Inhabited since the 9th century BC, the area has a long and complex history. Boii Celts dominated here from the 4th century BC until the Romans first arrived in 196 BC. Some of the language of this Gaul-Etruscan civililization survives today in the local dialect. After being on the losing side with Hannibal in the Punic Wars, the city was taken over, but thrived under the victorious Romans to become one of the ancient world's most prosperous cities. After the fall of the Empire several centuries of decline and neglect followed.
The University of Bologna, European's oldest university, was established here in 1088, attracting students such as Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. The famous towers were built and a system of canals made it a successful trading center -- by the end of the 13th century Europe's fifth largest city. Some canals, still located beneath the city, can be visited on rafting tours, and over twenty towers remain of an original 200 or so. In 1256, the Legge del Paradiso abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves, (using public money), and during the Renaissance Bologna allowed women freedom to excel in the professions, and earn a university degree - rare elsewhere at the time.
Much of the charm of Bologna today, the arched sidewalks and passageways, are the work of 13th-century town leaders, who decreed that roads could not be built without being lined with porticos. Little has changed since then, (except for some WWII bombing damage), with an historic center of 350 acres full of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, and some 38 kilometers of arcades.
This university town with a young, lively population and generally left/liberal leanings, has a body politic that's quite open-minded in attitudes about gay people. The local gay scene is only moderate in size, but Bologna's gay and lesbian center Cassero is unrivaled in Italy, and the national gay activist organization Arcigay has their central office here. Bologna Pride takes place each June.
Bologna’s Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi is about 4 miles from the city center. Shuttle buses and taxis are on hand to take you to your hotel. FS, the national Italian rail company, runs express buses between the airport and the main train station, from where you can catch a train to most any place in Italy, or beyond.
Much of the historic center is off-limits to cars, making this a great city for strolling. Buses can get you to sights that are outside the center. See ATC for public transportion info.
Currency and Money
Italy is part of the Euro Zone, so the euro is the accepted currency. There are ATMs in every city.
Bologna’s Cassero gay and lesbian center is in one of the medieval gates of Bologna, making it worth a visit. Each Saturday nights they do a very popular dance party in the basement.
Gay News is a national Italian gay newspaper, based here in Bologna.
For gay and gay-friendly business map locations and web links, see our gay Bologna listings section.