14 Incredible Reasons to visit Emilia Romagna, Italy

view from bologna asinelli tower
view from bologna asinelli tower


From fast cars to slow food, after experiencing the best things to do Emilia Romagna, I saw Italy much differently.⁣⁣ I’m sharing 14 incredible reasons to visit Emilia Romagna! This region is a gem of Italy you won’t want to miss.

14 Incredible Reasons to visit Emilia Romagna

Located between the Veneto and Tuscany regions of Italy sits Emilia-Romagna.

1. Food Valley: It is heaven for food lovers

Without a doubt, traveling Italy, you must try Italian food. Book a trip to Emilia-Romagna, one of the richest regions in fertile hills and gastronomy. Emilia Romagna destinations are famous for its pastas, wine and slow foods.   Bologna is famous for its egg and filled pastas (i.e. tagliatelle, lasagna, tortellini, tortelloni, etc…) as well as, meat sauces (ie ragu). The city has recently also opened a huge food park, FICO Food Eataly.

Slow foods are created through traditional process and aging. The Emilia-Romagna destinations housing these specialities are:

Modena houses the world’s finest balsamic vinegar and like wine, you can learn to pair it with different foods.

Parma is famed for its ham (aka prosciutto) and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Parma ham is farmed from this region and takes at least 13 months to cure and season.

Meanwhile,  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is known as the real version of parmesan cheese and comes from cows living in the Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena regions. See things to do in Parma.

Travel Tip: Visit FICO Food Eataly or take a Parma pasta cooking class to learn about pasta in Emilia Romagna, take a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory tour.

See top food experiences of Emilia Romagna
Pastas of Emilia Romagna
Pastas of Emilia Romagna


2. Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle is one of the comfort foods of Bologna and was my favorite dish (which is why it is #2). The noodles are a medium-sized flat noodle made with egg. Often it is served with ragu (a meat sauce).

Vegetarians will find tagliatelle versions with fungi (aka mushroom), especially during mushroom season. It is not common on menus but “vegetariano” is becoming more of a recognized diet, so you might find this option in some places.

Read Travel tips for Vegetarians

tagliatelle with bolognese
tagliatelle with bolognese
tagliatelle with mushrooms (for vegetarians)


3. Motor Valley: Visit the birthplace of speed

Did you know Emilia-Romagna is the land where speed was born?

One of the best things to do in Emilia Romagna is exploring Motor Valley. Motor Valley is a unique way to explore this region through the automotive and motorcycle legends of speed, which call Emilia Romagna their birth home. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Maserati, Ducati, Ellalara…  they all have their museums and factories here.

Travel tip: Take a factory tour and watch in awe as you see high performance sports vehicles, like Ducati , assembled entirely by hand. Be enthralled when you discover team Lamborghini creates customized models–  a buyer can buy their own one-of-a-kind lambo.

The Motor Valley locations are Parma, Modena, Bologna and Romagna area.

lamborghini museum emilia romagna
Emilia Romagna Motor Valley: Visiting Lamborghini’s museum, Mudatec


4. Take a simulated race drive in a Lamborghini

Want to test drive the speed of a Lamborghini on a race track without risking getting into an accident? At the Lamborghini museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, you can take a simulated track drive in a lambo. I’m absolutely glad my drive was simulated because I spun out of control pretty quickly.

Travel tip: If you get the chance, eat at Lamborghini’s Da Taiadela restaurant. It’s actually a family run restaurant, known for their fresh, handmade pasta and where you’ll find a lot of Lamborghini workers eating lunch at. Check out their wall celebrating the famous celebrities to grace the restaurant, from Adrian Brody to famous race drivers.

simulated race drive lamborghini emilia romagna italy
simulated race drive lamborghini emilia romagna italy


5. Race a Ferrari on a racetrack

Emilia-Romagna Motor Valley features four international race circuits ( Autodromo di Modena, Misano World Circuit, Imola Race Circuit and Verano Circuit). Just outside of Modena, you can live out your Formula 1 fantasies at Autodromo di Modena, testing your hand on the course in a Ferrari 458 Challenge or Lamborghini Huracan. The course will challenge you with its curvaceous nature .  I took two laps on the racetrack with a professional driver whipping me around in a Ferrari 458 Challenge and it was one of my highlights of my trip. They also allow more confident driver to have a go on their own.

Track Prices are not cheap but then again, why would they be on an international race circuit? They start at € 440,00 for two laps in a Ferrari 488. Prices depend upon laps and type of car (see here). Autodromo di Modena has a handful of cars and driving preferences. Happen to be traveling with your Ferrari? Show your Ferrari museum ticket and you can take your car for a spin on the tracks for a discounted price of only 35 Euro!

Note: Autodromo di Modena has also signed an agreement towards being a green track and aiding in the lowering of carbon emissions.

Autodromo di Modena
Emilia Romagna Motor Valley: Autodromo di Modena drive experience
Autodromo di Modena racetrack
Emilia Romagna Motor Valley: Autodromo di Modena drive experience


6. Ravenna and UNESCO Mosaics

 ⁣Ravenna is a small city known for its UNESCO World Heritage Byzantine and Baroque mosaics hidden in basilicas, baptisteries and mausoleums. Housing a mausoleum with the poet Dante Alighieri’s bones, Ravenna has also inspired the heart of poets. Ravenna is not an obvious Italian destination if you compare it to larger neighbors like Florence or Venice, but there is much for art lovers to see and very little crowds to compete with! 

Read my Best things to do in Ravenna
neonia ravenna unesco mosaic
neonia ravenna unesco mosaic
Ravenna Travel Guide video: Watch it in all its vibrance!

7. Visit the city where Dante wrote the Divina Commedia

Aside from visiting Ravenna for mosaics, it is interesting to note that the city is also the final resting place of Dante. Exiled from his birth home of Florence, Dante Alighieri lived the rest of his days in Ravenna, where he wrote the The Divina Commedia. It is said that Ravenna was his inspiration for Purgatory. Dante died in 1321 and his bones remain in a tomb in Ravenna. After his death and fame, Florence wanted his bones back (and at one point, attempted to steal them); however Ravenna got them back and they are safely kept in a mausoleum. The town is proud of their celebrated poet and you’ll find a Dante district and theater in honor of him.

dante mural in ravenna
dante mural in ravenna


8. Porticoes

From Modena to Bologna you’ll find Emilia-Romagna’s favorite architectural pattern are porticoes.

In fact, Bologna has 38km of porticoes, making it the city with the most porticoes in the world. You can take a guided Bologna city walking tour to learn about the city’s unique architecture. Bologna also houses the world’s longest portico. You can hike, walk or bike up the 3.8km portico trail leading to the Basilica of San Luca.

Read Things to Know before traveling Bologna (coming soon)
bologna porticoes italy
Porticoes in Modena
porticoes in modena
porticoes in modena


9. The oldest university in Europe

Did you know Emilia Romagna set the template for European universities? The oldest university of Europe was founded in 1088 in Bologna under a student guild. Today, the University of Bologna is one of the most esteemed universities of Europe and Italy. Famous alumni include Copernicus, Alberti, Pasolini, Albert Durer, Dante,  with contemporary luminaries such as Giorgio Armani, Enzo Ferrari, Michaelangelo Antonioni.

Visit the Archiginnasio Anatomical Theatre in Bologna– it was one of my favorite spots in Bologna. Highly ornate, the building was once the Palace of the Archiginnasio and used to be the main building of the University of Bologna. Perhaps the most morose but highly enthralling aspect is the actual Anatomical Theatre. Built in 1636, this room is where they held anatomical lectures and human dissection displays for the medical school.

SO Prospecting 728x90 min

Archiginnasio Anatomical Theatre in Bologna
Archiginnasio Anatomical Theatre in Bologna
Archiginnasio Anatomical Theatre in Bologna
Archiginnasio Anatomical Theatre in Bologna where they held medical demonstrations


10.  Experience wine from one of the oldest wine regions

Located in Central Italy, the fertile lands of Emilia Romagna are known to be one of the oldest wine regions. The famed regional wine is Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine with a crisp berry flavor, occasionally dry or sweet. It is light and high in acidity so it can be paired with a lot of varying meals that are fatty and creamy to aid digestion. Although abroad, sparkling wines have a distinction for being sweet and cheap, the sparkling wine of Emilia Romagna have a more elevated taste. As an occasional wine lover, I found it had the best of both worlds between a light and crisp chardonnay with the berry-ness of a merlot.

Emilia Romagna Sparkling red wine/ Lambrusco
Emilia Romagna Sparkling red wine/ Lambrusco
emilia romagna wine region
Exploring Emilia Romagna wine region with Canossa Grand Tours (mentioned below)


11. Drive the Emilia Romagna countryside in an Fiat Abarth 500

Mixing gastronomic with off-the-beaten path driving adventure, what better way to explore the lush Emilia Romagna countryside and its luxurious slow foods than through a curated drive tour in a cute Fiat Abarth 500?   I took an afternoon country drive experience with Canossa Grand Tours, exploring the freedom of the Bologna countryside, its remote villages and vineyards. The drive tour stopped at a spot offering balsamic vinegar tastings  and an elegant dinner presented from farm-fresh, regional foods. I was dying to drive, but unfortunately, I forgot to mention I only drive automatic; luckily, I had a representative from Canossa Events who was adept at handling the wheel.

Some travelers take cruises, but why not try something different? With Canossa Grand Tours you can have a unique trip expertly planned as you drive on your own, with a group or alongside a professional driver on a luxury getaway!

Driving in the italian countryside in an Abarth 500 with canossa grand tours
Driving in the italian countryside in an Abarth 500 with canossa grand tours
drive experience with canossa grand tours italy
Experience Emilia Romagna’s popular slow foods on my drive experience with canossa grand tours italy

12. Taste a 100 year old traditional balsamic vinegar

You’ve heard of wine tastings and pairings but did you know Italians do that with traditional balsamic vinegar? As I mentioned, Modena is known for their world famous balsamic vinegar. Visiting Emilia Romagna, you’ll find traditional balsamic is aged at a minimum of 12 years. The ideal vinegar is actually actually aged 20 or more years and is sold at around $800/bottle. 

A little outside Modena, visit Acetaia Pedroni,  a family-run vinegar factory and restaurant, where you can taste dishes paired with their different ages of traditional balsamic vinegar. From tasting balsamic with tortellini, fried eggs, greens and ice cream, it is a unique food experience which will pale your grocery store vinegar brand in comparison.

visit Acetaia Pedroni,  a family-run vinegar factory and restaurant
visit Acetaia Pedroni,  a family-run vinegar factory and restaurant
Modena Travel Guide & Must try foods of Modena


13. More leaning towers than Pisa

Delving into the history of Emilia-Romagna destinations, you’ll discover the region was built on marshland, so you’ll find city towers and occasionally buildings… lean. Not to worry though, the medieval architecture in the city has been around for hundreds of years.

Famous leaning architecture i’ve seen on my Italy trip: Bologna’s Asinelli and Garisenda towers , Ravenna leaning tower and the Modena Cathedral (pictured below).

modena cathedral leans
This is not the tilt of my camera. The Modena cathedral leans and is built on uneven ground.
bologna asinelli tower
bologna asinelli and garisenda towers

14. Visit the Republic of San Marino

Just 1.5 hours away from Bologna, tucked in the middle of Emilia Romagna is the Republic of San Marino. San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe; it is one of the most affluent and peaceful countries in the world. The old town is a walled medieval town with cobblestone streets and three towers (which is easy to mistake as castles). Visiting San Marino makes for an interesting day trip or  2-3 day trip if you have time. I visited in October when its presidents were being inaugurated into office– San Marino has two presidents (one of which was a woman). San Marino has most female presidents in world history!

Travel Tip: Get another stamp in your passport. Visit the San Marino tourism office to get your passport stamped. Cost is 5 Euro.

Read Things to Know about San Marino
republic of san marino
republic of san marino


Is Emilia Romagna safe for solo travelers?

s a female solo traveler on an Italy trip, small cities like RavennaTrevisoModena felt safe and laid back.  There are very little tourists compared to bigger cities like Rome, Florence, Venice.

  • There is reduced attraction for pickpockets. See my tips for outsmarting thieves. Pickpocket gypsies were my biggest fear on my Italy trip.  They can hang out at train stations looking to help travelers book their tickets or in crowded tourist areas.
  • Italy is predominantly an urban culture. Always use travel street smarts
  •  Research travel scams to the city you visit.
  • Recommended: Use anti-theft bags and crossbody bags to make theft and pickpocketing more complex for thieves.  On trains going to other cities I would still be watchful of my belongings.
  • Buy travel insurance for added peace of mind for your Italy trip.

SO Prospecting 728x90 min

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links to services I use. My Italy trip and some of its visits were sponsored by the #inEmiliaRomagna Tourism Board, Bologna and San Marino Tourism boards, Canossa Events and the iAmbassador team, in attendance of the #STSRavenna Social Travel Summit conference which discusses the travel blogger industry and responsible tourism. As always, all opinions in this article are my own.

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