Emilia Romagna is slightly off the radar for most tourists, but after spending a little over a week there, I can say this region has just as much to offer as any other part of Italy. The food, the history, the landscapes, are all wonderful reasons to visit. My time there was jam-packed because Andy and I over scheduled ourselves, but we still only got to see a fraction of what there is to do here.
Our first stop in Emilia Romagna was the beach-side town of Rimini. While we didn’t really spend much time in the town itself, we did use it as a base to visit the tiny republic of San Marino, which is the third smallest country in Europe. Since this is an independent country, it’s technically not part of Italy, but it is completely surrounded by the Emilia Romagna region. I was fascinated by the history of such a small country that has managed to remain independent since 301 AD. The gorgeous views were well worth a visit as well.
Bologna was our base for a week as part of BlogVille. It’s a college town with a fun atmosphere, centuries of history, and delicious food. We often found ourselves just wandering through the streets or relaxing in Piazza Maggiore.
If it’s your first time in Bologna, start with Piazza Maggiore, where you’ll find a fountain and statue of the god Neptune. It was created in the mid 1500s and ended up being rather controversial. When you stand behind the statue and a bit to his right, the thumb on his outstretched left hand ends up in an oddly deceiving position. Neptune ends up looking extremely well endowed from that angle. Apparently this did not go over so well with the Catholic Church, but by the time they saw the finished statue, it could not be changed.
Another thing we like to do in other cities is explore local markets. Bologna’s market was lively and colorful, with just about any type of fruit, vegetable, meat, or fish you might want. Check out more of the best places to eat and shop in Bologna.
While we were in Bologna, Andy and I learned about gelato and sorbet at Gelato University. It was such a fun experience, and we continued making our own sorbet once we got home.
Bologna is also where I learned how to make pasta and Bolognese sauce, or what is actually called Ragu. I was happy to cook (and of course eat) the real thing, which is a bit different from the meat sauce I’m used to.
Andy and I didn’t plan much for our day in Ferrara. I mostly wanted to see the castle, which I loved because it has a moat. We spent the rest of the day just wandering through the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of this medieval town.
The town of Modena is famous for its balsamic vinegar. I never really thought about a vinegar tasting before, but it turned out to be really interesting. We learned just how much time and care goes into making high end balsamic vinegar, and the different tastes were incredible. We also learned that we’re not fancy enough to be able to taste juniper or oak in the vinegar, though that didn’t diminish our enjoyment of the different varieties.
This small coastal town not only had a laid back beach scene, but also a long history of maritime culture. The canal running through the town is actually an open air museum showcasing old fishing boats. It was fun to explore Cesenatico and see a place I had never even heard of.
When we arrived in the hilltop town of San Leo, the first thing we did was tour the two churches in the center of town. Our guide told us stories of how they were built on top of pagan churches in the middle ages. In the newer church, he pointed out various things about the architecture and statues, including one statue that is said to help women get pregnant. Lucie, one of the other bloggers in our group, and I both took a step back from this particular statue, looked at each other and said we needed to stay away from that one.
Then we set off to explore the castle. This was a good one, with great views, historical information without being too museum-y, and the look of a typical medieval castle. The guide’s stories of the castle’s prisoners was enhanced by the threatening storm clouds gathering in the sky.
After all the great castles we saw this summer, I’m not sure I could ever pick a favorite. But the one in the tiny village of Petrella Guidi was certainly unique. This 13th century castle was pretty much left as it was, so you can really imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago. The surrounding village is now an artist community with just a handful of residents. The director Federico Fellini supposedly spent time there admiring the views, and there is now a memorial to him and his wife.
I can’t say I was surprised by how gorgeous Emilia Romagna is, or by how much fun I had while I was there. I mean, it’s Italy, so if anything my time in this region just confirmed my opinion that Italy is an all-around wonderful country. But I was more than happy to explore a region I had never been to. With fewer tourists than some other parts of Italy, it felt less crowded and more relaxed. Definitely the kind of travel I like!
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