Bologna is a beautiful historical city in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region. It is known for its excellent food and good wine, its long history with Etruscan, Celtic and Roman roots, and having had the first university in Europe (1088!). It also gave its name to the European Bologna Process, which unified university courses across the European Union and made it easier for students to spend part of their studies in other countries.
There are about 90,000 students for a population of 400,000 (1 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area), so the city is young, lively and active. Plenty of graffiti and further wall art decorate the historical walls.
An outstanding feature of Bologna are its many arcades, or porticoes, alttogether about 38km long. They were built to leave space for traffic and shops while housing many people in the apartments above.
The city has been one of the most important urban centres for centuries, first under the Etruscans (who called it Felsina), then under the Celts as Bona, later under the Romans (Bonōnia), then again in the Middle Ages, when Bologna was the seventh largest city by population in all of Europe.
Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre, but only a couple of its originally more than one hundred 'gender towers' (torri gentilizie) are left over. Rich families built them as a sign of their importance. The leaning tower of Pisa is known world-wide, but the Torre degli Asinelli is Italy's largest leaning tower (97 meters tall). The Torre della Garisenda was originally 60 meters tall, but now it stops at 48 meters). The two towers are the symbolic monuments of Bologna.
The Gothic Basilica di San Pedronio apparently is the fifth largest church world-wide. In the fourteenth century, it was built to be the largest. The project was so demanding that the basilica was never entirely completed.
My favourite church, however, is Bologna's oldest, the Basilica di Santo Stefano with its Jerusalem style Holy Sepulchre and its surrounding monastery, the so-called seven churches. The oldest parts of the complex were built in the eighth century on top of a Pagan temple from the second century.
According to data gathered by the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) of 2009, Bologna is the first Italian city in terms of its economic growth rate. Bologna is also one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, often ranking as one of the top cities in terms of quality of life in the country.