From fast cars to slow food, after you’ve experienced the Emilia-Romagna way of hand-crafted quality and aged-with-tradition flavors, you’ll see and taste your own world much differently. I’m going to share the top food experiences of Emilia-Romagna. If you’re a foodie looking for unique experiences to try, these Emilia-Romagna foods are guaranteed to blow your mind.
This post contains some affiliate links to services I use. I was sponsored by the #inEmiliaRomagna and Bologna Tourism Boards in attendance of the #STSRavenna Social Travel Summit conference discussing the travel blogger industry and responsible tourism. As always, all opinions in this article are my own.
Table of Contents: 15 Must Try Food Experiences of Emilia Romagna
- 1 Food Valley: What foods is Emilia Romagna known for?
- 2 15 Must Try Foods of Emilia-Romagna
- 3 Bologna
- 4 Modena
- 5 Rimini – Ravenna – Forli-Cesena
- 6 Emilia Romagna in General
- 7 Best travel insurance for Italy
Food Valley: What foods is Emilia Romagna known for?
Being in Central Italy, located between Venice, Florence and Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna (the region is also known by its touristic name “Food Valley” is known for its gastronomic traditions. With fertile hills for wine and farming the region uses its livestock for things like Parma ham, piadina bread, mortadella, ragu sauces, salami and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It is also known for its egg flour pastas and balsamic vinegar. Lastly, having close access to the Adriatic Sea in towns like Rimini, it is also known for its seafood. The foods of Emilia-Romagna are known for their high quality ingredients and proud tradition handed down through the ages.
What makes the foods of Emilia-Romagna unique?
The Emilia-Romagna region specializes in slow foods— foods, which take time to mature through the soil, an aging process or fermentation. Many of Emilia-Romagna foods go through a certification process to ensure the highest standards are met. Visiting the producers of these type of slow foods is part of the Emilia Romagna experience.
13 things you need to know before traveling Emilia-Romagna
15 Must Try Foods of Emilia-Romagna
The foods of Emilia-Romagna are found all around the region, but for foodies who want to experience these the foods closest to their origin, I’ve created a list of must try food experiences of Emilia-Romagna by their city of make
One of Bologna nicknames is the Fat and for good reason. As Emilia Romagna’s capital city surrounded by fertile rolling hills, Bologna is very much a foodie city known for many popular foods in Emilia Romagna. There are many must try foods in Bologna.
Before visiting Emilia-Romagna, my pasta vocabulary consisted of fettucine, spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi and tortellini; they all looked different enough to tell apart. So I was overwhelmed to learn the variety of pastas of Emilia-Romagna is known for.
Let’s take the “hat family” as my guide once put it. They are the roundish dumpling pastas in the shape of a bolar hat and varying in sizes : tortellini ,cappelletti (aka “little hats”), capellaci (aka “big hats”), tortelloni, capello, ravioli. These are all dumplings with meat fillings; the exception is tortelloni , which has a cottage or parmesan cheese filling and perfect for vegetarians.
The pastas Emilia-Romagna is known for however are : tagliatele ( a must!), tortellini (one of the regional favorite “hats”- a popular soup dish appetizer you find on menus is tortellini in brodo), tortelloni (a pasta with a ricotta filling), cappelletti and lasagne.
Other regional pastas you may find here are passatelli (a little gritty side as supposedly ingredients include bone marrow, grana cheese and bread crumbs- not my fave), and the curly gramigna (think macaroni with a tight Shirley Temple curl).
2. Tagliatelle with Ragu
A well-known pasta Emilia-Romagna is known for is tagliatelle, a comfort food of Bologna. The hand-tossed noodles are a medium-sized flat al dente noodle made with egg. It is served with a ragu (or a thick meat sauce), which varies in flavor by the maker. You may see bolognese on menus and it is a popular type of ragu. It takes over four hours to make it.
Vegetarians will find a vegetarian version with fungi (aka mushroom), especially during mushroom season. The foods of Emilia-Romagna still favors meats, but vegetarianism is slowly finding its way into some menus. This was my favorite noodle dish, traveling Emilia-Romagna.
Read my tips for Vegetarian travelers
3. Motor Valley and Eat at Lamborghini’s Da Taiadela
Motor Valley is a unique way to explore Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, which is the birth home of iconic Italian foods and luxury sports racing. In fact, Emilia-Romagna’s tourism is known both, as Motor Valley and Food Valley and there are tours which combine the two.
Lunching at Lamborghini’s exclusive Ristorante Da Taiadela is a fun experience if you will be hitting Lamborghini Museum & Factory afterwards. There is a small wall with portraits of celebrity guests (and Lambo fans) who ate there, from Adrian Brody to famous race drivers. The main part of the restaurant services Lamborghini staff while the side room serves guests. The restaurant is known for lambrusco and making fresh pasta. Try the tagliatele with bolognese. The partially al dente egg noodles absorb the flavor of the sauce and it is heavenly.
The restaurant is located across the Lamborghini headquarters at Via Filippo Turati, 1, 40019 Sant’Agata Bolognese. It is located 37 minutes from Bologna and is a 15 minute walk from Bologna Central Station. You can take a taxi from the station.
4. Take a pasta making and cooking class in Bologna
One of Bologna’s famous nicknames is The Fat One, due to its love for gastronomical delights and pasta is a big one of them! Taking a pasta cooking class and learning Italian pasta secrets from tagliatelle to tortellini (pictured below) is a way to appreciate how pastas are made fresh by hand. You might even learn the secrets of the region’s favorite pasta sauce… ragu a meaty tomato sauce, which is the mother of bolognese.
Note: Photos below I took from my Bologna Secret Food Tour!
A product of Bologna, mortadella is a type of ground or pureed luncheon meat in the form of a sausage. It resembles the cold cuts we call baloney in American terms. Mortadella comes from Bologna, so its the real deal. The difference is that mortadella is hashed heat-cured pork, with at least 15% fat cubes taken from the neck of a pig. Often it is cut into fine slices for eating and you will notice the white chunks of fat. It is said to be smooth, velvety and absolutely delicious.
While they say lasagna originated is Naples, some say the real flavor is in Emilia-Romagna’s Bologna as Lasagna alla Bolognese. In Bologna, they use long strips of pasta made at home and then they add ragu. As I mentioned before, ragu is a chunky meaty sauce in this region and the real flavor behind popular pastas with meat dressing.
7. FICO Eataly World
Dubbed the Disneyland of Food, FICO Eataly World is a like an amusement park for food. What it is is as our media outlet put it~ an industrial showroom and a souped up mall food court of production exhibitions, food sampling and learning about how foods are made. There is a farm with over 200 livestock, a truffle-sniffing dog, agriculture and over 34 factories, showing an abridged process of how some of Emilia-Romagna foods are made. It all sounds like well over a day’s worth of eating and exhibitions. Eataly is also a chain of gourmet food stores which you can find in Italy, the U.S. and internationally.
FICO Eataly World is 30 minutes from Bologna. See website for more details.
8. Do a Bologna Secret Food Tours
What’s the best way to sample a wealth of foodie highlights in a few hours? I took a tour with Bologna Secret Food Tours, to learn about the regional foods and foodie lifestyle in Bologna and Emilia Romagna. We spent three hours packed with food, learning about Emilia Romagna lifestyle and visiting things like a local shop where women made tortellini, sampling cheeses and proscuitto. We had drinks at an osteria (a pub where you can bring your food in as long as you drink), lunch at a trattoria, we visited a shop where they had traditional balsamic vinegar tastings and visited the Quadrilatero area. You will cover a lot of Emilia Romagna foodie highlights in an afternoon. Highly worthwhile!
Travel Tip: Take the exact tour I took !
There are three things Modena is widely known for~ Ferrari, Maserati, Pavorotti and traditional balsamic vinegar! This is the first city where the concept of slow food, meaning- they are aged through time and traditional process. The Balsamic vinegar experience is not table salad vinegar like we assume , but elevated to the level and cost of fine wine. Traditional aceto balsamico – as it is called formerly – can only be certified in Modena.
Watch this Modena Travel Guide of 5 Great Food Experiences you Must Try
9. Visit a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Batteria in Modena
Most of us know balsamic vinegar as a type of salad dressing. So why does the Emilia Romagna region take traditional balsamic vinegar so seriously?
Apparently, cheap balsamic is the one you can buy for salads. Then there are ones, which are expensive (some cost as much as $800/bottle). The distinction is in the the boiling, fermenting and maturation process. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from a white grape must called trebbiano or lambrusco grapes and has to be aged a minimum of 12 years and an ideal of 20 years. The older the aging, the more viscous, sweet and expensive the vinegar is; thus becoming closer to a dessert vinegar. While not all balsamic vinegar is actually made in
The process is a delicate one– a batteria or vinegar cellar of oak and chestnut-wood barrels takes the grape musts through an aging process. If you were to make a mistake such as overboil or burn the juices, you would not know until 10 years down the line after the flavor had time to mature. Thus, commercial businesses around balsamic vinegar as it take a long time to age and things can go wrong. Instead, it is largely made by families for their own purpose.
Modena is the city that traditional balsamic vinegar is made or at least finally packaged and certified. There are three types of Aceto Balsamico in Modena DOP, Aceto Balsamico Modena IGP and a tradizionale. The DOP is of the highest rank and flavor. More information here.
10. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Tastings
Acetaia Pedroni, a Modena family owned vinegar cellar and tavern ( called Osteria di Rubbiara ). Since 1862, the Pedroni family has specialized in Traditional Aceto Balsamico DOP. They have passed down this tradition for ages. You can take a tour of their raditional Aceto Balsamico cellar and then visit their Osteria di Rubbiara to experience traditional balsamic vinegar tastings, by sampling highly matured balsamic vinegar against different food pairings.
Similar to wine tastings and pairings, I tried different foods from tortelloni, frittata (or fried omelette), and vanilla ice cream, drizzled with differently-aged balsamic.
We tried the Traditional Aceto Balsamico of Modena Affinato which is aged a minimum of 12 years. In taste and pairing it is more acidic, which aids salads and heavy meats.
The Traditional Aceto Balsamico of Modena Extra Vecchio is aged a minimum of 25 years and tastes sweeter, is more viscous and is perfectly paired with desserts and seafood . Balsamic vinegar from Costco is ruined for me.
Acetaia Pedroni is located at Via Risaia, 6 – Rubbiara di Nonantola, a little on the outskirts of Modena.
Travel Tip: Take a combined tour of Parma Ham, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, Parmesan
11. Visit a Parmigiano Reggiano factory
One must never confuse Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with parmesan. Nooo. Parmigiano Reggiano is cultivated from the soil of two regions, which affect the flavor. If you take a Parmigiano Reggian factory tour, you’ll see inside this fascinating age old process of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production to its aging process which must ultimately pass certification before it hits the market. The Italians are quite proud of the cheese’s flavor’s distinction and consider parmesan cheese as a fake. The taste of Parmigiano-Reggiano is distinct with a condensed richness and grainy saltiness.
I visited Hombre Farm for Parmigiano-Reggiano (which is located at the Umberto Panini Motor Museum for Mazerati). You can kill two birds with one stone and visit both in one location. The farm has over 500 cows and a factory for making cheese. It is impressive to visit their room where over 8,000 certified cheese sit in a maturation process.
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𝐒𝐚𝐲 𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐞𝐬𝐞! (& new video just dropped) One must never confuse parmigiano reggiano cheese with anything like parmesan Nooo. The Italians are quite proud of the distinction and consider all others as fake. But the flavor says it all and you’ll notice the richness of it’s age and process. My @motorvalleyofficial tour of Hombre farms taught me that Parmigiano Reggiano is cultivated from the soil of two regions, which ffect the flavor. Additionally, the cheese has to pass certification before sales. From cars to food, after you’ve experienced the #emiliaromagna way of high quality, hand crafted tradition and pride, you’ll see your own world much differently. #presstrip #motorvalley #foodvalley @inemiliaromagna #inemiliaromagna #stsravenna #cheese #gourmet #gourmetfood #italian #eateritaly #italianfood #italy_vacations #italy_foods #travelforfood #travelfoodie #foodporn #eataly #reggioemiliaapproach #stsravenna
12. Parma Ham (aka Proscuitto)
One of the widely popular Emilia-Romagna foods is its finely cut and cured plate of meats, such as Proscuitto or Parma ham. Often you’ll see a platter of these meats served up as appetizers to a meal or breakfast or you can visit a salumeria (or butcher) to ham thighs hanging to air dry. Parma ham is expensive because it is more than just ham. The tradition follows a precise process~ pigs come from a specific region of Italy, are fed a specific diet of quality cereals and grains and must be at least nine months old at the time of slaughter . There is a rather slow process (a minimum 13 months) to go through from salting, dry and curing.
Ham is eventually cut in fine slices and has a marbleized look of flesh and fat.
Travel Tip: Take a Parma Ham Factory tour to see inside this fascinating age old process!
Rimini – Ravenna – Forli-Cesena
Piadina is an Italian flatbread, made from water, lard, salt and flour. It heralds from Rimini, Ravenna and Forlì-Cesena. It has a crumbly and doughy texture and Italians love to eat them with cold cuts and cheese fillings, even though it can hold a bit more.
Emilia Romagna in General
All Italians love gelato. Gelato is similar to ice cream, but has milk, sugar and air. The calorie and fat content is lower than ice cream and the taste is equally delicious. Emilia Romagna region is not typically known for its gelato but it is no different in its love for it.
One exception is that in this region, you might find a restaurant or Traditional Aceto Balsamico tavern which might drizzle balsamic on it.
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How about experiencing a balsamic vinegar tasting at a shop that sells a 100 year old bottle of vinegar at 659 Euro? … A local salameria which where local women make homemade pasta daily …Or a pub where you can bring your own food as long as you adhere to the pub’s one rule– you must drink! I took a food tour with @secretfoodtours to get inside “the Fat One”, another nickname of Bologna due to the fact it is the cradle of Italian food scene in Emilia Romagna! Can’t wait to take you inside eating Bologna. #BolognaYourDestination #inEmiliaRomagna #viaEmilia #stsravenna
15. Drink Lambrusco
Emilia Romagna is one of the oldest wine regions. Their prized wing is lambrusco is a very light and crisp, sweet or dry sparkling red wine. It tastes a bit like a wine cooler (or oddly, what Americans might consider to be cheap box wine) but as an on-off wine drinker, I found it absolutely delicious. In a wine loving country like Italy, Lambrusco is popular for its friendly ability to complement many dishes of Emilia Romagna, such as meats and cheeses. It’s also amenable to many type of people. A product of Emilia Romagna region, the grapes come from four provinces – Modena, Parma, Reggio-Emilia, and Mantua. The alcoholic percentage is usually 8 percent, but driest lambrusco will be 11.5 percent or higher.
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