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The off-the-beaten-track region in northern Italy, Emilia Romagna, is renowned for its history, culture, and motorsports events. It is also the ultimate foodie destination. Many of its cities are lesser-known hidden gems. Such as Parma, Ravenna, Bologna and Rimini. All in all, Emilia Romagna offers travellers a value-for-money vacation and, more importantly, amazing food and wine.
For any visitor wanting a unique Italian getaway in 2023, Emilia Romagna offers a ‘slow travel experience‘. In addition, an abundance of incredible landscapes and cultural activities, await the traveller, ready to be explored.
Here are 23 reasons to visit Emilia Romagna in 2023:
1. Explore the food capital of the world – Bologna
The historical capital of Bologna is located between the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Po Valley. Italians like to call Bologna by many names. For instance, it is called “The Learned”, for its historic University. Or, “The Fat”, for its rich food tradition.
But also, Bologna is a “UNESCO creative City of Music”. Specifically, it has one of the largest and most well-preserved medieval historical centres, full of restaurants, taverns, theatres and shops. Moreover, in 2021, Bologna’s famed porticoes were awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO.
2. Explore the land of speed at the Motor Valley Fest (Modena, 11-14 May 2023)
Since its inaugural edition in 2019, the Motor Valley Fest has become an exceptional open-air event celebrating the automotive industry. The UNESCO city of Modena will be the host of this four-day celebration of motor racing. The event features car shows, exhibitions and activities that take place across four days. It is a festival that will delight all two- and four-wheel enthusiasts.
Soon afterwards, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Imola, 19-21 May 2023) follows the Motor Valley Fest. The latter takes place at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari for its fourth edition.
3. Explore Parma – the creative city for gastronomy
If Emilia Romagna is considered the ‘Italian food valley’, then Parma is its capital. After all, it has recently been proclaimed by UNESCO a ‘Creative city for Gastronomy’.
The city offers excellent and unique culinary experiences. Indeed, travellers will be able to indulge in several local delicacies. Some examples include the famous Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Salami di Felino.
4. Admire Klimt’s “Portrait of a Lady” at the Galleria Ricci-Oddi in Piacenza
Discover the odd history of the famous oil on canvas painting by Gustav Klimt, painted between 1916 and 1917. In 1996, X-ray analysis revealed that the portrait was an overpainted version of Klimt’s lost work ‘Portrait of a Young Lady’, which disappeared in 1917.
The painting was stolen in February 1997 during the renovation of the building. In December 2019, 23 years after the theft, the missing painting was recovered in a bag from a recess in an exterior wall of the gallery by gardeners clearing away ivy. Since November 2020, the painting has been back on display at the gallery.
5. Pay a visit to Federico Fellini International Museum (Rimini)
Rimini’s Federico Fellini International Museum is the world’s largest museum. At the museum, you can see the life and work of the Italian film director and screenwriter and his poetic heritage.
Visitors can find drawings, costumes, exhibitions, film showings, scenography elements and multimedia presentations that allow guests to immerse themselves in the world of Fellini, regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.
6. Hike the footsteps of Italy’s divine poet, Roads of Dante and pilgrim’s path
Launched in 2017, Roads of Dante is a meditative meander in the footsteps of Dante, Italy’s divine poet. The epic 245-mile path (you can follow it by bike, on foot or by train) links all the places between the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna that Dante visited during his exile in the early 14th century.
It begins at Dante’s tomb in Ravenna and finishes at the Dante’s House Museum in Florence, taking in many of the places that the Poet described in his iconic Divine Comedy.
7. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar – a spinning of Emilia
Modena is home to one of the world’s most esteemed kinds of vinegar – balsamic vinegar aka ‘aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena’. Here, visitors have the chance to visit the first ‘theme’ park in Europe dedicated to the balsamic vinegar of Modena – ‘Balsamic Village’.
Covering 40,000 square metres with 70 hectares of vineyards, cellars, paths and illustrative panels, guests can discover and learn about the traditional production method of Modena’s unique product.
8. Explore the ‘Little Venice’ in Comacchio (Ferrara)
The small village of Comacchio rises in the middle of a lagoon of the same name. It was originally built by 13 small islands formed at the mouth of the Po River with the sea. The area there, called ‘Little Venice’, features a historical centre crossed by a dense network of canals. Hence its nickname, the “Floating City”.
9. Admire the starred sky of Galla Placidia (Ravenna)
Considered one of the most valuable treasures of the city, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the oldest buildings in Ravenna and a UNESCO World Heritage monument since 1996.
The breathtaking mosaics, described by UNESCO as “among the best surviving examples of this form of art in Europe,” is the starry sky that drapes parts of the ceiling, enhanced by the golden pours through the tiny alabaster windows, creating a magical atmosphere.
10. Experience the Po Delta Park (Ferrara)
Po Delta Park is one of the most beautiful oases in Italy and the second-largest wetland in Europe, hosting hundreds of animal and plant species. The vast UNESCO-listed area holds several lagoons, woodlands, and small islands, making it a real paradise for naturalists, biologists, tourists and birdwatchers.
11. Explore the Labirinto della Masone – Fontanellato (Parma)
The Labirinto della Masone is the largest bamboo labyrinth in the world – made with 200,000 bamboo plants between 30 cm and 15 metres in height. The path through it is over 3 kilometres in length. Within the connected building, visitors can find an art collection, a restaurant, and two suites to spend the night.
12. Visit Casa Pavarotti (Modena) and quirky Casa di Lucio Dalla (Bologna)
Casa Pavarotti is the place that Italian opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, called home. He built this house to entertain friends, teach young singers and enjoy family life. Visitors to Casa Pavarotti can discover his private collection of memorabilia, costumes and awards gathered throughout his long and successful career.
Lucio Dalla was a very popular Italian singer and songwriter who spent five decades in the music industry. Despite passing away in 2012, Dalla is still one of Italy’s most famous and beloved musicians. Visitors can now familiarise themselves with the eccentric entertainer by visiting his home-turned-museum in Bologna’s historic city centre.
13. Explore the city of Renaissance, Ferrara
Ferrara, also known as the city of Renaissance, is a remarkable city with unique characteristics and precisely why it obtained UNESCO recognition in 1995. The city, although designed in the Renaissance, has recently gone through profound development of urban planning, making it the perfect combination of the historical and modern landscape.
14. The Malatestiana Library and “The art of fashion”: a crossover between arts
Entering the Malatestiana Library in Cesena feels like crossing a portal into the past. It is the only library in the world that has remained unchanged for over 600 years. Neither electricity nor candles have ever been used within these walls. The goal is to not affect the microclimate created over the centuries, thus preventing damaging fragile illuminated manuscripts. Only small groups can visit and only before sunset.
From Cesena’s ancient library to Forlì’s modern exhibition “The art of fashion”, set up in the San Domenico Museums from 4 March to 2 July 2023. The path, built with hundreds of works, investigates art in its role as a witness to fashion painted, portrayed, sculpted, and made by great artists, from the Sun King to Pop Art, from the Ancien Régime to the late twentieth century. Paintings, sculptures and clothes investigate the link between dress and social role.
15. Discover the world of Parmigiano Reggiano – the king of cheeses
PDO Parmigiano Reggiano is perhaps one of Italy’s most internationally recognised delicacies and is used in a range of traditional dishes such as passatelli or perfect marriage with tagliatelle al ragù. Parmigiano Reggiano has unique, well-recognizable aromas and flavours, which vary according to the maturation time.
16. Try local olive oil from Brisighella (Ravenna)
The hidden medieval village of Brisighella is located between Ravenna and Florence, renowned for its excellent olive oil made with the indigenous Nostrana di Brisighella olive. The olives are hand-picked between November and December and, every year at the end of November, Brisighella’s olive oil is celebrated at the Sagra dell’Ulivo e dell’Olio festival.
17. Indulge in the Wellness Valley
The Wellness Valley is a social innovation model which focuses on people and their health and promotes well-being for everyone at all ages by creating an environment that supports and encourages healthy lifestyle choices.
Moreover, Emilia Romagna is home to several renowned thermal towns since Roman times. Undeniably, thermal waters are ideal for a relaxing stay focused on wellness and slow living. Even more so when surrounded by the wilderness or regions and National Parks, with outdoor activities including hiking.
18. Tibet House – Votigno di Canossa (Reggio Emilia)
In the sleepy stone village of Votigno di Canossa, 24km southwest of the city of Reggio Emilia, visitors can find Europe’s first (and Italy’s only) Tibetan monastery.
Inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1990, the complex includes a Tibetan temple, museum and B&B. In particular, it is a quiet and quirky place for contemplation nestled among the enchanting green hills of Reggio Emilia.
19. Underground Santarcangelo – Santarcangelo di Romagna (Rimini)
The village of Santarcangelo di Romagna, located 10km west of the seaside town of Rimini, is an idyllic medieval town featuring an ancient castle, charming alleyways, triumphant arches and a variety of restaurants. However, lurking below ground, a patchwork of caves, galleries and tunnels dug from the sandstone and clay unravels below, hiding secret escape routes, ice boxes, granaries and at least 150 caves.
This mysterious parallel city was used in the Middle Ages, some say to ensure survival during months-long sieges (grain, wine and perishable food storage are abundant in the concealed underground world), though its actual construction date and purpose remains a mystery unsolved.
20. Truffle hunting with a four-legged friend (Rimini Sant’Agata Feltria)
The first thing to remember is that truffles are a staple food used in a great number of dishes. Moreover, these underground delicacies are one of the region’s unique ingredients.
As part of this unique experience, specially trained dogs will come along with guests. Specifically, they act as sniffer dogs to sniff and dig out the best truffles.
Although they are rare to find, hence their market value, they grow close to the surface and their characteristic smell makes them easier to find. Therefore, this is a quirky and fun activity to add to your Emilia Romagna trip.
21. Choose between 23 world-class golf courses
Emilia Romagna is not only a serene spot for holidaymakers looking to unwind, but also for avid golfers looking to refine their skills. Offering 23 golf courses, ranging from 9 and 18 holes, the northern Italian region is the perfect place for both beginners and professional golfers.
So, from Argenta’s Golf Club picturesque course located just an hour from Bologna to Golf Club Le Fonti situated in Sillaro Valley’s rolling hills, there is something for all levels.
22. Take a sip of sparkling wine on World Lambrusco Day
World Lambrusco Day falls on June 21st of each year, when wine lovers can enjoy a sip of the iconic sparkling wine. The wine is almost exclusively produced in Italy with over 60 grape varieties of the wine being found across Italy, with those considered the best to be grown in Emilia Romagna.
Therefore, it’s the perfect place to discover the different varieties of wine whilst learning more about its history.
23. Enjoy a refreshing dip and enjoy the beaches of Rimini
To begin with, Rimini is one of the most famous seaside resorts on the Adriatic Riviera, situated in the southern strip of Emilia Romagna. Apart from attracting travellers from all over the world for its history and culture, Rimini has some of the most stunning beaches in the region.
To put it another way, it has everything: from family-friendly Bagno Egisto 38 to Bagno Libra offering a selection of coffee shops and restaurants, and Bagno 28 Otello, a beach loved by locals. Consequently, you’ll be able to unwind, relax and enjoy a refreshing swim.
For further information on Emilia Romagna, please visit www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en
All photos © Emilia Romagna Turismo