Emilia Romagna is known for its "slow" food (including Prosciutto di Parma, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) and "fast" cars (including Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati).  Its main road (A1/A14) parallels the ancient Roman Via Aemilia (now SS9) through the very flat Po Valley, but it gets more hilly to the south (extending into the Apennines). Roughly speaking the "Emilia" part is west of Bologna, and the "Romagna" part is east of Bologna—the cuisine and culture changes a bit between the two (Emilia has the famous "slow" foods and Romagna has lesser-known specialities like squacquerone and piadina; Romagna had a longer history of being ruled by the popes, and there's an old saying that "if you ask for a drink in Emilia, you get water, and in Romagna, you get wine").

Getting There

Foodie Tours

It's a lot of fun to see how Parmigiano-Reggiano, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma are made...you basically have two options:

Organized Tours

Several companies and individuals run tours specializing in food products; the following are some of the ones that seem to get good reviews:

Do-It-Yourself Tours

This requires a car, some planning, and in some cases at least one person who speaks decent Italian...but it can be great fun to organize your own tour:



This university town (indeed, the university is one of the oldest in the world) is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, and has a lot of great restaurants.  The town also has two "leaning towers"!  Slow Travel has a good introduction to the city and its geography.



Some say that "the best Bolognese food is found outside of Bologna"...this may not be actually true, but the last time I visited (October 2013), it seemed like the best food was indeed outside of the city, or was home-cooked. Also keep in mind that American-style "bologna" and "spaghetti bolognese" don't exist here (they're Italian-American inventions)...the closest you get to the former is mortadella, and the latter is usually tagliatelle al ragù (bolognese).

Just outside Bologna



Also don't overlook apartment rentals such as Airbnb, especially if you want a kitchen (some of the best eating in Bologna is cooking your own food from the markets/shops).


Hometown of tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the best balsamic vinegar in the world, Modena has a nice historic center with a beautiful cathedral...and the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati factories are just outside of town. Also the star of Season 2 of Aziz Ansari's Master of None TV show. Reggio nell'Emilia is a slightly larger town between Modena and Parma.

Where to Eat

Where to Stay


To the northwest of Modena, past Reggio nell'Emilia, Parma is known for its Prosciutto di Parma, made from pigs fed on the equally famous cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano.  (Note that while Parmigiano-Reggiano can be made in several provinces, to be called Prosciutto di Parma the production must be in the Parma province.)  Check out the Duomo in the historic center, built in the early middle ages with Coreggio's Assumption on the ceiling (more at the Sacred Destinations page for the Parma Cathedral).  The Parmigiano-Reggiano museum is in Soragna (~30 min W of Parma, just of A1, see above for more info). Typographic nerds should reserve ahead to visit the Museo Bodoniano (2nd website), which is devoted to typeface designer Giambattista Bodoni (open only by reservation between 9 and 1 M-Sat at 052-122-0449/052-122-0411 or mubodoni@unipr.it / museobodoni@beniculturali.it).

Where to Eat

Where to Stay


Near Veneto (and thus a handy day-trip from Venice), this town is known for its Byzantine mosaics, which date to the earliest days of the Christian church (see www.ravennamosaici.it for more info).  Dante also wrote much of the Divine Comedy here, and is buried near the church of San Francesco (Tomba di Dante, on Via Dante Alighieri).


This historic town is famous for its Estense Castle (Catello Estense, 9-1 and 3-7 last entry at 6:15 PM, closed Mon most of the year), medieval arched streets such as via delle Volte, and specialities such as cappellacci di zucca.

Where to Eat


Province between Rimini (along the coast) and Bologna


This town along the Adriatic has large, long beaches with huge resorts. While popular with Italians, it's a bit boring for Americans since there isn't much to see (apart from nearby San Marino).  See Imola, above, for some good places to eat on the road from Bologna to Rimini.

San Marino

This tiny country of about 30,000 people is crammed onto 24 square miles of mountainous territory, giving tourists a peek at what medieval Italian city-states were like.  Unlike all the other city states, they kept their independence largely because they sheltered Garibaldi before he became a big shot, and he repaid the favor.  While touristy, it is very scenic, especially if you duck off the most touristy lanes to explore the various castles and ramparts.


The farthest North/West part of Emilia, Piacenza is close to Milan and Genoa, and has a medieval core