The region of Emilia-Romagna is not as popular as other places in Italy. And that’s sad. Not just because it’s the birthplace of ragù and Federico Felini, but because some things that you might take for granted might come from this part of the world. Parmigiano Reggiano or Parma ham, for example, originate in this region. Local cuisine, authentic saIumi, wine, captivating architecture, I had a chance to explore them all during my one-week vacation back in 2016.
A good place to start your journey is the historic capital of Emilia-Romagna, also one of the biggest cities in the region. You can use Bologna as your main base of operations and accommodation during your vacation and explore the nearby small towns by train. The city is famous for having one of the oldest universities in the world and for the two towers – Asinelli and Garisenda – which stand as its symbols. For those passionate about art, you can explore the rich musical history the city has to offer in the Library of Music or visit the few violin makers that still operate in the city. If your field of interest is painting, you can spend a week in one of the nearby villages and learn or practice painting while enjoying the beautiful Italian countryside.
In the past decade, Modena has gotten worldwide attention thanks to restaurants like ‘Osteria Francescana’ that has been listed in the top 5 best restaurants in the world several years in a row. But if you seek a budget friendly experience, there’s still plenty to visit here. Car enthusiasts can visit the Ferrari Museum outside the city, foodies can take a tour of the many Aceto Balsamico (i.e. balsamic vinegar) small family businesses, and you can finish the day with a visit to Mercato Albinelli – one of the busiest markets in the city.
You shouldn’t miss a visit to Ferarra, a small yet vivacious city just 30 minutes away from Bologna that has plenty to offer to its visitors. You can rent a bike (if you stay here overnight most hotels offer complimentary bikes for the duration of your stay) and explore the cobbled roads or use special bike lanes to go around the urban park that surrounds the city walls.
Ferrara is also home to Estense Castle. You can spend a few hours learning about the rich and bloody history of the Este family, former ruler over Regio and Modena.
No trip to Emilia-Romagna is complete without a visit to Ravenna. This former capitol of the Roman Empire is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprising of eight buildings built in the 5th and 6th centuries. These edifices still host fascinating mosaics, Christian iconography and other artworks of great artistic skills. Be sure to visit Basilica San Vitale and the adjoining Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, Ravenna’s landmarks.
For lunch you must try a local piadina (i.e. a flatbread sandwich filled with cold cuts and vegetables) that is served window side in many places around town.
Author: Alex is a passionate foodie that sometimes writes about hidden gems he’s visited over time. He works for UpTrek, a platform that wants to disrupt how travelers find and book exceptional travel experiences.