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Bologna - Italy

Bologna (/bəˈloʊniə/; Italian: [boˈloɲːa] (About this sound listen); Emilian: Bulåggna IPA: [buˈlʌɲːa]; Latin: Bononia) is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.

Of Etruscan origin, the city has been a major urban centre for centuries, first under the Etruscans, then under the Romans (Bononia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality and signoria, when it was among the largest European cities by population. 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. Home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, established in AD 1088, the city has a large student population that gives it a cosmopolitan character. In 2000 it was declared European capital of culture and in 2006, a UNESCO "city of music".

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 2011 it ranked 1st out of 107 Italian cities.

The period of Papal rule over Bologna has been generally evalued by historians as one of severe decline. However, this was not evident in the 1500s that were in fact marked by some major developments in Bologna. In 1530, Emperor Charles V was crowned in Bologna. In 1564, the Piazza del Nettuno and the Palazzo dei Banchi were built, along with the Archiginnasio, the main building of the university. The period of Papal rule saw also the construction of many churches and other religious establishments, and the restoration of older ones. At this time, Bologna had ninety-six convents, more than any other Italian city. Painters working in Bologna during this period established the Bolognese School which includes Annibale Carracci, Domenichino, Guercino and others of European fame.

In the 17th century, the economy of Bologna started to show signs of severe decline as the global centres of trade shifted towards the Atlantic. During the Italian Plague of 1629–31 Bologna lost up to a third of its population. The traditional silk industry was in a critical state. The university was losing students, that once came from all over Europe, because of the illiberal attitudes of the Church towards culture (especially after the trial of Galileo). Bologna continued to suffer a progressive deindustrialisation also in the 18th century.

In the mid-1700s pope Benedict XIV, a Bolognese, tried to reverse the decline of the city with a series of reforms intended to stimulate the economy and promoting the arts. However, these reforms achieved only mixed results. The pope's efforts to stimulate the decaying textile industry had little success, while he was more successful in reforming the tax system and liberalising trade and relaxed the oppressive system of censorship.

The economic and demographic decline of Bologna became even more noticeable starting from the second half of the 18th century. In 1790 the city had 72,000 inhabitants, ranking as the second largest in the Papal States; however this figure had remained unchanged for decades. The economy was stagnant because of Papal policies that distorted trade with heavy custom dues and sold concessions of monopolies to single manufacturers thus lowering competition, depressing productivity and incentivising corruption.

According to the last governmental dispositions concerning administrative reorganisation, the urban area of Bologna is one of the 15 Metropolitan municipalities (città metropolitane), new administrative bodies fully operative since 1 January 2015. The new Metro municipalities, giving large urban areas the administrative powers of a province, are conceived for improving the performance of local administrations and to slash local spending by better co-ordinating the municipalities in providing basic services (including transport, school and social programs) and environment protection. In this policy framework, the Mayor of Bologna is designated to exercise the functions of Metropolitan mayor (Sindaco metropolitano), presiding over a Metropolitan Council formed by 18 mayors of municipalities within the Metro municipality.

The Metropolitan City of Bologna is headed by the Metropolitan Mayor (Sindaco metropolitano) and by the Metropolitan Council (Consiglio metropolitano). Since 21 June 2016 Virginio Merola, as mayor of the capital city, has been the mayor of the Metropolitan City.

In terms of total GDP, the Metropolitan City of Bologna generated a value of about €35 billion ($40.6 billion) in 2014, equivalent to €34,251 ($39,765) per capita, the third highest figure among Italian provinces (after Milan and Bolzano/Bozen).

The economy of Bologna is characterized by a flourishing industrial sector, traditionally centered on the transformation of agricultural and zootechnical products (Granarolo, Segafredo Zanetti, Conserve Italia), machinery (Coesia, IMA), energy (Hera Group), automotive (Ducati, Lamborghini), footwear, textile, engineering, chemical, printing and publishing (il Mulino, Zanichelli). The city has also a strong financial, insurance (Unipol) and retail (Coop Italia, Conad) sector.

In particular, Bologna is considered the centre of the so-called "packaging valley", an area well known for its high concentration of firms specialised in the manufacturing of automatic packaging machines. Furthermore, Bologna is well known for its dense network of cooperatives, a feature that dates back to the social struggles of farmers and workers in the 1800s and that today produces up to a third of its GDP and occupies 265 thousand people in the Emilia-Romagna region.

The city's Fiera District exhibition centre is one of the largest in Europe, extending over 375,000 m2 of covered and outdoors areas. It hosts 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. Bologna is also a key railway and motorway hub in Italy, connecting the northern powerhouses of Lombardy and Venetia with Rome and the south.

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. Well-regarded nearby vineyards include Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna. Tagliatelle with ragù, lasagne, tortellini served in broth, and mortadella, the original Bologna sausage, are among the local specialties. Traditional Bolognese desserts are often linked to holidays, such as fave dei morti ("cookies of the dead"), multi-coloured almond paste cookies made for All Saints' Day, jam-filled raviole cookies that are served on Saint Joseph's Day, and carnival sweets known as sfrappole, a light and delicate fried pastry topped with powder sugar. Torta di riso, a custard-like cake made of almonds, rice and amaretto, is made throughout the year.