Some Italian cities have a nickname which refers to their historic origins or which describes them in some way: Rome, “the Eternal City”; Venice, “the Serenissima”; Florence, “la Bella”. Bologna has three nicknames: “la Dotta, la Grassa, la Rossa” [the Intellectual, the Fat, the Red].
The first is due to the presence of a university which dates back to 1088, the oldest in the western world; the second speaks for its substantial and opulent culinary tradition; the third refers to the colour of the bricks with which its towers and buildings have been built since the Middle Ages and, more recently, the “Reds” Ducati and Ferrari which, together with Lamborghini, Maserati, and Pagani, make Bologna and its region known as the “land of motors”.
The first western school of its kind, the University of Bologna has attracted students from all over Europe since 1088. Thanks to the attendance of illustrious students like Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio, the University of Bologna has, over the centuries, affirmed its position as a breeding ground for knowledge, while the approximately 80,000 students which it currently welcomes keep it culturally and socially alive. The ancient seat of the university, Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, houses one of the most impressive anatomical theatres in the world, where cadavers were dissected during lessons in medicine and anatomy. For centuries this location was one of the primary and most devout reference points for European knowledge.
Bologna’s evocative historic centre, one of the most well-preserved in Europe, with ancient buildings and churches that conceal a multitude of artistic masterpieces, is characterised by 40 kilometres of porticos that make the city like none other in the world. Since 1100, when the growth of the university made it necessary to create a new urban area, the porticos have come to be used as both a public and private, social and commercial, space, serving as an open air living room that is the very symbol of Bolognese hospitality. The San Luca Portico, which connects the city to the Sanctuary of San Luca in Colle della Guardia, is the longest in the world, measuring 3,796 meters and with 666 archways.