Bologna is the city where the first University in the world rose, in the 11th century. Even today, the city presents itself as a place full of artistic and cultural ferment, a typical university town, filled with students from all over Italy and Europe. Bologna's story starts with the Etruscan civilization, during which it was called Fèlsina; it continued with the Gallic culture, before becoming a Roman colony. In the middle ages the city was a free municipality, and during the Renaissance it saw the blooming of various Lordships, before being annexed to the Papal State, within which it remained until the mid-19th century. During the Napoleonic domain Bologna became the capital of the united provinces and in 1848 the city revolted against the Austrians at the Montagnola. Since the end of the second world war the city didn't really go through any substantial changes in its urban fabric.
The medieval layout of Bologna's historical centre is still quite visible, with its main roads, currently corresponding to Via Ugo Bassi and Via Rizzoli, heading towards the outskirts according to the ancient Roman decuman structure. The city offers a lot of evidence of its past, such as the ring of walls that surrounds the central area, dating back to 1300, with 12 access gates of which nine are perfectly preserved. Bologna's symbols are certainly the two towers, the Asinelli and the Garisenda, a monumental complex which dates back to the first municipal age, around 1100. Also very important is the ecclesiastic architecture in gothic style: the main churches from the 1200's and 1300's are linked to the expansion of religious orders, among these San Domenico, San Francesco, San Giacomo and San Martino. In the same period the monumental complex of Piazza Maggiore started taking shape, including the palaces of the Podestà and of King Enzo, the Palazzo Comunale and the Basilica di San Petronio, which was begun in 1390. There are also examples of remarkable baroque art, also to be linked to religious architecture, such as the churches of San Paolo and San Salvatore and the cathedral of San Pietro, although the latter has Romanic origins.
Bologna's offer of artistic and cultural events covers all its visitors' possible requirements. The city theatres, the Arena del Sole, the Teatro delle Celebrazioni and the Teatro Comunale, all offer shows of various kinds, from modern authors to the classics of International theatre. Particularly interesting initiatives are "Vita nel parco", a summer festival combining shows and nature, organised by Teatri di Vita and Iceberg, a festival/contest for young artists who express themselves in the most diverse ways.