Regenerating Europe through Music. The case of Bologna as UNESCO City of Music

by Luigi Virgolin

In 2006 Bologna was appointed UNESCO Creative City of Music: a prestigious recognition that honours the city’s rich musical tradition and also the very lively contemporary scene.


The Creative Cities Network (CCN) is the network promoted by UNESCO, aiming at connecting cities that engage in sharing experiences, ideas and best practices to support creativity and make it an essential element for the cultural, social and economic development of its territory.

It's a network of creative cities, working together towards a common mission for cultural diversity and sustainable urban development.

The Network is organized around 7 categories (Music, Literature, Film, Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Media Arts, Gastronomy) that can be chosen by the city according to its preference for a specific creative industry.

At the moment, the Creative Cities Network currently includes 34 cities.


In Bologna music is part of the city’s identity and is also the driving force behind the economic development of the local area.

Bologna has always had an extraordinary musical tradition, thanks to the role of long-established institutions such as the Philharmonic Academy (founded in 1666), the Opera House (inaugurated in 1763) and the Conservatory dedicated to Padre Martini (1804). Furthermore the University of Bologna, the oldest university of the Western world founded in 1088, was the first to establish a degree course in Art, Music and Show Disciplines (DAMS) which today offers courses in four sectors: Art, Cinema, Music and Theater.


To be part of an innovative network, whose cities face to the challenges of the future, brings a renewed attention for contemporary contents and contemporary methodologies, that means how to think to the traditional heritage in a innovative way.

The UNESCO title to Bologna also acknowledges the city’s prevalent creative fabric as for music production and enjoyment, including many international festivals and a continuing cultural fruition. The powerful seasons of classical music, the events in the field of contemporary music such as Angelica Festival and roBOt Festival, the jazz music played live in the pubs, the posters conceived for children, the presence of singer-songwriters and rock bands and much more. All that creates a unique music panorama.


A recent research focused on the identity of the city and the strengthening of the city marketing policies, reveals that Bologna is largely perceived as a creative city, and the music is the vehicle of her creativity.

This perception refers both to the high level of musical life, both to the importance of the related economic sector, whose main activities are music production, spaces management, organization of events, recording studios, radio programming.

In Bologna music is part of the city’s identity and is also the driving force behind the economic development of the area.

Finally, local operators are more and more aware of the CCN membership as an international platform to promote the music sector as a whole, and the establishment of public/private partnership helps to unlock the creative entrepreneurial potential and plays an important role in the new economy.

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