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.Read More
Emilia-Romagna Food + Travel Guide
What to Eat in Emilia-Romagna
How to Burn It Off in Emilia-Romagna
In Bologna, climb the nearly 500 steps of the medieval Torre degli Asinelli (Asinelli Tower; €3) in the center of town—if you dare, as no one can really explain why the leaning 334-foot (102m) tower, constructed in the 12th century, continues to fight gravity and win. It and its shorter neighbor, Torre degli Garisenda, are two of a handful of survivors from the 100-plus medieval skyscrapers that once composed Bologna’s cityscape. The views from the top—where you can spy a few other towers interspersed among the city’s red roofs and narrow passageways—are worth the minor, ahem, risk.
In Modena, visitors can climb the graceful Ghirlandina bell tower, built between the 12th and 14th centuries and recently restored, on weekends between the months of April and October (check this site for exact opening days). Overlooking Piazza Grande, the tower rises from the rear of the city’s gorgeous Romanesque cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is expected to be open Sundays from 9:30am-12.30pm and from 3pm-7pm (€1).Read More
Where to Stay in Emilia-Romagna
Given the fertile land, agriturismos make a wonderful accommodation option in Emilia-Romagna (and, indeed, all of Italy). Choices are near limitless if you have a car, though you can sometimes find them close enough to a city to get the best of both worlds. We found one in Parma: the homey Agriturismo Leoni (€77 for double, including breakfast; Via Roma 75, Vicofertile, map), a B&B on a working dairy farm in the countryside just 2 km (1.2 miles) from Parma’s city center. Meet the cows who provide milk for the area’s Parmigiano-Reggiano production (no, you can’t take one home with you); if you stay at least two nights, you’ll have time to arrange tours of a nearby cheese house and prosciutto di Parma factory (book ahead with hostesses Lola and Cinzia). Without a car, you can arrive by bus or taxi; more important, there is an excellent restaurant, Trattoria Vigolante, within walking distance (see Parmigiano-Reggiano entry).Read More