Emilia's capital, BOLOGNA, is a thriving city, whose light engineering and high-tech industries have brought conspicuous wealth to the old brick palaces and porticoed streets. It's well known for its food – undeniably the richest in the country – and for its politics. "Red Bologna" became the Italian Left's stronghold and spiritual home, having evolved out of the resistance movement to German occupation during World War II.
It's certainly one of the best-looking cities in the country. The centre is startlingly medieval in plan, a jumble of red brick, tiled roofs and balconies radiating out from the great central square of Piazza Maggiore. There are enough monuments and curiosities for several days' leisured exploration, including plenty of small, quirky museums, some tremendously grand Gothic and Renaissance architecture and, most conspicuously, the Due Torri, the city's own "leaning towers". Thanks to the university, whose students make up one-fifth of the city's population of 500,000, there's always something happening – be it theatre, music, the city's lively summer festival, or just the café and bar scene, which is among northern Italy's most convivial.