Emilia Romagna Travel Guide: The Essentials

Emilia Romagna Travel Guide

Girl’s Gotta Drink’s Emilia Romagna Travel Guide by Elena Pasero helps you explore this magical gastronomic land. I’ve only been to the region a handful of times, but I’m endlessly captivated by the food, wine, and culture. And, when Elena talks about our program activities there, her passion is contagious, so I asked her to be our resident Emilia Romagna content expert – and, boy did she nail it. Baci, ragazzi! Val 


Ciao! I’m Elena and some of you may have met me on tours and / or with Girl’s Gotta Drink travel program planning. When Val asked me to write about the hidden culinary paradise of Emilia Romagna, my mouth started to water just thinking about it. My last trip in December 2023 was all-consuming – and, I mean food! 

My Emilia Romagna travel guide features: 

  • All about Emilia Romagna
  • The best places to visit in Emilia Romagna
  • What to do and how to indulge in the rich local cuisine
  • The special aspects of the history of Emilia Romagna
  • Bonus: Find an Emilia Romagna map to get your geographical bearings! 

Where is Emilia Romagna? 

Situated in northern Italy, this diverse region is nestled between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. From vibrant cities to picturesque countryside, the region offers something for every traveler. 

Bordering Lombardy and Veneto to the north, Piedmont and Liguria to the west, and Tuscany and Le Marche to the south, the Emilia Romagna region makes a great central point for unforgettable experiences in Italy. 

The region is easily accessible from its capital city of Bologna, which offers fast trains from major cities like Florence (35 minutes), Milan (1 hour), Verona (1 to 1.5 hours), and even Rome is only about 2 hours via fast train!

Emilia Romagna tourism: Why visit? 

Emilia Romagna tourism revolves around its incredible gastronomy and is often referred to as Italy’s ‘Food Valley’. That said, I believe the best way to explore it is by following the region’s food highlights. Various food tours and wine tastings depart from the towns of Modena and Bologna. 

Food Experiences 

In Parma, taste the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano paired with the Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) – a dry-cured charcuterie with a unique aging process. Take it deeper! Book a tour to learn about production of both of these Italian staples. 

In Modena, savor the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (Traditional Balsamic vinegar), aged for a minimum of 12 years. Our clients often say that our Modena Balsamic Vinegar Tour is one of the favorites of their time in Italy. 

In Bologna, don’t miss out on the tortellini – the finest stuffed pasta originally from the charming town of Bologna. 

parma food tour from bologna
Parmigiano-Reggiano, the “king of cheeses,” is a hard, granular cheese known for its distinct flavor and quality. It’s a key ingredient in Italian cuisine and a popular worldwide export.

Wine tasting Emilia Romagna

Explore the sweeping countryside with some Emilia Romagna wine tasting, home to the much-loved Lambrusco grape variety. 

Lambrusco wines range from dry to sweet and is known for its lively bubbles and endless versatility as a pairing with regional dishes. In contemporary viniculture, Lambrusco has undergone a remarkable transformation, liberating itself from the connotations of its inexpensive and lively predecessors. 

The evolution is owed to a renegade crew of new small producers daring to unlock the full potential of this age-old grape family. Boasting 13 officially registered grape varieties, eight distinguished DOCs spanning from Modena to Mantova, Lambrusco sparkling wine remains a captivating enigma. 

My preference for wine tasting Emilia Romagna is exploring Lambrusco sparkling wine around the cozy village of Castelvetro, located south of Modena. Every autumn, the village comes to life with vibrant foliage and the crimson stalks (graspe) that lend their name to Lambrusco Grasparossa.

In this idyllic setting, a collective of wineries has established the Montebarello 155 consortium, championing high-quality standards. These regulations encompass manual harvesting, controlled yields, and the exclusive use of monovarietal Grasparossa grapes.

Lambrusco grape
The Lambrusco grape in Castelvetro di Modena.

Where to stay in Emilia Romagna

The Emilia Romagna region is steeped in history, with traces of ancient civilizations and medieval architecture waiting to be explored throughout.

Emilia Romagna Map

When considering where to stay in Emilia Romagna as well as what to do, keep in mind the geographic layout. Our map showcases the primary cities of Bologna, Modena, and Parma so you understand the distances. Click on it to more precisely map out your time in the region.  

 

My Emilia Romagna travel guide is a good reference for where to explore and the geography. I suggest starting your journey in the region’s capital of Bologna, known for its iconic medieval towers and the world’s oldest university. 

Bologna Airport: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) – located about 3.7 miles / 6 kilometers from the city center, with many flights to and from European cities. 

Bologna Train Station: If you are already in Italy, the Bologna Centrale railway station is located close to the city center. The station is a major transportation hub with high-speed train connections to cities like Milan, Florence, and Rome. 

As far as logistics and practicality when considering where to stay in Emilia Romagna, Bologna is a great choice. But let’s not forget food and culture! 

Emilia Romagna Travel Guide
Bologna Centrale Railway Station, Address: Piazza delle Medaglie d’Oro, 40121 Bologna.

Bologna Walking Tours

On foot, explore the city with a variety of Bologna food walking tours. Visit time-honored food artisans to unveil its profound significance of food while also taking in the city’s history and culture. 

Wander the streets of Bologna for a guided walking tour where you try delicious food and learn about the city’s rich history and culture. Your guide shares fascinating stories about Bologna’s culinary traditions and introduces you to local restaurants and open-air markets. 

As you meander, encounter and appreciate the various types of porticoes that bestow the city with a truly distinctive character. The porticoes of Bologna span nearly 38 miles / 61 km, with 25 miles / 40 km concentrated in the city center. 


What are porticoes?

A portico is a covered walkway with an overhead roof, usually supported by columns.

porticoes of Bologna
The porticoes of Bologna became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.

Why is Bologna famous for its porticoes? 

Bologna is one of Europe’s largest and most well-preserved medieval city centers. In 2021, they were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their artistic and socio-cultural value.

Dating back to 1100, these porticoes evolved as a response to the University’s expansion, creating new urban spaces. Over the years, they have transformed into communal and commercial areas, serving as open-air salons—an embodiment of Bologna’s warm hospitality.


Best places to visit in Emilia Romagna: Don’t Miss Parma and Modena

Parma and Modena offer a genuine Italian experience where you immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. These towns exude a charming ambiance and boast vibrant piazzas. 

Strolling through the narrow streets you encounter local markets, boutique shops, and lively cafés, allowing you to embrace the authentic Italian way of life. 

Among the best places to visit in Emilia Romagna are the UNESCO World Heritage sites. In addition to Bologna’s porticoes noted above, both Parma and Modena have also been recognized for their exceptional cultural and culinary heritage: 

  • Parma is part of the “City of Gastronomy” network, acknowledging its rich gastronomic tradition.
  • Modena’s Cathedral, Piazza Grande, and Ghirlandina Tower collectively form a UNESCO World Heritage site.

And, if you are a car enthusiast, Modena’s strategic location makes for an easy day trip to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello!

Ferrari museum Emilia Romagna

My Favorite Emilia Romagna Facts!

Here are my favorite five facts on the region featuring Emilia Romagna history – food, arts, and culture. 

  1. The Birthplace of Tagliatelle – yum! Emilia Romagna proudly claims its place in culinary history as the birthplace of the long, flat ribbon-like tagliatelle pasta. Legend has it that a chef in Bologna was inspired by the hair of Lucrezia Borgia and created this iconic pasta shape in homage.
  2. The Oldest University in the World – ABC, 123! The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest university in the world still in operation. It has a rich history of academic excellence and innovation.
  3. Mozart’s First Opera: The city of Bologna witnessed the world premiere of Mozart’s first opera, “La finta semplice” in 1769 when the prodigious composer was just 12 years old.
  4. Piadina Romagnola Tradition: Piadina Romagnola is a traditional flatbread from the Romagna sub-region. Often enjoyed with a variety of fillings, it reflects the simplicity and authenticity of local cuisine.
  5. Home to the World’s Smallest Republic: Within Emilia-Romagna lies San Marino, the world’s oldest and smallest republic. The independent microstate boasts breathtaking views from its mountainous perch.

And, there you have my Emilia Romagna Travel Guide! Now I’ll be dreaming of tortellini and Lambrusco for days! Stay tuned for more content on my love of the region. 

If you need planning help for your time in the Emilia Romagna region – and other parts of Italy – let us know!

Book your trip to Emilia Romagna – and beyond!


Emilia Romagna Travel Guide, Girl’s Gotta Drink Guest Writer: Elena Pasero

Italy travel planner

About Elena, Travel Designer & Licensed Guide

With a Bachelor’s in Food Culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra and a multicultural hospitality career spanning Italy and the USA, Elena is our Girl’s Gotta Drink foodie expert. And, she knows her way around a wine cellar, too! 

A self-proclaimed disaster in the kitchen, Elena’s pursuit of tasty treats makes her the travel planner and tour guide you want! Elena’s always on the prowl for the best eats that showcase her native Piedmont region as well as her adventures across Italy and the globe.

Read more from Elena: 

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