Massive star formation in the central regions of spiral galaxies plays an important role in the dynamical and secular evolution of their hosts. Here, we summarise a number of recent investigations of the star formation history and the physical conditions of the gas in circumnuclear regions, to illustrate not only the detailed results one can achieve, but also the potential of using state-of-the-art spectroscopic and analysis techniques in researching the central regions of galaxies in general. We review how the star formation history of nuclear rings confirms that they are long-lived and stable configurations. Gas flows in from the disk, through the bar, and into the ring, where successive episodes of massive star formation occur. A detailed analysis of the ring in NGC 7742, where we use similar data to determine the physical conditions of the line emitting gas using a combination of ionisation and stellar population modelling, is described in a second poster paper (these proceedings, p. 000; Mazzuca et al. 2006).