Bologna started life in the 6th century BC as Felsina. For two centuries it was the capital of the Etruscan Po valley territories until tribes from Gaul took over, renaming it Bononia.
They lasted another couple of hundred years before surrendering to the Romans. As the Western Empire crumbled, Bologna was successively sacked and occupied by Visigoths, Huns, Goths, and Lombards.
The city reached its pinnacle as an independent commune and leading European university around the 12th century. Wealth brought a building boom and every well-to-do family left its mark by erecting towers.
Artist impression of the towers of medieval Bologna (Toni Pecoraro – SA 3.0)
One of the possible explanations for the vertical construction craze is that the rich families used towers as a symbol of wealth and status, as well as for defensive purposes to guard their land. Some of the smaller structures were built as dwellings.
The exact number of these towers is not clear, though it was suggested that up to 180 towers were present in the city of the 13th century, a more realistic amount is probably 100, which is still very impressive considering how difficult it was to build such tall structures with the limited resources in Italy.
Of the towers that remain today, the most famous is the ‘Two Towers’: the 320-foot Asinelli Tower and the truncated Garisenda Tower, both of which are leaning.
Photo from: https://www.italymagazine.com/news/leaning-tower-bologna-torre-garisenda (Garisenda Tower now leans 4 degrees and standing alongside, Asinelli, Tower, is the city’s tallest at 97m.)
The endless tussle between the papacy and Holy Roman Empire for control of northern Italy inevitably involved Bologna. The city started by siding with the Guelphs (who backed the papacy), going against the Ghibellines, but adopted neutrality in the 14th century.
Giovanni II Bentivoglio Bologna
Following a popular rebellion against the ruling Bentivoglio family, during which the family’s palace was razed, papal troops lead by Pope Julius II took Bologna in 1506.
Portrait of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, (1443 to 1508) c. 1480, by Ercole de' Roberti
The city remained under their control until the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century. In 1860 Bologna joined the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.
Bologna World War II Damage
During heavy fighting in the last months of World War II, up to 40% of the city’s industrial buildings were destroyed. However, the historic town inside the walls survived and it has been lovingly and carefully preserved.
An air raid on Bologna in 1943 (World War II - July 1943-April 1945)
Bologna suffered the highest death toll of any Northern Italian city from air raids: 2,481 civilians were killed, 2,074 were wounded.
Thereafter, Bologna quickly grew into an economic center.
The city has managed to retain its prestige as a center of culture and learning. The famous author Umberto Eco became a full professor here from 1975 onwards. In 1996, the former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi also became a professor in the university's Faculty of Political Science.
Today the city is a center for Italy hi-tech industries and is a popular trade-fair venue. It is home to just under 400,000 people, including a large student population.
After the 13th century, some towers were demolished, others collapsed, many to make way for residential and commercial buildings and prisons. The last demolitions occurred in the early 20th century, along with the 14th- century city walls.
Bologna is famous for its towers, church, and lengthy porticoes. Beyond the avenues, the long porticoed path of via Saragozza begins.
Map of Via Saragozza from googlemap.com
Here is the start of the most famous portico in the city as well as the longest in the world, leading to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Sun Luca. The portico is made of 664 arches and measures almost 4 km.
Bologna UNESCO Sites
The Sanctuary of San Luca was nominated as UNESCO world heritage site 2019. According to the locals, the church has existed for thousands of years and it is said that back in the 12th century, a pilgrim entered the area and he was from the Byzantine Empire. This man had the icon of the Virgin from the temple of Saint Sofia in Constantinople.
The current structure of the church was made in 1723 and Carlo Francesco Dotti’s designs were used. A few decades ago, a cable car used to function in the area but it was closed down in 1976. Some of the other things to do in Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, Bologna include exploring the interior of the building.
If you are planning to visit Italy, make sure you visit Emilia Romagna, which is towards the North of Italy.
Map Emilia Romagna from http://ontheworldmap.com/italy/region/emilia-romagna/large-map-of-emilia-romagna.html
Add Piazza Maggiore to your list of must-visit places in Emilia-Romagna Bologna, Italy. The architecture of the place reflects the work that was done in the 15th century.
The best part about Italy is that you can easily walk from one place to another. One of the things to do in Piazza Maggiore is to explore the entire square as it is surrounded by beautiful administrative buildings with an amazing architecture that will help you in learning about the history of Bologna. Pay a visit to the Basilica of San Petronio, Palazzo dei Banchi, and the Palazzo del Podestà as you will not get to see these unique in other parts of the world.
San Petronio Basilica is the 15th largest church in Italy, so it will take you a little time to explore the architecture and the interior design of the building that is 66 meters wide and 132 meters long. It is the largest Gothic church in the world that has been built with bricks.
Image of San Petronio Basilica from https://www.touristtube.com/Things-to-do-in-Bologna
Image of Palazzo dei Banchi from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_dei_Banchi
Image of Palazzo del Podestà from : https://www.pinterest.com/pin/98868154306926917/
Bologna has a well-preserved historical center, thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy that began at the end of the 1970s. Home to the oldest University in the World, The University of Bologna, established in 1088, the city has a large student population that gives its cosmopolitan character.
Image of the University of Bologna from https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/10-oldest-universities-world
In 2000, Bologna was declared European capital of culture and in 2006, a UNESCO “City of Music” and became part of the Creative Cities Network.
Bologna is an important agricultural, industrial, financial and transport hub, where many large mechanical, electronic and food companies have their headquarters as well as one of the largest permanent trade fairs in Europe.
According to the most recent data gathered by the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) of 2009, Bologna is the first Italian city and the 47th European city in terms of its economic growth rate.
As a consequence, 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: in 2019 it ranked 14th out of 107 Italian provinces.
- Bologna History Facts and Timelines http://www.world-guides.com/europe/italy/emilia-romagna/bologna/bologna_history.htm