Bologna is the administrative centre of the Emilia Romagna region, passageway between North and South of Italy.
The origins of Bologna can be traced
right back to the Bronze Age. Around three thousand years ago, a
population of unknown origin settled in the Appenine region.
During the Iron Age, this population developed its own authentic
culture and came to be known as the Villanovian Civilization.
In the sixth century B.C., the
settlement of villages was eventually surrounded by the
Etruscans (who brought their culture with them) and the area was
transformed into the wealthy and prosperous Felsina. The
population here was a peace-loving one, with an interest in both
crafts and commerce. In around 350 B.C., Felsina found itself
incapable of repelling a rash attack by the Galli Boi who had
reached the surrounding plains: it is said that the name Bologna
is derived from the word Boi or bona which means ‘city’ in the
Celt language. It was only after two hundred years of Celt
domination that they were finally defeated in battle by the
Bononia (as it was then called) became a
Roman colony. In 187 B.C., the Roman Consul Marco Emilio Lepido
had the Via Emilia constructed, thus giving the city an
important position in the centre of Peninsula Italy’s road
network. During the Roman period, Bononia re-acquired some of
its lost splendor.
The fall of the Roman Empire also
brought along the decline of Bononia. In 431 A.D., the city
regained a semblance of its former vitality, mainly due to the
deeds of Bishop Petronio who reinforced the fortifications,
restored the public buildings and initiated the construction of
the Basilica di Santo Stefano. His actions left such an imprint
on Bologna’s history that nine hundred years later, the splendid
Basilica di San Petronio was built in his honour on the Piazza
During the Middle age the city became a
free city-state which reached the apex of his power in 1249,
with the victorious battle of Fossalta, in which Enzo, son of
the emperor Federico II was taken captive. He was incarcerated
until his death in a palace which bears his name to this day:
Palazzo Re Enzo.
In 1088, the first University of the
world rose inside the walls of Bologna.
Bologna was a hotly contested city. It
was sought after by the Church, by the Imperial powers, and by
rich and powerful members of the nobility. There were many
reasons for this, not least its strategic geographical location,
the economic and cultural benefits brought around by the
presence of the University and its flourishing markets which had
been revitalised as a result of fervent activity on the part of
the Corporazioni delle Arti (Coporation of the Arts).
After the alternance of various Signorie
(or ‘nobilities’) and struggles, in XVI century Bologna felt
under the orbit of the power of the Papal State. In the
following years, various major events took place: in 1530, Carlo
V was crowned Emperor in the San Petronio Basilica, and in 1542,
Bologna hosted several sessions of the Trento Council. Various
important institutions were transformed as a result of the papal
domination e.g. the
University came to be housed inside the Archiginnasio, in order
for its autonomy not to be limited.
Bologna was the papal state’s ‘second
city’ (after Rome), and in the nineteenth century, it
became involved in a series of historical events which changed
the face of Europe. In the
Napoleonic period, it was at first the capital of the Cispadana
Republic and then, it left the papal state to became part of the
Cisalpina Republic. During the Restoration, Bologna was restored
to the papacy. However, Bologna soon became actively involved in
the Risorgimento movement which culminated in the driving out of
the Austrians and the definitive severing of Bologna’s
centuries-old ties with the papacy. In 1859, Piedmont was
annexed and became part of a unified Italy.
Today, Bologna is often seen as Europe’s cultural capital. It
take pride of place in Italy’s road network and its prestigious
University is world-famous. It is an ancient city with a
widely-respected artistic heritage (the Carracci and Reni
Schools originated here) which has promoted various cultural
initiatives on an international scale. It is a city which is
known for its strong identity, its intercultural exchange
programmes, its towers, its gateways, its magnificent palaces
and for the joie de vivre of its population.
For more information concerning the history of Bologna, please visit ItalyTravelscape.com.
You may find more information concerning tourism, services and museums
at the website of Bologna's municipality.
For a virtual visit of the city visit: http://www.comune.bologna.it/girabologna/.