As you all are probably aware by now, I am obsessed with Italy and there is just so much of the country that I want to see. So. For our 1-year wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to go back to where we got married in Tuscany. We have collectively spent a bit of time in this popular Italian destination and we admit we've neglected other regions of the boot so while we love Tuscany and felt the need to visit our wedding venue, we also wanted to take the opportunity to see other parts of Italy as well including the delicious region of Emilia Romagna.
Emilia Romagna is located just north of Tuscany and while the region may not sound familiar to you, I'm sure you've heard of Bologna, which is its capital city. This region is known for its filled pastas, meat sauces, Ferrari's and lambrusco. This is Italy off the beaten path for those who love to eat and take it easy. It has arguably some of the best food in Italy (the world's best restaurant is located in Modena) and being the foodies we are, it was the perfect place to indulge in some local specialties. We only spent a few days in this area before continuing south to Tuscany so we only got to experience a little but what we did experience was fantastic. Here's just a sample of the goodness to be had in Emilia Romagna.
Lambrusco Wine - This red bubbly got a bad rep in the 80s and 90s and it's a shame because the real stuff is delightfully fruity yet dry and perfectly effervescent. Served chilled, it is refreshing and very easy to drink. It comes in various shades of red but no matter the color it will go great with just about everything you eat in this region. There's no better place to try it than at local winery Cantina della Volta where you can do a tasting free of charge and learn about their unique method to fermentation for wines of this area. Closed Sundays. (Via per Modena, 82, Bomporto)
Bologna - The city, not the meat, is the capital of this region and is worth visiting for a day or so. It is home to the oldest university in the world which gives it a young, college-town feel. The main square is Piazza Maggiore where you will find Fontana di Nettuno (Neptune's Fountain). Another landmark is Le Due Torre (two towers) but the highlight is the area surrounding Mercato di Mezzo and Via Pescherie Vecchie, which is full of places to eat all with their homemade tortellini on display. Stop at Zerocinquantino for a piadina, a warm sandwich native to this region on thin flatbread, and a glass of lambrusco. If it's nice, grab a table outside and dine with the locals. (Via Pescherie Vecchie, 3/e)
Prosciutto di Parma & Parmigiano Reggiano - Perhaps the most well-known of the local specialties comes from the city of Parma, about an hour Northwest of Bologna. Parma is an obvious place to indulge in these yummy foods and happens to be a quaint city that you can see in half a day. Get your bearings at the Piazza del Duomo where the baptistry overshadows the church and then stroll through the charming streets stopping along the way for a bite. But if you want to visit the real-deal, where they make the cheese and cure the ham, visit Antica Corte Pallavicina where you can have a tasting and take a tour of the cellars. It's technically located outside of Parma but the visit will be worth the drive. (Strada Palazzo due Torri, 3, Polesine Parmense)
Modena - If there's only one city you see in Emilia Romagna, make it this one. Located about 30 minutes from Bologna, this is where balsamic vinegar originates from. There are several acetaie to tour if you prefer or you can find the liquid gold sold in specialty stores throughout the city. Regardless you must try it because what we have in the States is not anything like the real thing which is thick and syrupy and amazing. Aside from the vinegar, Modena is a lovely place to experience with quaint piazze that come alive during aperitivo, delicious cafes, and of course the best restaurant in the world. More on that in my next post!
And lastly, just a few words of advice:
- I would recommend hiring a car so you can drive out to the many wineries, dairies, ham cellars, etc. but if driving is just not your thing, the regional train does run between the major cities. You just won't have as much freedom.
- While Bologna might seem like the obvious place to stay, opt for one of the smaller cities or towns instead. Bologna is worth seeing but the ambiance does not compare.
Even though we were only there for a few days, we left Emilia Romagna with full bellies and big smiles. Yet somehow, and as Anthony Bourdain likes to say, we're "hungry for more." This area should be way more touristy than it is given what it has to offer and I highly recommend not overlooking this slice of Italy on your next trip. Its location geographically makes it easy to tack onto other destinations like Venice, Milan & the Lakes, and Florence & Tuscany as we did. Aim to spend a few days (at least) and you're guaranteed a delightful food fest. Buon appetito! :)