A holiday in Emilia Romagna has that something extra! It is the heartland of hospitality. Indeed, Emilia Romagna is a generous region, not just for its conviviality and the idea of good living that it has always maintained, but also because it offers its visitors all its riches, casting a spell with the limitless delights that so set it apart. Every year the tourism professionals set out with the same mission: to provide unforgettable holidays for those who have chosen to visit the region.
There are four main areas that make Emilia Romagna a tempting and attractive destination: the sea, the Adriatic Coast from Lidi di Comacchio to Cattolica - with its long, safe and fully equipped beaches; the Apennines, dotted with ancient villages, are heaven on earth for nature lovers; and the thermal bath zones where you can recharge with the most up-to-date therapies.
Its great cities, just as much as its tiny villages, are an assemblage of streets, squares, palaces, monuments, and enchanting landscapes that take your breath away. Art, history, traditions endlessly reveal themselves one after the other. A wealth of events, exhibitions, concerts bring new life and colour to places of timeless beauty. Art in these contexts is expressed in widely varying forms, even in gastronomy, an irresistible lure for connoisseurs from all over the world. How can you not surrender to the temptation of products like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, traditional balsamic vinegar, or Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham)?
Our journey in Emilia Romagna will take you through the 9 cities of Art, which are like precious jewels set in the land, beginning at the centre, from the very heart of the region.
Emilia Romagna is easily reached thanks to the Trenitalia, the Italian railway company, which allows express connections to Northern, Central and Southern Italy. The Alta Velocità high speed train connects Bologna to Milan (1h05 trip) as well as to Florence located in the heart of the country (40 min trip), Rome in central western Italy (2h20 trip) and Naples which is further down the south (3h30 trip).
Bologna > Modena
First destination is Bologna, a beautiful and noble city. Bologna is the city of porticoes, medieval landmarks, towers and music. It has the longest porticoes in the world. A huge, covered walkway fit for the Guinness Book of Records: over 40 kilometres of it! And at Via Zamboni 33, is the oldest university in the world, dating from 1088. Stop in Piazza Maggiore and just look for a moment at the majestic Basilica of San Petronio, the fountain of Nettuno by Giambologna, the Palazzo d’Accursio, now housing the City Council, and other medieval buildings towering over the piazza. Barely 300 metres away, stands two majestic towers – The Torre Asinelli and the Torre Garisenda. The medieval towers are the symbol of the city of Bologna. A short distance away is Piazza Santo Stefano, the Piazza of the Seven Churches. A singular charm is imparted by the ancient cobblestones and the Friars’ Basilica, with its perspective lower than that of the piazza. As for the churches, the really impressive among them must surely be San Domenico and San Francesco.
In the evening take the train to Modena (25 min trip). Head to the town’s piazza to see its splendid cathedral, regarded by the historian Le Goff to be the best example of Romanesque architecture in Europe, and which is listed as UNESCO world heritage. Here, memories of the Este traditions are upheld with palio events, banquets and parades. And while the traditional balsamic vinegar matures in the vats, in nearby Maranello the Ferrari engineers fine-tune the engines of the most famous red in the world. Take the bus from Modena (36 min trip) to reach the factory of the world famous Ferrari and afterwards return to Modena to spend the night.
Modena > Reggio Emilia > Parma
From Modena, take the train to Reggio Emilia (15 min trip), the city which at the dawn of the first millennium saw the birth of the great Matilde di Canossa, whose political astuteness influenced the destiny of Italy and of Europe. Shades and suggestions of that age survive in the citadels and the squares, with the help of delightful costume pageants. The prized treasures of Reggio Emilia are the inspired Piazza Sordello or the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ghiara. So many little villages and so many regal courts!
To the west of Reggio Emilia is Parma (15 min trip) - a refined city, cultured, elegant, slightly Parisian and very much loved by Italians and by travellers in general. Its signature monument is the Duomo and its nearby Baptistry. But the shrine of music lovers is elsewhere: the Teatro Regio. Your journey in Parma must include an obligatory food and wine itinerary. The brightest gems here are indeed famous all over the world over - Culatello di Zibello, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and Prosciutto di Parma.
Our tip: North west of Parma, you can continue to Piacenza namely to visit and its council chamber which is a Gothic masterpiece of Lombard architecture, towards the other end of Via Emilia (a Roman route built some 2000 years before the common era), there is another world to discover.
Parma > Ravenna > Faenza > Ferrara
A good place to start your southwest discovery of Emilia Romagna is Ravenna with its mosaics which are truly unique (2h15 trip from Parma or just 1h15 from Bologna). Ravenna is a hub between the Orient and the west, an important crossroad in the history of European culture. Evidence of this can be seen in its monuments, mausoleums, basilicas and baptisteries. Their beauty and uniqueness is such that they have been added to the UNESCO world heritage list. The town is also known for being a unique setting for arts and music events like the Ravenna Festival which brings the cream of international performers to the stage.
Still on the same day, head to Faenza (40 min trip), the capital of decorative ceramics. From there you can take a bus to reach Rimini, famous mainly for its fabulous beaches and the most famous sea in Europe.
On the next day, go to Ferrara (1h13 trip), a town worthy of a visit. You’ll discover within its medieval core, the Castello Estense, a magnificient structure built in 1385. Down the road is the famous Palazzo dei Diamanti, often a venue for international exhibitions. The most striking fact about the building is its exterior facades which consists of some 8,500 white marble blocks carved to represent diamonds, hence the name Diamanti.
While you are in the town, ask the locals to help you out in discovering the treasured stories of the monsters and strange creatures on the cathedral or the zodiac signs and arcane symbols of Palazzo Schifanoia.
Amidst the riches of Emilia Romagna, its culinary delights shine bright. They are real works of art, capable of pleasing the most discerning palate. A quick run through the list of regional specialities is enough to make the mouth water - Homemade pasta with ragù, ham (from Parma and Modena), salami, culatello, cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano, Fossa, Squacquerone) and the most exquisite fruit, then truffles and mushrooms, de luxe extra virgin olive oil like Brisighello, honey from the Apennine heights and the exclusive Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Dop (from Modena and Reggio).
People flock from outside the region to taste Emilia Romagna’s products, dishes and specialities. As for the wines, from Gutturnio all’ Albana (the first Italian white to receive a Docg tag) and Lambrusco to Sangiovese, they are synonym of quality.
Don’t miss out on the Parmigiano Reggiano (the king of Italian cheese), which by the way has become part of the diet of astronauts!