The city of Bologna maintains traces of past civilisations. Founded by the Etruscans with the name of Felsina, it later became a Roman colony called Bononia.
In the Middle Ages it was an important commercial and cultural centre. Alongside the founding of the university in 1088, another important date from this period was 1256 when the Commune of Bologna promulgated a law called “Liber Paradisus” freeing 5,855 slaves, affirming the city’s determination to fight for freedom and to abolish all forms of slavery.
In the 13th century Bologna enjoyed a period of great splendour and grew to become the fifth largest European city in terms of its population (after Cordova, Paris, Venice and Florence) and the largest textile production centre in Italy.
The city’s complex water system with its highly developed network of canals provided energy for its industry and served as an excellent means of freight transport. These waterways made a vital contribution to the city’s economic development and supported its flourishing silk industry, which at the time was adopting innovative spinning methods.
Today Bologna is a major industrial and commercial centre, the most important rail and motorway hub in the country, and after Venice the city with the best preserved old town centre in Italy. At the same time it is surrounded by modern buildings, state-of-the-art exhibition and conference centres and new residential districts.