Bologna is one of the most important Italian cities for history, culture, and economy, located in the middle of Padana plain, between the two rivers Reno and Savena.
The geographic position has always been basic for its economic role: the large number of canals (now buried), the short distance to the sea, and the presence of the biggest plain in Italy, made Bologna a sorting center for this part of Europe. The old downtown is perfectly conserved and the presence of traditional arcades was used to facilitate the markets and the promenades, also considering the tough weather conditions on winter.
Bologna has always been considered a cultural center. Founded by the Etrurians and inhabited by the Celts as well, Bologna became a big city during the Roman Empire and, after the barbarian invasions, was annexed by the French emperor Carlo Magno. During the Middle Ages Bologna founded one of the most important universities, the “Alma mater studiorum”, with a famous law school managed by two great jurists, Irnerio and Pepone.
Bologna paid a grievous tribute during the Second World War, becoming a symbol of the resistance against the Nazi army.
The historical area of the town is very well conserved: in piazza Maggiore there is the gothic Basilica of San Petronio (XVII century), with an arcade decorated by Jacopo Della Quercia; it’s also possible to admire the biggest sundial in the world, projected by the mathematician Cassini.
In the same square we can see the Palazzo Podestà , the Palazzo Comunale (the old head office of the municipality) and the Fountain of Neptune.
The Archiginnasio, the old venue of the university, built by Antonio Morandi, with its anatomic theatre, (the anatomic lab), is a must-see and now transformed into the Public Library.
Other valuable sites are the church of San Domenico, the French-gothic church of San Francesco and the stunning Santo Stefano’s complex, also known as “Seven churches” due to the number of buildings connected in the same area and separated with gardens and cloisters.
And don’t forget to visit the Basilica of San Petronio, the gothic San Giacomo Maggiore, and the basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi, with paintings by Cimabue.
Anyway, the most famous portraits of Bologna are the ancient towers of Asinelli and Garisenda. During the Middle Ages Bologna had about ninety towers; nowadays there are only seventeen.
Dante Alighieri in his Divina Commedia – Inferno, mentions the Garisenda Tower. While the tower of Asinelli was used by the physicist Guglielmini for his experiments about gravity.
Bologna has also a wall complex built by Federico Barbarossa.
The EU declared Bologna Capital of European Culture in 2000; in 2006 UNESCO as capital of music rewarded the city also.
Bologna is also the capital of some traditional Italian dishes: the tortellini, with the shape inspired by the navel of Venus, and the tagliatelle, homage for the hairs of Lucrezia Borgia, according to the legend.
In October the municipality organizes the Tortellino Day, with contests and tasting of this kind of pasta.
Other bolognese symbols are the tomato sauce, known as ragù (bolognese sauce), the cheese Certosino and the mortadella.