Bologna, Italy, is the capital and largest city of the country’s Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. Appreciated for its historic significance, architectural beauty, strong influences in the arts, and Bolognese cuisine, Bologna is one of Italy’s great cities. One of the best-preserved town centers in all of Europe, evidence of Etruscan civilization indicates Bologna has been inhabited since the 9th century BC. Since then, many different rulers and cultures have influenced the city, including Celts, Romans, Huns, Goths, and the Catholic Church.
Another major influence on Bologna was the establishment of its university in1088. Revolutionary student politics helped to shape the city throughout the years, and the university remains the oldest in continental Europe today. During the European Renaissance of the 14th–17th centuries, paintings from the School of Bologna rivaled those in Florence and Rome. Bologna is also considered a center of music, boasting students and performances from great composers such as Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Puccini. In 2006, UNESCO named Bologna a Creative City of Music.
Art Galleries & Museums
Bologna is home to some of the finest Italian museums. Local history abounds throughout the University Museums, including the city’s military fortifications, student culture, and astronomical tower. Museo di Antropologia displays prehistoric artifacts from Central Italy, while the Archaeological Museum offers a wider spectrum of historical artifacts. The city’s National Picture Gallery boasts artwork from Emilia-Romagna and Venice between the 13th and 18th centuries, while The Communal Collection of Fine Arts is home to a wider time period of Italian paintings. Music lovers can tour the historic Philharmonic Academy or peruse the treasures housed in Bologna’s International Museum and Library of Music.
Churches & Basilicas
A long history of Papal rule saw the construction of many churches throughout Bologna, several of which remain today. The uniquely round shape of the 18th century St. Luke’s Basilica offers an incomparable panoramic view of the city. It is also home to the Madonna di San Luca. San Petronio Basilica is one of the world’s largest and contains an impressive art collection, including many bas-reliefs in its attached museum. A life-sized terracotta sculpture called The Lamentation draws many to the Santa Maria della Vita, while San Giacomo Maggiore Basilica is popular for its altarpiece by Lorenzo Costa the Elder.
Piazza Maggiore & Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)
The heart of Bologna, Italy, is Piazza Maggiore, a public square dating back to medieval times. This popular piazza is flanked by some of the city’s oldest and most important buildings, including San Petronio Basilica. Within the piazza is the Fountain of Neptune, built in 1563 and considered to be a symbol of the city. The piazza also has a pedestrian platform that retains bomb damage from the day Italy was liberated by Allied forces during World War II.
666 Portico Walk to San Luca
One of Bologna’s most identifying factors is its many arcades. These beautiful and historic porticos offer miles of covered walkways throughout the city center. The city’s most popular, the Portico of San Luca, is one of the longest in the world. It stretches out more than two miles and contains 666 porticos. Originally built to protect a Byzantine Madonna relic on an annual Ascension procession, this walkway connects the Porta Sargozza with the San Luca Sanctuary.
The popular cuisine of Bologna, Italy, relies heavily on meats and cheeses, ingredients plentiful in the city’s Po River Valley. Mortadella, Bologna sausage made of cured pork meats, is renowned. Perhaps the best-known dish is Tagliatelle al ragù made with Bolognese sauce, a tomato-based sauce filled with various meats and served over pasta. Bolognese sweets are also popular in Italian dining, including torta di riso, a custard-like cake made of almonds, rice, and amaretto.