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Bologna Guide Italy

History and culture


History and culture

The first inhabitants of Bologna date back to the Iron Age (10th century BC). The Etruscans lived in Bologna (called Felsina at that time) from the end of the 6th century to middle of the 4th and then it passed to the Gauls. The Romans defeated the Gauls in 191 BC, founding the colony of Bonomia along the Via Emilia. Originally inhabited by 3000 colonists, during the imperial age it reached 10,000 inhabitants. Traces of the Roman city can be seen under Via Rizzoli and Sala Borsa, while numerous artifacts from all ancient epochs are displayed at the Museo Archeologico.

During the Middle Ages Bologna became a free commune, its golden century was the 13th: during this period the city developed greatly thanks to the university (the oldest in Europe), trade and the political backing of the Church; at the end of the 13th century Bologna was one of the top 10 cities of Europe.

During the 14th and 15th centuries the city was fought over by the Church and the Viscounts (noble family from Milan) and was gripped by civil wars between the aristocratic families. Peace came with the reign of the Bentivoglio, which however marked the progressive domination of the popes over the city. Bologna lost its sovereignty in 1506 and was governed by one of the Pope's cardinals for two centuries.

The dominion of the Papal State was interrupted in 1796 when Napoleon's army entered the city. The Church's assets and property were expropriated and Bologna was transformed from an industrial city to a large agricultural province. The restoration of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 returned the city to the Church, but liberal ideas had already begun to gain ground. The city actively participated in the Risorgimento fighting and became part of the new Italian state in 1859. Between the 19th and 20th centuries European town planning models took over: the city was embellished with public gardens and wide boulevards. Today Bologna has become a great industrial and cultural center, so much so that it earned the title European Capital of Culture in 2000.

Photos courtesy of: APT Servizi, Regione Emilia Romagna, Comune di Bologna.

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