The region is economically prosperous, with agriculture as the chief occupation. Farming is particularly productive in the irrigated Po valley and in the reclaimed land along the Adriatic coast. Cereals, rice, vegetables, sugar beets, and dairy goods (including Parmesan and Grana Padano cheese) are the chief farm products. Emilia-Romagna also has extensive industry, aided by the production of considerable hydroelectric power and by a good transportation network. Manufactures include processed food, motor vehicles, farm machinery, electrical equipment, refined petroleum, and chemicals. There are deposits of petroleum (near Piacenza) and natural gas (near Piacenza and Ravenna). Fishing is pursued along the coast, which also has a number of popular beach resorts (including Marina di Romeo and Rimini). There are universities at Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, and Parma.
Emilia takes its name from the Aemilian Way, a Roman road (laid out 187 BC) that crossed the region from Piacenza to Rimini. After the fall of Rome, the region was conquered (5th cent. AD) by the Lombards . Bologna and most of present-day Romagna fell under Byzantine rule in the 6th cent. and from then to the 19th cent. had histories separate from Emilia. Divided into several duchies and counties, Emilia was conquered by the Franks in the 8th cent. Its subsequent history is that of its individual cities, many of which became free communes in the 12th cent.
By the 17th cent. the duchy of Parma and Piacenza, under the Farnese family, and the duchy of Modena, under the house of Este , together held virtually all of Emilia. Emilia was held by the French from 1797 to 1814, when Modena passed to Austria and Parma and Piacenza came under Marie Louise , the wife of deposed Napoleon I. Emilia played an important role in the Risorgimento , and there were revolts against foreign rule in 1821, 1831, and 1848–49. In 1860 all of Emilia-Romagna was joined to the kingdom of Sardinia, which in 1861 became the kingdom of Italy. In the 20th cent. Emilia (especially Bologna) was a center of socialism and Communism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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