Bologna existed before the Romans, but it was with Rome that it was transformed from a simple town to a colony and municipality of the Empire, called Bonomia. During the medieval age it became a free commune and reached the top of its power in 1249 with the victorious Fossalta battle, when King Enzo, son of the emperor Frederick II, was taken prisoner. Of great historic importance is the foundation of the first university in the world in 1088, which gave the town the nickname of Bologna “the learned”. Following an alternating series of lordships, Bologna finally fell under the Papal States; in 1889 with a new town plan, it took on a new look, and became the modern town we know today. The attractive town centre is one of the best conserved in Europe with lovely ancient palazzos and churches, rich with works of art that witness the cultural importance of the town over the centuries.
The city and its monuments
Bologna is rich in art and history, pleasant to visit and full of culture. There are 40 kilometres of covered arcades, which have become one of the distinctive features of the city with their boutiques and shops. A visit to the city must begin in Piazza Maggiore, crowned by the beautiful and original Basilica of San Petronio (construction started in 1390), the Palazzo of King Enzo, the Neptune Fountain, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo Comunale or D’Accursio and Palazzo Bianchi. Also the Pavaglione arcades and Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, ancient university seat, should also be visited. The tall towers of Garisenda and Asinelli are symbols of the city and have been standing since 1100. A visit must be made to the complex known as the Church of Seven Churches, a monumental Romanic building with aristocratic cipolin marble columns. Another typically Bologna feature are the walls and gates (originally 12 now 10), remains of the town walls, which surround the historic centre and welcome the visitor to its heart.
The geographical area
Thanks to the formation of the Apennines, Bologna seems cradled in a variety of countryside landscapes and green woods; you pass from the plain up to peaks of a few hundred meters high, like Monghidoro and Monzuno, real mountain towns to all effects. The natural reserve closest to the city is the Chalk Park, situated on the nearest Bologna hills, which includes a band of chalky outcrops that have created a very interesting Karst formation. The roads and tracks that cross through the protected reserve reveal scenes of amazing beauty. Thanks to the friendly towns and mild climate, several noble Bologna families built their villas here, the most important being Villa Miserazzano, near Croara.