain, and was defended by a line of walls which however did not enclose most of the ancient ruined Roman city. In 728, the city was conquered by the Lombard king Liutprand, becoming part of the Lombard Kingdom. The German newcomers formed a district called "addizione longobarda" near the complex of S. Stefano, where Charlemagne stayed in 786.

In the 11th century Bologna began to grow again as a free Commune, joining the Lombard League against Frederick Barbarossa in 1164. In 1088 the Studio was founded, now the oldest university of Europe, which could boast notable scholars of the Middle Ages like Irnerius, and, amongst its students, Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarca. In the 12th century the expanding city needed a new line of walls, and another was completed in the 14th century.

In 1256 Bologna promulgated the Legge del Paradiso ("Paradise Law"), which abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves using public money. At that time the city centre was full of towers (perhaps 180) built by the leading families, of notable public edifices, churches and abbeys. In 1294 Bologna was perhaps the 5th or the 6th city in Europe, after Cordoba, Paris, Venice, Florence, and, probably, Milan, with 60,000 - 70,000 inhabitants.

Like most Italian communes of that age, Bologna was torn by internal struggles, which lead to the expulsion of the Ghibelline family of Lambertazzi in 1274. After being crushed in the Battle of Zappolino by the Modenese in 1325, Bologna began to decay and asked the protection of the Pope at the beginning of the 14th century. In 1348, during the terrible European pestilence, about 30,000 inhabitants died.

A grosh of the Bentivoglio period (15th century).
A grosh of the Bentivoglio period (15th century).
The famous "Two Towers" of Bologna.
The famous "Two Towers" of Bologna.
Torre degli Asinelli.
Torre degli Asinelli.

After the happy years of the rule of Taddeo Pepoli ( 1337- 1347), Bologna fell to the Visconti of Milan, but returned to the Papal orbit with Cardinal Gil de Albornoz in 1360. The following years saw an alternation of Republican governments (like that of 1377, which built the Basilica di San Petronio and the Loggia dei Mercanti) and Papal or Visconti restorations, while the city's families engaged in continual internecine fighting. In the middle of the 15th century the Bentivoglio family gained the rule of Bologna, reigning with Sante ( 1445- 1462) and Giovanni II ( 1462- 1506). This period was a flourishing one for the city, with the presence of notable architects and painters who made Bologna a true city.

During the Renaissance, Bologna was the only Italian city that allowed women to excel in any profession. Women there had much more freedom than in other Italian cities. Some even had the opportunity to earn a degree at university.

Giovanni's reign ended in 1506 when the Papal troops of Julius II besieged Bologna and sacked the artistic treasures of his palace. From that point on, until the XVIII century, Bologna was part of the Papal States, ruled by a cardinal legato and by a Senate which every two months elected a gonfaloniere (judge), assisted by eight elder consuls. The city's prosperity continued, although a plague at the end of the 16th century reduced the population from 72,000 to 59,000, and another in 1630 to 47,000. The population later recovered to a stable 60,000-65,000. In 1564 the Piazza del Nettuno and the Palazzo dei Banchi were built, along with the Archiginnasio, the seat of the University. The period of Papal rule saw the construction of many churches and other religious establishments, and the renovation of older ones. The 96 convents of Bologna are a record for Italy. Artists working in this age in Bologna established the Bolognese School that includes Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Guercino and others of European fame.

Palace of King Enzio.
Palace of King Enzio.
Piazza Nettuno, and behind Piazza Maggiore.
Piazza Nettuno, and behind Piazza Maggiore.

With the rise of Napoleon Bologna became the capital of the Repubblica Cispadana and, later, the second most important centre after Milan of the Repubblica Cisalpina and the Italian Kingdom. After the fall of Napoleon, Bologna suffered the Papal restoration, rebelling in 1831 and again 1849, when it temporarily expelled the Austrian garrisons which commanded the city until 1860. After a visit by Pope Pius IX in 1857, the city voted for annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia on June 12, 1859, becoming part of the united Italy.

In the new political situation Bologna gained importance for its cultural role and became an important commercial, industrial and communications hub; its population began to grow again and at the beginning of the 20th century the old walls were destroyed (except few parts) in order to build new houses for the population.

Though damaged during the closing battles of World War II, Bologna soon recovered and is now one of the richest, most civil and well-planned cities of Italy.

On August 2, 1980 a massive bomb killed 86 people in the central train station in the city (see Bologna massacre). Only two month previously Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 crashed in suspicious circumstances enroute from Bologna to Palermo killing 81 people. The official verdict, released only in 1999 was that the plane was shot down accidentally by NATO forces. (Guardian)


Bologna is the first railway and motorway hub in Italy; its Fiera District (exhibitions) is the 2nd in Italy and the 4th in Europe, with important international exhibitions, like Motorshow (cars, motor-cycles, considered the most important in all the world), Saie, Saiedue and Cersaie (buildings), Cosmoprof (beauty culture, considered the most important in all the World), Lineapelle, etc. Bologna and its metropolitan area has important industries (mechanics, foods, electronics), has very important retail and wholesale trade (the "Centergross" in the northern metropolitan area, built in 1973, was the biggest in Europe until few years ago), and has the first Italian vegetable and fruit market. Bologna also has important monuments, museums, and rich cultural life.


The importance of Bologna in Italy and in Europe, considered from the points of view of culture, industry, trade, social, political, economy, etc., is much greater than suggested by its demographic data: about 400,000 inhabitants in the city, about 1 million in the metropolitan area, including over 100,000 students of the ancient and renowned University of Bologna, founded in the 11th century.

Main sights

Until the late 19th century, when a large-scale urban reconstruction project was undertaken, Bologna remained one of the best-preserved Medieval cities in Europe, though to this day it remains unique in its historic value. Despite having suffered considerable bombing damage in 1944, Bologna's historic centre, Europe's 2nd largest (after Venice), contains a wealth of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque artistic monuments of primary importance.

Bologna developed as an Etruscan, then Roman colony along the Via Emilia, the street that still runs straight through the city under the changing names of Strada Maggiore, Rizzoli, Ugo Bassi, and San Felice. Due to its Roman heritage, the most central streets of Bologna, today largely pedestrianized, follow the grid pattern of the Roman settlement.

The original Roman ramparts were supplanted by a high medieval system of fortifications, remains of which are still visible, and finally by a third and final set of ramparts built in the 13th century, of which numerous sections survive. Over twenty medieval defensive towers, some of them leaning precariously, remain from the over two hundred that were constructed in the era preceding the security guaranteed by unified civic government.

Bologna is home to numerous important churches. An incomplete list include:

  • the basilica of San Petronio, one of the biggest in the World
  • San Pietro Cathedral
  • Santo Stefano basilica and sanctuary
  • San Domenico basilica and sanctuary
  • San Francesco basilica
  • Santa Maria dei Servi basilica
  • San Giacomo Maggiore basilica
  • Beata Vergine di San Luca basilica and sanctuary, on Colle della Guardia
  • San Michele in Bosco
  • San Paolo the Great, basilica

The cityscape is further enriched by elegant and extensive arcades (or porticos), for which the city is famous. In total, there are some 38 kilometres of arcades in the city's historical centre (over 45 km in the cityproper), which make it possible to walk for long distances sheltered from rain, snow, or hot summer sun. The Portico of San Luca, the longest in the World (3,5 km, 666 arcades) connects Porta Saragozza (one of the twelve Gates of the ancient Walls built in the Middle-Age which rounded the city on 7,5 km) with San Luca Sanctuary, on Colle della Guardia, over the city (289 m/o.l.s.).

The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is a very notable site, located just outside the main city on the Colle della Guardia (Guard Hill). Built in the 11th century and much enlarged in 14th and 18th centuries. The interior contains works of different masters but probably the most important is the painting of the Madonna with Child attributed to Luke the Evangelist. The best way to visit this Sanctuary is by foot as you can walk under the portico mentioned above.


Over the centuries, Bologna has acquired many nicknames: "Bologna the learned one" (Bologna la dotta) is a reference to its famous university; "Bologna the fat one" (Bologna la grassa) refers to its cuisine.

"Bologna the red one" has also been said to refer to the city's left-leaning politics. Until the election of a centre-right mayor in 1999, the city was a historic bastion of socialism and communism. The centre-left gained power again in the 2004 mayoral elections, with the election of Sergio Cofferati. It was one of the first European settlements to experiment with the concept of "free" public transport.

Another nickname for Bologna is Basket City, referring to Bologna's obsession with basketball, unusual in football-dominated Italy. The local derby between the city's two principal basketball clubs, Fortitudo and Virtus (often called after the clubs' principal sponsors), is intense. Violence, however, has been largely absent in the derby.

Football is still a popular sport in Bologna; the main local club is Bologna F.C. 1909, which was relegated to Serie B at the end of the 2004/2005 season.

The city of Bologna was appointed a UNESCO City of Music on 29 May 2006. According to UNESCO "As the first Italian city to be appointed to the Network, Bologna has demonstrated a rich musical tradition that is continuing to evolve as a vibrant factor of contemporary life and creation. It has also shown a strong commitment to promoting music as an important vehicle for inclusion in the fight against racism and in an effort to encourage economic and social development. Fostering a wide range of genres from classical to electronic, jazz, folk and opera, Bologna offers its citizens a musical vitality that deeply infiltrates the city’s professional, academic, social and cultural facets".


Bologna is home to Guglielmo Marconi International Airport, expanded in 2004 by extending the runway to accommodate larger aircraft: it is the fifth busiest Italian airport for passenger traffic (about 3,6 million/year). Since 2004, is the third busiest for intercontinental flights.

Bologna Central Station is considered the most important train hub in Italy thanks to the city's strategic location. Also, its goods-station (San Donato) with its 33 railway tracks, is the largest in Italy in size and traffic and is one of the biggest in Europe. Bologna's station holds a memory in Italian public consciousness for the huge terrorist bomb attack that killed 85 victims in August 1980. The attack is also known in Italy as the Strage di Bologna, the Bologna massacre. It is widely believed the bomb was planted by neo-fascist activists - possibly to stir public opinion against Italian communists.


As of 2004, the greater Bologna area had a resident population of 943,983, of which 94.09% were ethnic Italians. Immigrants in the city constitute 5.91% of the population. Of the 55,840 immigrants in Bologna, Europeans other than Italian origins slimly outnumber those from the African continent. They number 19,668 and are chiefly of Romanian, Albanian, and Ukrainian origins. Closely following, Africans number 19,060, but are almost entirely North African Arab rather sub-saharan blacks. A recent and growing Asian population number 14,119 and are mostly Filipino, and Chinese. The remaining consists of immigrants from the Americas and the Middle East. While ageing continues to be a factor in the city's population, the number of births has risen in the past decade, contributing to the positive growth of the city.

Age profile

  • 00 - 14 (108,422) = 11.48%
  • 15 - 64 (615,488) = 61.59
  • 65+ (220,113) = 23.31%


Bologna is renowned for its culinary tradition and it is regarded by some as the food capital of Italy. It has given its name to Bolognese sauce, a meat based pasta sauce called in Italy ragù alla bolognese but in the City itself just ragù alone as in Tagliatelle al ragù . Bologna is also influenced by Milanese cuisine as its specialities include risotto, however one is hard pressed to find bread that is neither stale nor made from finely ground bleached flour.

Situated in the fertile Po River Valley, the rich local cuisine depends heavily on meats and cheeses. As in all of Emilia-Romagna, the production of cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salame is an important part of the local food industry. Well-regarded nearby vineyards include Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna.

Tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini served in broth and mortadella (the original Bologna sausage) are among the local specialties.


The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest existing university in Europe, and was an important centre of European intellectual life during the Middle Ages, attracting scholars from throughout Christendom. A unique heritage of medieval art, exemplified by the illuminated manuscripts and jurists' tombs produced in the city from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, provide a cultural backdrop to the renown of the medieval institution. The Studium, as it was originally known, began as a loosely organized teaching system with each master collecting fees from students on an individual basis. The location of the early University was thus spread throughout the city, with various colleges being founded to support students of a specific nationality.

In the Napoleonic era, the headquarters of the university were moved to their present location on Via Zamboni (formerly Via San Donato), in the north-eastern sector of the city centre. Today, the University's 23 faculties, 68 departments, and 93 libraries are spread across the city and include four subsidiary campuses in nearby Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini. Noteworthy students present at the university in centuries past included Dante, Petrarch, Thomas Becket, Pope Nicholas V, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and Copernicus. Laura Bassi, appointed in 1732, became the first woman to officially teach at a college in Europe. In more recent history, Luigi Galvani, the discoverer of biological electricity, and Guglielmo Marconi, the pioneer of radio technology, also worked at the University. The University of Bologna remains one of the most respected and dynamic post-secondary educational institutions in Italy. To this day, Bologna is still very much a university town, and the city's population swells from 400,000 to over 500,000 whenever classes are in session. This community includes a great number of Erasmus, Socrates, and overseas students. Several American Colleges and Universities, such as Brown University, Dickinson College and University of California, sponsor exchange programs. There is also a consortium of several universities, the Bologna Cooperative Studies Program, that is headed by Indiana University. The University of Denver also has an embedded study abroad program in Bologna, in coordination with the Centre for Civic Engagement. In addition the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies maintains a permanent campus in the city.

Nowadays, the University of Bologna controls 23 faculties: Agricultural sciences; Industrial Chemistry; Economics; Pharmacy; Law; Engineering; Literature and philosophy; Foreign languages and literatures; Medicine and surgery; Veterinary medicine; Sciences of education; Mathematics, physics and natural sciences; Sciences of physical education; Political Sciences; Statistics. Only in Cesena: Architecture; Psychology. Only in Ravenna: Conservation of cultural heritage.

San Petronio.
San Petronio.

Famous natives of Bologna and environs

  • Pupi Avati (director, born 1938)
  • Adriano Banchieri (composer, 1568 – 1634)
  • Laura Bassi (scientist, first female appointed to university chair in Europe, 1711 – 1788)
  • Ugo Bassi (Italian nationalist hero, executed for role in 1848 uprisings, 1800 - 1849)
  • Stefano Benni (writer, born 1947)
  • Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini, Pope 1740-58)
  • Giovanni II Bentivoglio (1443-1508)
  • Annibale Carracci (painter, 1560 – 1609)
  • Lodovico Carracci (painter, 1555 – 1619)
  • Agostino Carracci (painter, 1557 – 1602)
  • Pierluigi Collina (football referee, born 1960)
  • Scipione del Ferro (mathematician, solved the cubic equation, 1465 – 1526)
  • Lucio Dalla (singer-songwriter, born 1943)
  • Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri, painter, 1581 - 1641)
  • Gianfranco Fini (politician, born 1952)
  • Luigi Galvani (scientist, discoverer of bioelectricity, 1737 – 1798)
  • Serena Grandi (actress, born 1958)
  • Gregory XIII (Ugo Boncompagni, Pope 1572-85, instituted Gregorian Calendar)
  • Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi, Pope 1621-3)
  • Il Guercino (Giovanni Barbieri, painter, 1591 - 1666)
  • Irnerius (jurist, c.1050 - at least 1125)
  • Lucius II (Gherardo Caccianemici dell'Orso, Pope 1144-5)
  • Guglielmo Marconi (engineer, pioneer of wireless telegraphy, Nobel prize for Physics, 1874 - 1937)
  • Giuseppe Mezzofanti (cardinal and linguist, 1774 - 1839)
  • Marco Minghetti (economist and statesman, 1818 - 1886)
  • Giorgio Morandi (painter, 1890 - 1964)
  • Gianni Morandi (singer, born 1944)
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini (writer, poet, director, 1922 - 1975)
  • Romano Prodi (Italian prime minister and academic, born 1939)
  • Roberto Regazzi (luthier, born 1956)
  • Guido Reni (painter, 1575 - 1642)
  • Ottorino Respighi (composer, 1879 - 1936)
  • Augusto Righi (physicist, authority on electromagnetism, 1850 - 1920)
  • Fabio Sassi (artist, born 1955)
  • Alberto Tomba (skier, born 1966)
  • Ondina Valla (first Italian woman Olympic gold medalist, 1916 - 2006)
  • Mariele Ventre (teacher and educator, founder of Piccolo Coro dell' Antoniano choir, 1939 - 1995)
  • Christian Vieri (footballer, born 1973)
  • Alex Zanardi (race car driver, born 1966)

In addition to the above natives, the following became associated with Bologna by long-term residence:

  • Giosuè Carducci (poet and academic, Nobel Prize for Literature, born near Lucca, Tuscany, 1835 - 1907)
  • Umberto Eco (writer and academic, born at Alessandria, Piedmont, 1932)
  • Giovanni Pascoli (poet and academic, born at San Mauro di Romagna, 1855 - 1912)
  • St. Petronius (San Petronio, bishop of Bologna and patron saint of the city, birthplace unknown, died c. 450 AD)
  • Gioacchino Rossini (opera composer, born in Pesaro, 1792 - 1868)

Famous companies

  • Ducati Motor Holding (motorcycles)
  • Lamborghini (cars)
  • Maserati (cars, now seats in Modena)
  • Omas (luxury fountain pen, now owned by French Luxury Group LVMH)
  • A number of prominent co-operative enterprises, including Coop, the leading Italian retailing chain.

Twin cities

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