Bologna - Emilia-Romagna
Since ancient times, Bologna has been fondly referred to as the grassa (fat) and dotta (learned) city. Located in line with neighboring cities Modena and Parma, Bologna rivals them with its food, art, and academic liberalism. The home of ragú, a hearty meat and tomato sauce (known outside of Italy as bolognese), Bologna's restaurants take great advantage of the surrounding countryside's wheat, grain, and wine to create rich, savory meals fit for a king-or a student. The city houses the oldest university in Europe (founded in 1088), and currently acts as a Mecca for over 60,000 scholars annually. When not visiting one of the city's outdoor markets or preparing some of Bologna's fresh, handmade pasta at home, hundreds flock to the restaurants clustered around the town center to sample some traditional tortellini, tortelloni, or mortadella (the Italian version of "bologna", but the real thing!).
Bologna was originally an Etruscan town called Felsina; but, in 189 BC, it became a Roman colony, and was renamed Bononia (derived from the Latin word bonus, or "good"). Growing in importance, it began to be considered an imperial town, and enjoyed this status up until a period of decadence and upheaval. Bologna managed to re-attain glory under bishop Petronio, who was later named the patron saint of the city. From the 11th century onward, Bologna enjoyed an era of urban and economic growth. With the establishment of its university in 1088, the city opened its arms to receive such illustrious students as Dante Alighieri, Petrarca and Boccaccio. During the time between the 16th and 18th centuries, Bologna ultimately acquired most of what is today its present appearance.
The first thing any visitor to Bologna will notice about the city's architecture is the incredible number of porticoes lining the straight, wide streets. When urban expansion became thwarted due to a lack of space, these 700-year-old constructions enabled the city to build upward rather than outward, and belong in large part to the numerous museums and churches that Bologna has to offer.
Juxtaposed with more modern shops and department stores, the myriad Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque-style buildings jut out proudly from the city streets. These lodge such destinations as the Palazzo Archiginnasio (a former university building that now holds the town library), the Pinacoteca Nazionale (with the works of Bolognese artists from the Roman Age to Mannerism), and the Museo Civico Archeologico (the city's archeological museum).
Congregate in Piazza Maggiore, the best meeting-place in the city, and admire the gorgeous fountain of Neptune, Palazzo de Podestá, and 14th century Basilica di San Petronio. If find yourself in Bologna anywhere from mid-June to mid-September, you will be able to enjoy the city-sponsored entertainment festival, which offers an array of dance, theater, music, cinema, and art shows.
Bologna is easily reached by bus, train, or airplane (fly into the Aeroporto G. Marconi).