Vlora (or Vlorë when in a sentence with a preposition as in "to", "in" or "from Vlorë") is the second largest port city of Albania with a population of around 125,000. It used to be known by the older name of Valona or Vlonë and was founded as Aulon by Greeks in the 6th century BCE, one of three such colonies on the coast of Illyria, The city was an important port of the Roman Empire and became an episcopal see in the 5th century. After Serbian occupation in the 14th Century it was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1417.
During the First Balkan War, on 28 November 1912, Albania's independence was declared by Ismail Qemali in Vlorë. The city became Albania's first capital; its headquarters was housed in a modest villa, now the Museum Ndërkombëtare, the museum of independence. However, Vlorë was invaded in 1914 by the Italians and occupied until 1920. Italy again invaded Valona, as it was then called, in 1939, when it annexed Albania; it was liberated by the Communists from German Nazi occupation in 1944. The port was then leased to the Soviet Union as a submarine base, and played an important part in the conflict between Enver Hoxha and Nikita Khrushchev in 1960-1961 when Albania broke with the Soviets and chose the Chinese side; as Albania feared a Soviet invasion, the tens of thousands of ubiquitous concrete bunkers were built that still litter the Albanian landscape.
Today it is a pleasant place, with fine views over the Bay of Vlorë, and now an important tourism centre with hotels and fine beaches, like Uji i Ftohtë ("Cold Water") about 2 kilometres south along the coast. It is a major seaport and the closest in proximity to the Italian port of Bari. It is also a commercial and agricultural centre with large olive and fruit tree plantations.