Emilia-Romagna Maps & Travel Guide
Po River Country & Italy's Culinary Heart, Emilia Romagna is Quite Enchanting

The charms of Emilia-Romagna are many. From seaside cities like Marchella Hazan's Cesenatico or Federico Fellini's Rimini, to the regional and culinary capital of Bologna and the Motor city of Modena, to the great Renaissance cities of Parma and Ferrara, there's way too much to see and absorb on a short vacation.

Medium sized cities like Faenza can be far more interesting than you know. Its International Ceramics Museum is the largest of such museums in the world. It's unlikely you'll get through it all; it covers ceramics from its first appearance in history.

Don't forget the smaller places as you plan your vacation. Take in the haunting beauty of the Po Delta outside the compelling canal town of Comacchio, where the marshland has been reshaped by people since early settlements. It's not just the watery landscape you need to pay attention to, but you must taste wine grown in the sandy soil of the delta along with the eel famously trapped here. If Romanesque architecture intrigues you, a visit to the Abbey of Pomposa, whose church was founded in the 6th century, will ravage you with its tranquility and the beauty of its design. 2 restaurants on the site will restore you with the traditional food and wine of the delta.

But let's start with the map.

Map of Emilia Romagna

emilia romagna travel map



Getting Your Bearings

The region of Emilia-Romagna is wedged between the east-west trending Po river and the Reggiano Appenine mountains, separating it from Tuscany and Le Marche on the south, Liguria on the west, and Lombardia and the Veneto on the north. The autostrada A1 runs east-west through the region. The high speed Milan to Bologna rail line parallels the autostrada in Emilia Romagna. European long distance buses like those of GoEuro are also a possibility if your next destination is a big city out of the region: Discover Europe by Bus.

bus travel from Milan to Rimini

It is 98 miles or 158 km from Bologna to Venice and takes about an hour and 50 minutes to drive, two hours and 20 minutes on the train.

It is 134 miles / 216 kilometers driving distance from Milan to Bologna, about 2 hours and ten minutes of driving time. Bus or train takes a little over three hours.

A Taste of Emilia Romagna: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Enzo Ferrari Museum picture

Modena: Motor City

It was a Roman city that came alive in the 10th and 11th centuries when Romanesque buildings surrounded the Piazza Grande and remain in amazing shape today. The World Heritage Cathedral's first stone was laid in 1099.

Modena is also modern, as you find when you visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum.

Read more about Modena

modica sicily chocolates

Ferrara

Wander through the Castello Estense, a sprawling castle built in 1385 after the citizens revolted. It's home to the tourist office today, where there's a cafe and bookstore. The castle is surrounded by real moat and there are dungeons!

You can also walk the city walls Duke Ercole I d'Este had built between 1493 and 1505.

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ravenna byzantine mosaic

Ravenna & Mosaics

An hour from Ferrara by train or car takes you to Ravenna, where you'll find excellently preserved religious monuments from the city's period of splendor and wealth up until the 8th century. The Byzantine stronghold fused artistic influences from the Orient with Christian iconography evident in the gold mosaics that still gleam.

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Bologna

The region's capital, with two tilting medieval towers at its core, is considered the culinary heart of Italy. Tourists miss it, prefering to spend time in the Big Three and Cinque Terre, but it's worth seeing. Bologna, a transportation hub of the region, is easy to get to. It's about halfway between Florence and Milan.

You'll want to try the Bolonese specialties. Tortellini is at its best here, and the Tagliatelle Bolognese is likely to be way different than the "spag bol" that institutional cafeterias throw on your plate. The meat sauce is the essence of the animal; it's not a tomato sauce speckled with a little hamburger. The dish should never, ever be served with spaghetti, only fresh egg tagliatelle is used in the Bolognese dish. Otherwise, you can enjoy a spaghetti con ragu, the pasta police will not come after you...

Here are some highlights you can experience in a quick trip to Bologna, compiled by Martha Bakerjian of Martha's Italy:

  • Piazza Maggiore is one of the central squares, lined with arcades. It's a good place to sit at an outdoor cafe. Around the square are the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio, the Palazzo dei Notai, and the Archeological Museum.
  • Piazza del Nettuno, next to Piazza Maggiore, another of Bologna's main squares, has an ornate 16th-century fountain in the center and is surrounded by medieval civic buildings. Go inside the library and admire its beautiful interior.
  • Via Clavatura, east of the squares, has a number of small, interesting food stalls.
  • You can climb the steep staircase to the top of Torre degli Asinelli, one of only a few surviving medieval towers, for a great view of Bologna. Torre degli Asinelli and another leaning tower are in Piazza Porta Ravegnana where seven medieval streets converge.
  • In Piazza Santo Stefano you will find an unusual cluster of four interlocking Romanesque churches. The oldest, the church of SS. Vitale e Agricola, has parts of Roman temples and columns. There is also an interesting courtyard with a maze of little chapels.
  • The Pinacoteca Nazionale is one of Italy's best galleries with several important works of art.
  • The University, one of Europe's oldest, is worth a visit. Palazzo Poggi has two interesting museums. Sometimes you will see student demonstrations or lively graduation celebrations.

Tours of Bologna Bologna Hotels and Apartments Bologna Hostels Eat at the home of a home chef in Bologna

Smaller Places in Emilia Romagna

brisighella view

Brisighella

Brisighella, a gypsum town, has been named "one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, "Slow City" and has won an Orange flag from the Italian Touring Club for for excellency in tourism, hospitality and the environment. And yet you probably haven't heard of it.

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comacchio canal

Comacchio

Call it a little Venice if you wish, but you won't find throngs of tourists. Discover how they processed the local eels to create a canned delicacy, see the Roman ship that ran aground in a local lagoon, walk the Loggiato dei Cappuccini, the longest in Italy, and take a tour of the Po Delta.

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san leo

San Leo

Just driving to San Leo is an inspiring experience. That hilltop is 600 meters above sea level and it's been occupied since Roman times. It is the perch for the fortezza, San Leo's castle. Not everyone was blinded by San Leo's beauty; Dante is said to have based puratory on the site.

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Unique Places to Stay in Romagna

Can a hotel provide all of your vacation needs for a week or so? Well, two of them, in our opinion, do just that. Take a cooking class, go on a truffle hunt, dance your heart away to traditional music of the region and eat very, very well in either of these two excellent places to stay, one on the Adriatic and one in the mountains of Romagna.

Despite the fact that these hotels are totally independent from one another, each features one day a week of traditional Romagna music, dance and cuisine at very reasonable prices.

Hotel Eliseo

hotel elisio musicians

Hop across the street and you're on the hotel's manicured beach on the Riviera di Rimini. You can take a cooking class and learn what makes up the finest of cucina Romangnolo or simply take up a seat in the restaurant and have it served to you, preferably on a night when they're featuring traditional music. Walkers can walk forever along the Lungomare and shop until they drop. The hotel is one of a select few, family run piccoli alberghi di qualita, small hotels of quality. So don't take one of those cookie cutter hotels owned by Russians who don't know Italian tradition, go to this one on the Rimini Riviera.

Learn More About the Hotel

Al Vecchio Convento

pasta making

Head for little Portico di Romagna and you'll be immersed in old Romagna, especially if you take a room or apartment in the Albergo Diffuso Al Vecchio Convento. The town has some great artisans, and the hotel can arrange truffle tours in the fall. That's me in the picture rolling out my pasta, yes, they give cooking classes, even to old codgers like me.

On Wednesdays everyone heads to the basement for a buffet dinner, musicians and dancing (check with them first to make sure). You could make a perfect mountain village vacation by staying a week here.

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The Food Specialties of Emilia Romagna

All over Italy, traditional food specialties that oozed out of the kitchens of the poor during the 20 years of Fascism are making a comeback. One of these is the simple and amazing Passatelli in Brodo. It's made of stuff peasants had on hand: Bread crumbs, parmigiano, eggs, nutmeg, and lemon zest squeezed into little worms and dropped into broth; you can see Roberto's here. You can also learn to make some art with Irma Fiorentini, who will teach you things you thought you could never learn and put you up in a bedroom above her studio.

(Speaking of Mussolini and Fascism, you can also visit il Duce's birthplace and final resting place in Predappio, another Emilia Romagna attraction that no everyone realizes.)

The famous meats and cheeses you know, from Prosciutto crudo di Parma and Mortadella di Bologna to Parmigiano Reggiano. If you haven't had real Balsamic vinegar, aceto balsamico tradizionale DOP, you don't know what you're missing. It's not the same stuff as the sugary commercial dreck. The good stuff is often drizzled over pear-stuffed pasta. You can visit the Balsamic Vinegar Museum in Spilamberto to see how it's made and smell the woods that the barrels are made of to contain the precious liquid.

Piadina is a historic flat bread famous in Emilia Romangna, especially in the eastern part along the Adriatic, were it’s most revered and they call it Piadina Romagnola. You wrap it around anything. You may wish to participate vicariously in my march through Rimini for the ultimate Piadina.

Airports in Emilia Romagna

There are two major airports in Emilia-Romagna, Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport and Rimini Airport (Federico Fellini International Airport).

Emilia Romagna Weather and Climate

My prefered time to visit the Emilia Romagna is late fall. There will be fog. But there will also be truffles. Bologna's historic weather charts show that rain peaks in November, while April, May and September offer the most comfortable temperatures.

Enjoy planning your Emilia Romagna vacation!

The Wandering Italy Blog

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