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Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, in the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million inhabitants. The city of Etruscan descent was for centuries an important urban center, first under the Etruscans, then under the Romans, then again in the Middle Ages as a free municipality and Signoria, when it belonged to the largest cities in Europe. Bologna is famous for its towers, churches and long porticos. Thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy that began in the late 1970s, it has a well-preserved historic center. Founded in 1078, the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, has a large student population that gives it a cosmopolitan character. In 2000, it was declared European Capital of Culture and in 2006 UNESCO's city of music.