The Emilia Romagna region was, and remains a significant diverse, historical, and naturally beautiful region of northern Italy. It lies between the River Po, (an important Italian waterway), to its north, the Apennine Mountains to the south and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Emilia Romagna is known for its varied landscapes, medieval cities, rich gastronomy, and coastal resorts.
The name itself, Emilia Romagna, reveals its historical origins with evidence of populations dating as far back as Paleolithic and Neolithic times.
The famous Roman road, Via Emilia, was constructed by Marco Emilio Lepido in 187 BC during the Roman Conquest, to connect Rome with the Roman cities Rimini and Piacenza. Today there is remaining evidence of settlements along the road. Further evidence of Roman origins can be seen from the air, as the land was divided among the soldiers after the war campaigns, and today follows that same pattern called centuriae.
Emilia refers to the northern provinces of the region; Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Moderna, Ferrara and most of Bologna. Romagna refers to the smaller, south eastern provinces of Ravenna, Forli-Cesena, Rimini and part of Bologna located east of the Sillaro River. This area was dominated by the Romans for longer than the rest of the peninsula and continued to be called Romaniola or Romadiola, adhering to Roman exarchate rule.
- Nature Landscape and Culture
- The Major Art Cities in Emilia
- The Major Art Cities in Romagna
- The Flavors of Emilia Romagna
Mountains, Forests, Hills, Coastal and Large Plains
Its geographical position gives the region variations of climate and landscape. These variations have shaped the foods, wines, politics and languages of Emilia Romagna to create a beautiful cultural tapestry to explore.
The Po Valley, La Pianura Padana, to the north, is characterized by the anthropization of the region. Since the Roman era, the flat lands around the River Po have been reclaimed and cultivated, producing fertile fields of wheat, corn, sugar beets, vegetables, and fruit orchards. In the small area of Ferrara even rice is grown.
The climate varies from hot and humid in the summer months, cold and damp in the winter, (known for its winter mists), to the mild and pleasant spring and autumn months.
Numerous archaeological excavations of the area provide evidence of past civilizations. Including that of Bronze Age villages built on stilts (3000BC), Villanovan (10th century BC). Etruscan (6th century BC), Roman (2nd century BC), Medieval (5-15th centuries AD) and Renaissance (14-17th centuries). As a constant reminder of these times the plains are dotted with numerous examples of the differing styles of architecture through fortifications, towers, churches, cathedrals, shrines, monasteries, villas and palaces.
The closer you get to the mouth of the river and Adriatic coastal areas the more the environment changes. Besides the rice fields there are large salt marshes covering the Po Delta Park. The most famous are at Comacchio and Cervia. The salt marshes are important for both the economy and the ecosystem, through food production dating back to ancient times at the same time providing habitat for wildlife. Both coexist harmoniously. The marshes are a haven for birdwatchers with the pink flamingos being of particular interest. They can be explored on foot or even by canoe.
For those who prefer cultural activities and attractions, these low areas hold the hidden jewels of Pomposa with its abbey, the canals of Comacchio, and the magnificent mosaics of Ravenna and Classe. This area is home to the ancient pine forest mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy and by Giovanni Boccaccio in the Decameron, perfect for long strolls through the Mediterranean countryside.
Since the late nineteenth century the Romagna Riviera has best been known as a holiday destination. It offers a combination of sun, sea and entertainment. Its landscape, climate, cultural history, architecture, hospitality and excellent food all make it a desirable destination to escape, enjoy and relax.
Many of the beach facilities and businesses are still owned by local families who have changed with the times to offer and reflect what today’s society desires: all kinds of sports, babysitting and play activities, beaches for pets, and nightclubs and discos on the beach. Rimini is known as a capital of nightlife but there are also major attractions at Riccione, Cattolica, Cesenatico, Cervia, Milano Marittima, Lidi Ravennati and Lidi Ferraresi.
In the hinterland, south-west of Rimini and Riccione, on Mount Titano stands the city of San Marino, one of the smallest countries in Europe. Admired for its walls and towers which surround the splendid historic center. It is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, because its low tax rates have created shopping centers and outlets offering more affordable, quality shopping.
Continuing north-west in the Apennines, lies Vena del Gesso Romagnola, a charming, and different landscape made almost exclusively of chalky outcrops within the hilly slopes. Nestled in the midst of this is the capital, Bologna. South-west of the city, the soft hills again turn into mountain ranges, up to Corno alle Scale and Monte Cimone, the most popular ski resorts in the region, along with Monte Cusna just north of Reggio Emilia. Continuing to the north-east, the Parma and Piacenza Apennines meet creating mystical scenes in which to get lost in nature between lakes, springs, woods, ancient medieval paths, castles and spas such as Salsomaggiore and Tabiano.
Is the capital of the region. Strategically positioned in the center of the region with the main commercial routes between the north and south of Italy has made it an important crossroads for commerce for millennia. Home to the oldest university in the western world, the city attracts students from all over Europe, boosting the academics, culture, and economics of the city. With less of the traditional Italian tourist attractions like historic and famous monuments, Bologna offers its own sort of secret treasures in its churches, museums, towers, palaces, and theaters. It also boasts a thriving restaurant and bar scene, offering traditional regional dishes.
Located on the Via Emilia east of Bologna, historic Modena is proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on which stands the Ghirlandina Tower, the Duomo Romanico (Cathedral), the Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Grande. Modena is known for its food and fast cars as it is the birthplace of Ferrari. The Ferrari headquarters moved to nearby Maranello after the war, where there is a museum dedicated to it, which attracts visitors from all over the world.
Continuing along the Via Emilia, almost on the extreme edge of the region, is another little gem, historic Parma. Dotted with monuments representing different ages such as the medieval Duomo e Battistero, the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral and Baptistery, the Renaissance pictorial masterpieces of Correggio and Parmigianino found in churches and museums, the Baroque Palazzo della Pilotta with the surprising Teatro Farnese, and Neoclassical monuments as well.
Also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small city of Ferrara is amazing for the amount and quality of its monuments: from the intricate medieval streets to the monumental Castello Estense, from the noble Renaissance palaces to the ancient walls largely preserved and transformed into a city park, every corner holds unexpected surprises. A curiosity: it is known as the city of bicycles, for the largest number of bikes per inhabitant and because 90% of its residents use this means of transport (including the police!).
For a short period the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and close to the most important port of the Empire on the Mediterranean (Classe), Ravenna was enriched with some of the most splendid mosaics visible in Italy. Hidden inside unsuspecting buildings, many of which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each a jewel to be discovered. Ravenna is where the greatest Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, chose to spend the last years of his life, and his tomb can be visited here.
The town of Faenza is part of the province of Ravenna, famous for its high-quality handcrafted majolica ceramics.
Normally associated with sea life and nightlife, Rimini offers much more: Roman remains and Renaissance works, but also modern neighborhoods that celebrate the most recent city hero: the great director Federico Fellini, in whose honor a museum is being built inside the fortress of Castel Sismondo.
Two other towns in Romagna, both excellent cultural centers, are Forlì and Cesena. Forlì hosts some of the most beautiful exhibitions in Italy and in Cesena there is the renowned Biblioteca Malatestiana, (Malatesta Library).
In many hilly and mountainous places in the region there are memorable fortresses and castles. Particularly well preserved are those in the territories of Parma and Piacenza, most of which are open to the public. Among the most renowned are: Castell’Arquato, Rivalta, Gropparello, Bardi, Torrechiara and Fontanellato. The fortresses of Romagna are also famous such as: San Leo, Verucchio and Dozza.
Emilia Romagna is the original place of some of the most renowned gastronomic products in the world: Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Protected by European laws, they can only be produced here. The region holds the record of products registered under the PGI and DOP brand: 44 in all! A well-known regional specialty that takes its name from the region´s capital city is Bolognese ragù made from ground beef with which many local pastas are seasoned, such as tagliatelle and lasagne. Fresh egg pasta is considered one of the regional excellences and each area is characterized by its specific format: anolini in Parma, tortellini in Modena and Bologna, cappelletti in Romagna.
The cured meats are equally famous, all produced from Italian pork: coppa, salami, prosciutto, mortadella and the king of cured meats, the exclusive culatello.
In addition to cold cuts, many cheeses are also produced, mainly from cow and sheep’s milk: Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, caciotte and pecorino; especially known for its tradition and flavor is the PDO fossa cheese- formaggio di fossa DOP.
And then there are the breads, such as the famous piadina, a sort of flat bread that can be stuffed with your choice of ingredients which represents the street food par excellence in Romagna. Then there is its Emilian cousin, the tigella, smaller and thicker, with a sweet or salty filling.
Explore the authentic Emilia Romagna with these suggested tours
Cities of art and hidden jewels in Emilia Romagna
Emilia Romagna is a real treasure trove of art beauties less known to the general public, but deserving of an in-depth exploration by anyone who wants to define themself as a traveler. This tour will lead you to these discoveries, showing you the main cities of art (some of which are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites), but also leading you to more hidden and secret places; small pearls that will fill you with amazement and beauty.
Emilia: Legendary Land of Food and Engine
This tour will reveal the secrets behind the famous names of some of Italy’s best-known food and wine products, as well as the most well-known motor brands in the world. You will get to explore the places where the legendary Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati were born and continue to be manufactured. You will see all the production processes and scenes of the delicious Parmigiano Reggiano, the refined Parma Ham and the exclusive balsamic vinegar of Modena, as well as the regional wines, including the most exported Italian wine, Lambrusco. Get ready to discover the surprises that are hiding in the Emilia lands accompanied by our expert advice.
The Enchanted Villages and Secret Beauties of Romagna
Romagna, Italy has always been synonymous with hospitality, authenticity and seaside destinations. This itinerary, however, will make you discover much more, taking you away from traditional tourist destinations and helping you deeply discover an authentic land with a strong and genuine character. From the plains, to the hills, to the sea, from art, to nature, to the products of the earth, each step will surprise you and make you appreciate the multifarious treasures of this part of the region. It is a journey full of surprises that will be impossible to forget.