Interesting facts about Bologna


Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy.

It is situated on the edge of the Po Plain at the foot of the Apennine Mountains, at the meeting of the Reno and Savena river valleys.

As of May 2020, the population of Bologna is about 400,000 people. It is the 7th largest city in Italy. Its metropolitan area is home to more than 1,000,000 people.

The city covers a total area of 141 square kilometers (54 square miles).

The average altitude is 54 metres (177 feet) above sea level.


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.

Bononia lasted couple of hundred years before the Romans took over.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Bologna, then a frontier outpost of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna and then passed to the papacy.

It was occupied by the Visigoths, Huns, Goths, and Lombards after the barbarian invasions.

bologna history

After a feudal period, Bologna became a free commune when the emperor recognized its rights in the early 12th century.

In the Middle Ages, Bologna was among the largest European cities by population.

It was incorporated into the Papal States by Pope Julius II in 1506. Thereafter it enjoyed more than three centuries of peace and prosperity.

Napoleon entered Bologna on 19 June 1796. French control lasted from 1797 to 1814.

Then, Bologna was garrisoned by the Austrians (1849–60) and was united to the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.


Bologna suffered extensive damage during World War II.

Famous for its towers, churches and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre, thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s.

Today, 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.

Piazza Maggiore is a central square in Bologna. The appearance in the 21st century, generally reflects the layout from the 15th century. The square is surrounded by major administrative and religious buildings in the history of Bologna.

piazza maggiore

The Towers of Bologna are a group of medieval structures in Bologna. The two most prominent ones, known as the Two Towers, are the landmark of the city. Between the 12th and the 13th century, the number of towers in the city was very high, possibly up to 180. The reasons for the construction of so many towers are not clear. One hypothesis is that the richest families used them for offensive/defensive purposes during the period of the Investiture Controversy.

towers of bologna

Believed to have been established in 1088, the University of Bologna is widely considered the world’s oldest university in continuous operation. It is one of the most prestigious Italian universities, commonly ranking in the first places of national rankings. It was the first place of study to use the term universitas for the corporations of students and masters, which came to define the institution (especially its famous law school) located in Bologna.

university of bologna

The Basilica of San Petronio is a minor basilica and church of the Archdiocese of Bologna located in Bologna. The basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Petronius, who was the bishop of Bologna in the fifth century. Construction began in 1390 and its main facade has remained unfinished since. The building was transferred from the city to the diocese in 1929; the basilica was finally consecrated in 1954. It has been the seat of the relics of Bologna’s patron saint only since 2000; until then they were preserved in the Santo Stefano church of Bologna.

Basilica of San Petronio

The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is a basilica church sited atop a forested hill, Colle or Monte della Guardia, some 300 metres (984 feet) above the city plain, just south-west of the historical centre of the city. A church or chapel existed on the hill for about a thousand years. Tradition hold that in the 12th-century, a pilgrim from the Byzantine empire came to Bologna with an icon of the Virgin from the temple of Saint Sofia in Constantinople. In 1160, the bishop of Bologna Gerardo Grassi assigned the icon to a small hermitage-chapel atop the hill that was tended by two holy women, Azzolina and Beatrice Guezi. Construction of a church began in 1193. In 1294, some monks of the Dominican order from the monastery of Ronzano came to the site, and the order remained here until the Napoleonic suppression of 1799.

Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

The Basilica of San Domenico is one of the major churches in Bologna. The remains of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), are buried inside the exquisite shrine Arca di San Domenico, made by Nicola Pisano and his workshop, Arnolfo di Cambio and with later additions by Niccolò dell’Arca and theyoung Michelangelo.

Basilica of San Domenico

The National Art Gallery of Bologna is a museum in Bologna. It is located in the former Saint Ignatius Jesuit novitiate of the city’s University district, and inside the same building that houses the Academy of Fine Arts. The museum offers a wide collection of Emilian paintings from the 13th to the 18th century and other fundamental works by artists who were in some way related to the city.

national art gallery of bologna

Palazzo d’Accursio or Palazzo Comunale is a palace once formulated to house major administrative offices of the city of Bologna. It is located on the Piazza Maggiore, and is the city’s Town Hall. The palace is also home to the Civic Art Collection, with paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century – the Museo Morandi, with the works by Giorgio Morandi – and the Biblioteca Salaborsa, the town libraries.

palazzo daccursio

FICO Eataly World is the world’s largest food park. It is dedicated to sharing the biodiversity of Italian cuisine with the world through its fields, workshops, markets, restaurants, and classrooms, all open to the public and ready for you to explore. Covering 8 hectares (20 acres), FICO Eataly World opens in partnership with more than 2,000 companies that will present Italian food and drink in all of its regional biodiversity.

fico eataly world

Bologna is renowned for its culinary tradition. It has baptised the famous Bolognese sauce, a meat-based pasta sauce that in Italy is called ragù and is substantially different from the variety found worldwide – moreover, in Bologna the sauce is used only as a dressing for tagliatelle, serving it with spaghetti being considered odd.

Situated in the fertile Po River Valley, the rich local cuisine depends heavily on meats and cheeses. As in all of Emilia-Romagna, the production of cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salumi is an important part of the local food industry.

In 2000 it was declared European capital of culture and in 2006, a UNESCO “City of Music” and became part of the Creative Cities Network.