10 things to do in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

10 reasons to visit Emilia-Romagna

The ancient city of Bologna has managed to keep intact its medieval architecture and beautiful historical center with its characteristic porticoes, total length of 40 km, palazzos and tower houses of noble families. Of the twenty surviving towers, the most famous are the Asinelli and the Garizenda. They were built by the noble families of the Ghibellines in the XII century: at that time they fulfilled a protective function and also demonstrated the power and the high social status of their owners. After climbing the 498 steps leading up to the top of the Asinelli, you can see Bologna from above. From this vantage point the other towers are especially noticeable. Even today their number is impressive. Going down, you will find yourself in via Zamboni, the university road where its faculties and museums are located, as well as the ancient city theater (“Teatro Comunale”). The first university in Europe was founded in 1088; Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch, Colloccio Salutati, Pico della Mirandola, Leon Battista Alberti, Nicolò Copernicus and many others studied here in different periods.

2. Visit the Ferrari Museum in Maranello

Ferrari Museum in Maranello © Kosarev Alexander / Shutterstock

An authentic temple of legendary cars. The area of the museum in Maranello, near Modena, is about 300 m 2 . It was founded in 1990 as “Galleria Ferrari” and exhibits the cars, photos, and awards won at the races. There are about 40 cars in the collection, including the very first Ferrari, a 125 S model from 1947, single-seat race cars and modern road versions. Some halls are entirely devoted to Formula 1: here you will learn what telemetry is and how a driver drives a car during a race. In the Hall of Victories you can see the champion’s race cars from 1999 and 2008. The movie theater shows themed movies, is equipped with F1 simulators, semi-professional for adults and simpler for children and teenagers. To get to the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, take the bus that leaves from the square in front of the Ferrari Museum in Maranello every 45 minutes.

3. to discover the treasures of Romanesque art in Modena and Renaissance architecture in Ferrara

San Giorgio Cathedral in Ferrara

Romanesque art is a significant part of Modena’s cultural heritage. The complex of buildings of the city cathedral, Piazza Grande and the bell tower “Ghirlandina” were included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997. The construction of the cathedral began in 1099 and it was an undeniable masterpiece of Lanfranco’s architectural talent and the skill of the sculptor Viligelmo. It is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, which continues to amaze us with its mystery and unique beauty.

The court of the rulers of Ferrara was one of the most splendid during the Renaissance. The Estensi family, who ruled the city for three centuries, gave the city what we see today: a complete image, a fusion of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. For this reason Ferrara, together with the Po Delta, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The main attractions in Ferrara are Estense Castle, the old residence of the Estense Dukes; Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Schiffanoia with the beautiful and mysterious Halls of the Months, painted with frescos by local painters in the XV century.

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4. To visit Parma, the city of Verdi and Toscanini

Parma Baptistery © vvoe / Shutterstock

Parma is rightly considered one of the classical music capitals of the world. Here are just a few of the places worth visiting for lovers of the art: the Paganini Concert Hall, the House of Music, and the Artus Tosca Museum. Paganini, the House of Music, the Arturo Toscanini House Museum, the House of Sound and of course the Reggio theater. It is worth a visit during the winter opera season or during the Verdi Festival in October. The house where Toscanini (1867-1957) was born is in Parma and now houses the museum of the famous conductor.

5. See the Romanesque mosaics of Ravenna

Mosaic on the dome of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe © JIPEN / Shutterstock

Ravenna, the mosaic capital, has been the capital of three times in history: first the Eastern Roman Empire, then the kingdom of Theodoric, and finally the European part of the Byzantine Empire. In 1996 as many as eight buildings of the city were inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We begin with the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, simple on the outside but richly decorated with mosaics on the inside; the Baptistery of the Orthodox (Neon), whose dome depicts the baptism of Jesus Christ, the Basilica of Sant Apollinare in Classe, the largest of the early Christian basilicas with interior decorations preserved in their original form; the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, with the largest cycle of scenes from the New Testament in the world; and finally, the Mausoleum of Theodoricus, built in 520 AD. A.D., of stone imported from the quarries of Istria.

6. Eat Parmesan and prosciutto

The aging process of Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese © Alessandro Cristiano / Shutterstock

Parmesan is considered the king of cheeses, because it has been produced for nine hundred years from the same ingredients using the same technology. Strict production discipline, the interaction of local cheesemakers, the use of only raw milk makes it impossible to confuse Parmesan with even the most skillful imitation. It matures for at least 12 months, during which it acquires its famous grain structure and characteristic brittleness.

It is unimaginable to visit Modena without tasting its famous specialty, the traditional balsamic vinegar. This exquisite spice is made from boiled grape must, then aged for a long time in wooden barrels. It is worth learning some of the intricacies of its production and visit one of the factories, which willingly open their doors for tours.

Another culinary masterpiece is the Parma ham. Significantly, its entire production process takes place only in the province of Parma, at least 5 km south of the Emilia road and not more than 900 m above sea level. To the east, the area of production is bounded by the Enza River, and to the west by the Stirone River. It is within these boundaries that the ideal conditions for aging the ham exist. It is important that the curing rooms be exposed to the sea wind, for which purpose the windows are specially opened.

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7. Hear the roar of the engines of the Mille Miglia race.

Ferrari 750 Monza at the Mille Miglia © claudio zaccherini / Shutterstock

The Mille Miglia is a historic long-distance car race held on public roads. The competition was held 24 times from 1927 to 1957, and in 1977 it was resumed, allowing only vintage cars to participate. The course is in the form of a figure of eight from Brescia to Rome and back. The distance of the run is about 1600 km, which is roughly the equivalent of a thousand miles. Participants start and finish in the same place, at the Viale Venezia in Brescia. The race “A Thousand Miles” is not just a competition of old cars but a beautiful historical reconstruction of the Italian nature, combining sport and care for the environment, history and art of Italy.

8. Visit the castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza

From the Apennines to the River Po there are 23 estates and ancient residences, some of the most beautiful in Italy. They are called castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza. This state existed from 1545 to 1859, ruled by the dynasties of Farnese, Borbone di Parma, Visconti, Gonzaga, Sforza, Pallavicino, Sanvitale and others. In these gems of architecture, among the woods and vineyards, you can stay overnight and be transported to Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque or Enlightenment times, right up to the beginning of the XX century. In 1999 an association was created, which opens their doors to the public and develops themed itineraries based on the legends associated with these castles. In this diversity, do not miss the fortress Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato, one of whose halls was painted by Parmigianino based on the myth of Diana and Actaeon.

9. Take a boat ride on Comacchio

Historic Center of Comacchio © LIeLO / Shutterstock

According to legend, this town originated on 13 islands. That’s why it’s called “little Venice.” It’s famous for its seven beaches stretching along the Reno River from north to south. It is worth seeing the city from the water, taking a ride on a local feluga. Free tours are organized by non-profit associations of antique enthusiasts. The pier is under the famous Trepponti Bridge, a symbol of Comacchio. It is worth passing by the Capuchin Lodge (“Logato dei Cappuccini”), to taste eel cooked in one of the myriad ways and an appetizer of crayfish and mussels. Visit the old cannery (Manifattura dei Marinati), recently reopened after restoration. In the “hall of fire”, eels are roasted on spits in 12 fireplaces before being covered in marinade. At the beginning of October they celebrate the Eel Festival with street performances and tastings.

10. Get into the melancholic atmosphere of winter Rimini

Rimini is the largest resort city on the Adriatic coast of Italy. It is a veritable treasure chest, founded over 2,000 years ago. You will be amazed by architectural monuments from the period of the Malatesta dynasty, places where films by Fellini were shot, many amusement parks shrouded in a magical winter fog.

The city center is full of bars, pubs and restaurants, especially in the Vecchia Pescheria in Piazza Cavour, the place where meetings and dates take place in all seasons.

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The main attractions are the Arch of Augustus, the Bridge of Tiberius, Castel Sismondo, the Malatesta Temple and the “Surgeon’s House” archaeological site. Health lovers will not pass by the Thermae of Rimini, useful for the body and spirit. And finally, we can not forget to mention the largest number of theme parks in Europe. You can devote a day to “miniature Italy”, which presents 272 of its places in miniature scale. The model is so realistic that you can sail through the canals of almost real Venice.

10 things to do in and around Bologna

Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, was where my introduction to Italy began four years ago: it was the city I moved to when I decided to learn Italian. I fell in love with both Italy and Bologna, so I want to tell you from my own experience why you should go to Bologna and what you should do in the city and the region. In Bologna they don’t take the tables out of the cafes all year round: in winter daytime here it can be up to +15!

1. Taste the most delicious Italian regional cuisine.

Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic center of Italy, the local cuisine is recognized as the most delicious by Italians. Its basis is homemade pasta with a variety of fillings or meat sauce. The region also produces the iconic Italian specialties – Modena balsamic vinegar, Parma ham and Parmesan. In addition, in the vicinity of Bologna, Modena and Rimini there are vineyards from which come good, inexpensive and gastronomic wines, including the famous Lambrusco.

2. Visit the manufacturers of Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati and Ferrari.

Emilia-Romagna is a must visit for those who are passionate about cars: the region produces Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati and Ferrari. Each manufacturer has its own museum, where they will show, tell you and even let you touch the legendary cars and motorcycles. There you can buy any souvenirs and outfit, and those who have driving license, Maserati offers even unique courses, where you will learn not only to drive, but also to live Italian. In addition, in May each year the region hosts a historical race, the Mille Miglia Storica, in which vintage cars take part.

Among the 36 km of covered galleries are both very simple and those decorated with frescoes, and ancient, still with wooden pillars, and modern, with columns dressed in granite.

3. Walk through the longest covered gallery in the world.

Bologna is known for its 36 km of covered galleries, so you can walk through the streets in the rain without an umbrella. The longest of them leads to the church of Santuario della Madonna di San Luca on a hill above the city. The temple is home to an icon of the Virgin Mary allegedly painted by Luke the Evangelist, which was found in Constantinople in the 9th century by a Greek pilgrim. The 666 portico gallery leading to the church symbolizes the victory of the divine powers over the devil’s. The reward for those who have overcome the long and in some places difficult climb will be beautiful views of the city and the villas of the rich Bolognese.

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4. Admire the brilliant Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna.

The beauty of Bologna is that here is the largest railway station in Italy, where you can get to the most interesting cities in Italy in 1-2 hours. The obvious choices are Florence, Venice, and Milan. From less touristy cities I highly recommend, for example, Ravenna, where in the beginning of 5 century was transferred the capital of the Western Roman Empire. This transfer is associated with the Emperor Honorius and his sister Galla Placidia, whose mausoleum, among other churches, mausoleums and baptisteries must be seen in Ravenna. The Byzantine mosaics preserved here are stunning with their incredible brilliance, filigree work and piercing subjects. In addition to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, mosaics decorate the Church of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Arian and Orthodox baptisteries, the Basilica of San Apollinare Nuovo and the basilica of San Apollinare in Classe, which is outside the city walls. You can and should buy a single ticket to visit all the sites.

Neptune Square with its symbolic fountain adjoins Bologna’s main square, piazza Maggiore, where the majestic San Petronio Cathedral stands.

5. Visit one of the largest cathedrals in Europe.

In Bologna in the 14th century began to build a cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of the city, St. Petronius, not a simple cathedral, but one that was to surpass the size of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. It did not happen – construction was stopped by Pope Pius IV, who saw evil intent in such an aspiration. Now the white marble lower part of the facade contrasts sharply with the dark, as if hastily laid bricks of the top. On the steps of the cathedral on warm summer evenings the citizens sit and, drinking wine, look out over the square, making this part of the city look like a Roman amphitheater. Unfortunately, the facade of the cathedral is now closed – reconstruction is underway, but inside everything is still the same.

6. Go to the oldest anatomical theater in Europe.

Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088. The first building of the university is called Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio and is located next to the main square. Its courtyard is an example of typical Bolognese architecture, with recognizable columns and vaulted ceilings of the galleries, decorated with the coats of arms of students and professors. In the same building there is a surprisingly beautiful auditorium, the Teatro Anatomico, a wooden amphitheater with a marble table for dissecting corpses in the middle. The theater was open only during the colder months, and anyone could watch the process. After Bologna came under the authority of the Pope, dissection of corpses was forbidden and the operations were shown on models made of wax and wood. These are the same (or similar) figures that decorate the auditorium. Entrance to the Teatro Anatomico, as well as to most of the municipal museums of the city, is free.

Lunch for Italians is a sacred thing! It starts around 12.30 and lasts until 15.00. In Libreria.Coop, if you want to find a table without problems, you should come either at 12.00 or after 15.30.

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7. Eating at the bookstore.

You can join the popular Italian slow food movement at Libreria.coop Ambasciatori bookstore. There used to be a church on this site, then a market, then a movie theater. At the beginning of this century a bookstore appeared here – they built elevators, escalators, made a glass roof, children’s corner, performance space, put comfortable chairs and lamps. The result is a cozy space with a café on each floor: the first floor serves sandwiches and coffee, the second and third serve pasta and Italian snacks and serve local wine and beer. Lots of groceries you can buy at home. A big plus is that the store doesn’t have a lunch break, so if you forget to eat before 2:30 p.m. while in Bologna, you can always drop by Libreria.Coop, grab a glass of wine and a nice cheese and wait out the dead of night in the city.

8. Go for an aperitif.

Aperitifs are one of the main gastronomic traditions of northern Italy. Milanese and Turin aperitifs are famous, but Bolognese are even better! The busiest places are reserved for young people and are located in the university district, in Via Zamboni. For an aperitif they usually serve cheese and ham, small slices of pizza, olives, salads and fresh vegetables and crackers. You pay for a glass of wine or beer and eat as much as you can. The aperitifs usually start around 19:30 and if you have energy left over for dinner remember that Italians rarely eat before 20:30, so if you get there at 21:00 or later no one will give you a hard time.

Bologna also has its own theater, Teatro Communale, where the city’s elegantly dressed citizens dress up with the utmost care.

9. Listen to Verdi in his homeland.

Giuseppe Verdi was born not far from Parma, in Busseto. Parma, a beautiful and respectable city, has a wonderful Verdi opera house, which every year in the fall holds a festival dedicated to the composer. If you do not get to the festival, you know that you can hear “La Traviata” or “Otello” outside the festival program – the playbill is full of a variety of productions.

10. See the city where Raphael was born

The breathtaking Renaissance Urbino belongs not to Emilia-Romagna, but to the neighboring Marche region, but it’s easy to get here from Bologna. It is the birthplace of Raphael and a city that, when you look at it, you realize that the last few centuries have passed here without leaving any traces or memories. Urbino is safely sheltered from too many tourist groups by the green hills of the Marche, above which it rises like a castle made of sand. The city is the creation of Federico de Montefeltro, who, in competition with the Medici of Florence, not only built a stunningly harmonious city, but also sheltered many painters and poets. Raphael was born a year after his death and lived here for the first 17 years of his life. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Duke of Montefeltro prepared the fertile ground for the development of the talent of one of the world’s greatest painters.

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