Bologna - History
Bologna has a long and proud history as a place many wished to conquer but few could subjugate. The region in and around the city was first settled during the Bronze Age, over three thousand years ago, by tribes known as the Villanovese. These people were conquered by Etruscans, who were conquered by the Celts, who in turn were driven out by the Romans. The town, now renamed Boronia, was a Roman colony for over 400 years until the empire fell into decline and Boronia was attacked from the north by a succession of barbarian tribes: Visigoths, Huns, Goths and Lombards.
After centuries of being fought over by pagan peoples, Christians began to fight over Bologna. After the Lombards were beaten out, various Popes and Holy Roman Emperors vied for control of the city. Bologna was worth fighting for: its strategic location, university (established 1088) and growing wealth from crafts and trade would have made it a valuable addition to anyone's empire. Powerful rival families within Bologna sided with the Popes or the Emperor, often resulting in bitter civil war. The city started by siding with the Guelfi (Guelphs), who backed the papacy, and then the Ghibellines. After that, the Pope's armies once again made Bologna part of the Papal State.
The city remained, however uneasily, under papal control until the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century. After Napoleon's empire collapsed, the city passed back into the hands of the papacy, but Bologna once again proved itself intractable; most Bolognesi supported growing calls for all of Italy to unite under secular control, and in 1860 Bologna and the rest of the region joined the newly formed the Kingdom of Italy.
Bologna, along with the rest of Italy, was led by Mussolini's fascist regime into WWII against the Allies, but Bologna later became a centre of resistance against the Germans, who occupied Italy after the Italians tried to switch sides. After the war the city became a centre of radical politics, and a longtime supporter of the Democratici di Sinistri, the leading democratic party of the left.
Today, 'Red Bologna' is no longer as red as it once was, although it's still quite pink. It's a centre for Italy's high-tech industries and regularly plays host to trade fairs. The university is still a source of agitation, although less so than in the protest heyday of the 1970s. When Bologna was named European City of Culture in 2000, vast sums of money were spent on developments geared mainly at young people, including new arts facilities, a museum of Jewish culture, and an extensive new library in the former stock exchange.