I’m a huge fan of Italy, having spent a lot of time there as a child. This was in no small part, due to the food. As an adult, with an Italian boyfriend, my love for Italian cuisine has only increased, so I was particularly excited to visit Emilia Romagna, with its incredible gastronomy, especially as some of my favourite foods originated from the region.
Enrico and I spent four days exploring Emilia Romagna, which was awarded the No.1 spot in Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe list for 2018. We soon realised that four days barely scratches the surface of this gorgeous region (although it certainly filled our stomachs!), so the title is well deserved.
The Via Emilia, an ancient Roman road, passes through the centre of Emilia Romagna, and through the major towns from Piacenza in the east to Rimini on the Adriatic coast. We followed this route, taking detours to the countryside. Four days doesn’t allow you to take in the whole region, merely a small part of it, so we decided to stick to the main towns and cities in the centre and west. We will just have to return another time for the rest!
Our route and suggestions for a four-day visit:
Day 1 in Emilia Romagna: Parma
Spend the first morning exploring the countryside surrounding the city. We visited Bré del Gallo – a Culatello cellar, to sample some of this delicious cured meat and see how it is produced. While perhaps not as famous as Parma di Prosciutto, Culatello is considered the king of salumi and is incredibly tasty! If you prefer Prosciutto, then you can also find a number of producers to visit around the city.
In the afternoon, make your way into the city and wander the beautiful streets, stopping for a gelato and people watching on Piazza del Duomo and Piazza del Garibaldi. Before dinner, enjoy an aperitivo at Enoteca Fontana.
Spend the night in Parma. We had a camper so slept in an Aree di Sosta (camper stop) just outside the city.
Day 2: Reggio Emilia
Head to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory! I love cheese, so this was a pretty exciting prospect for me and it did not disappoint. We visited Fattoria Scalabrini, bright and early and watched the cheese masters at work, before sampling some of the delicious cheese.
Visit the town of Reggio Emilia for an Erbazzone. I’d never heard of this snack before our trip to Emilia Romagna, but it quickly became a favourite. Two layers of crumbly pastry filled with chard, spinach, onions, cured pig’s fat, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano. Yum! Reggio Emilia is a lovely leafy town and a great place for an afternoon stroll.
Following Reggio, drive into the countryside. We spent the evening learning how to make some of the regions typical pasta – tortelli, tortellini, tagliatelle and maltagliati – at an agriturismo – Le Barbaterre. A cooking class is a great way to learn the cuisine of a region and the best part is that you get to eat it afterwards!
Spend the night at Le Barbaterre and wake up to beautiful views of the countryside.
Day 3 – Modena
Explore the beautiful city of Modena, with its UNESCO Cathedral and Grand Piazza, as well as an excellent market.
If you’ve booked in advance (and have a good budget) then eat lunch at the world’s best restaurant – Osteria Francescana. If you haven’t (like us), then there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from, like Trattoria Aldinda, where we enjoyed a traditional tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth).
Hit the wineries to taste some of the region’s wines – Lambrusco and Pignoletto.
Then visit an Acetaia – a balsamic vinegar producer and sample some of the famous Modena Balsamic Vinegar DOP.
Finish the day with dinner at Acetaia Paltrinieri, who create delicious dishes with their balsamic vinegar.
After the wine tasting, spend the night at Garuti Vini’s agriturismo.
Day 4 – Ferrara & Bologna
Wander the streets of Ferrara, visiting the Estense Castle and Palazzo dei Diamanti, named for its diamond patterned walls. Grab a Pasticcio di Maccheroni (a macaroni pie) for lunch from Ferrara Store.
Drive to Bologna and spend the afternoon in the region’s capital. Climb the Asinelli Tower, Italy’s largest leaning tower, for great views of the city. Check out Piazza Maggiore, and Piazza Re Enzo before stopping for a dinner of the city’s infamous ragu.
Thanks to Emilia Romagna Tourism for hosting A Lovely Planet.
This post was created in paid partnership with Lonely Planet. All views are my own.
Travelling to Italy? Check out our article on Amalfi