Bologna is the largest city (and the capital) of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, located in the heart of a metropolitan area (officially recognized by the Italian government as a città metropolitana) of about one million.
The first settlements date back to at least 1000 BC. The city has been an urban centre, first under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) and the Celts (Bona), then under the Romans (Bononia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population). Home to the oldest university in the world University of Bologna, founded in 1088, Bologna hosts thousands of students who enrich the social and cultural life of the city. Famous for its towers and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre (one of the largest in Italy) thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s, on the heels of serious damage done by the urban demolition at the end of the 19th century as well as that caused by wars.
An important cultural and artistic centre, its importance in terms of landmarks can be attributed to a varied mixture of monuments and architectural examples (medieval towers, antique buildings, churches, the layout of its historical centre) as well as works of art which are the result of a first class architectural and artistic history. Bologna is also an important transportation crossroad for the roads and trains of Northern Italy, where many important mechanical, electronic and nutritional industries have their headquarters. 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.
Bologna is home to numerous prestigious cultural, economic and political institutions as well as one of the most impressive trade fair districts in Europe. In 2000 it was declared European capital of culture and in 2006, a UNESCO "city of music". The city of Bologna was selected to participate in the Universal Exposition of Shanghai 2010 together with 45 other cities from around the world. 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 2011 it ranked 1st out of 107 Italian cities.
Bologna 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 Bologna's two main watercourses flow directly to the sea, the town lies outside of the drainage basin of the River Po. The Province of Bologna stretches from the western edge of the Po Plain on the border with Ferrara to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The centre of the town is 54 metres (177 ft) above sea level (while elevation within the municipality ranges from 29 metres (95 ft) in the suburb of Corticella to 300 metres (980 ft) in Sabbiuno and the Colle della Guardia). The Province of Bologna stretches from the Po Plain into the Apennines; the highest point in the province is the peak of Corno alle Scale (in Lizzano in Belvedere) at 1,945 metres (6,381 ft) above sea level.
Bologna has a humid subtropical climate. Annual precipitation oscillates between around 450 mm (18 in) and 900 mm (35 in), with the majority generally falling in spring and autumn. Snow occasionally falls during winter and heavy snowfalls; the last major event was in February 2012, when almost a meter of snow fell in the city.
Bologna is an important railway and motorway hub in Italy. The economy of Bologna is characterized by a flourishing industrial sector, traditionally based on the transformation of agricultural and zootechnical products (Granarolo, Segafredo Zanetti). It also includes machinery (Coesia), automobiles, footwear, textile, engineering, chemical, printing and publishing industries, as well as a strong financial, insurance (Unipol) and retail (Coop Italia, Conad) activity.
The city's Fiera District (exhibition centre) is one of the largest in Europe, with important yearly international expos focused on the automobile sector (Bologna Motor Show), ceramics for the building industry (International Exhibition of Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings) and food industry. In addition, several important firms in the fields of automobiles (Lamborghini), motorcycles (Ducati), mechanics, food, tobacco and electronics have their headquarters in the urban area of Bologna, as well as important retail and wholesale trade (the "Centergross" in Argelato, esabilished in 1973), and one of the largest Italian food processing companies.