The Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, consists of the rich southern Po valley and the northern slopes of the Etruscan Apennines. The name Emilia was taken from an ancient Roman road named Via Aemilia, which linked Rimini to Piacenza during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and is presently traced by Italy's modern railway. The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, which is internationally famous for its fine cuisine, art and architecture, and beautiful countryside, includes many coastal towns which come alive from May to September with beach festivities. This region also incorporates the cities of Bologna, Ferrara, Forli, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, and Ravenna, each of which has a rich and individual history. The mosaics in the city of Ravenna are among the oldest and most beautiful in the world and Emilia-Romagna is also a rich region of Italy in terms of its agriculture, natural resources, and industry.
The fascinating history of Emilia-Romagna dates back to Roman times, when the region of Emilia was ruled by imperial judges linked to either the region of Liguria or Tuscany. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 6th century, the Lombards, a Germanic tribe, founded the kingdom of Lombardy in northern and central Italy. This kingdom, which included the region known as Emilia, flourished until the Lombard dynasty was overthrown by the famous Frankish king Charlemagne in 774. From the 6th to 8th centuries the region of Romagna was under Byzantine rule and Ravenna was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. In the 8th century this region became a province of the Papal States when Pepin, the son of Charlemagne, donated the land as a favor to the Pope in 754. During the 10th century, the entire area of northern Italy became a part of the Holy Roman Empire under the control of the Germanic leader Otto I. The Holy Roman emperors had varying degrees of control over northern Italy until the close of the Middle Ages. In the 12th century, the papacy gained increased its political influence and city states began to form in opposition to the Holy Roman emperors.
The northern cities formed the Lombard League and were successful at destroying imperial power, however, the division between imperial partisans and their opponents created factions called the Guelphs and the Ghibelines which would divide the city populations for centuries. For the next few centuries both Emilia and Romagna were ruled by papal legates, representatives of the Pope sent to manage the government of the people.
Many regions in northern Italy, including Emilia, came under French control during the Napoleonic era. Nonetheless, after the Congress Of Vienna in 1815, there was a growing movement for Italian national unity and independence. In 1848 a revolution in Vienna initiated uprisings against Austrian rule. The following decades saw uprisings in several regions and in 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was established. During this Italian Unification, the territories of Emilia and Romagna were incorporated into the new nation.