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.
Table of Contents: 14 Incredible Reasons to visit Emilia Romagna, Italy
- 1 14 Incredible Reasons to visit Emilia Romagna
- 1.1 1. Food Valley: It is heaven for food lovers
- 1.2 2. Tagliatelle
- 1.3 3. Motor Valley: Visit the birthplace of speed
- 1.4 4. Take a simulated race drive in a Lamborghini
- 1.5 5. Race a Ferrari on a racetrack
- 1.6 6. Ravenna and UNESCO Mosaics
- 1.7 7. Visit the city where Dante wrote the Divina Commedia
- 1.8 8. Porticoes
- 1.9 9. The oldest university in Europe
- 1.10 10. Experience wine from one of the oldest wine regions
- 1.11 11. Drive the Emilia Romagna countryside in an Fiat Abarth 500
- 1.12 12. Taste a 100 year old traditional balsamic vinegar
- 1.13 13. More leaning towers than Pisa
- 1.14 14. Visit the Republic of San Marino
- 2 Is Emilia Romagna safe for solo travelers?
- 3 Best Travel Insurance for your Italy trip
- 4 Watch Emilia Romagna Trip Guide videos
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 RavennaRavenna 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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.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).
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
Is Emilia Romagna safe for solo travelers?
As a female solo traveler and content creator (with a day pack full of film gear), the Emilia Romagna region and its cities felt safe and surprisingly laid back. I would even recommend it to first time solo travelers. Honestly, visiting Italy, my only worry was encountering gypsy pickpockets. But as a lesser known region, Emilia Romagna has significantly less tourist crowds compared to bigger cities like Rome, Florence, Venice. The most touristy it got was in Bologna, where my biggest competition was amongst Italian tourists. Thus, there is little attraction for pickpockets to do business there. That does not mean that crime cannot happen and one should always use travel street smarts. On trains going to other cities, I would still be watchful of my belongings.
I highly recommend buying travel insurance for added peace of mind for your Italy trip.
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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