This northern region of Italy, easily accessible from Milan, Venice, and Florence, is arguably that country’s gastronomic capital. Why? Many of Italy’s finest, most famous, centuries-old foodstuffs hail from these fertile flat plains, from egg pastas like tagliatelle and tortellini to balsamic vinegar and that king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sure, its elegant Renaissance cities—Modena, Ferrara, Parma—are on the quiet side, and its lively, history-rich capital, Bologna, lacks the big bells and whistles of certain other Italian cities, but the comparatively subdued, under-the-radar vibe translates to fewer tourists, extra-welcoming locals, and a glimpse of regular old low-key life in Italy. But it’s the cuisine—with its deep and obvious respect for the region’s culinary roots, and unapologetic affinity for decadence via butter, meat, cheese, and the like—that really makes Emilia-Romagna a must for any Italian food fan.

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