Region Map With Cities and Towns
The Emilia-Romagna region is set between the Po River, the Adriatic Sea, and the Appennino chain of mountains that forms Italy's backbone. The string of major cities in a northwest to southeast trending line you see on the map featured here is in the flat Po Valley, linked by the A1 Autostrada and a railway line that starts in Milan and continues to the coast. There are airports at Bologna (Aeroporto G. Marconi), Rimini (Federico Fellini International Airport), and Parma, with flights to Italian cities and other parts of Europe.
Even among Italians, the regional cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna is considered to be the best in Italy. Wonderful ingredients come from the region, including the famous ham called Prosciutto di Parma, plus Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Some production centers for these foods near Parma and Modena are open to visitors.
The Castles of Parma and Piacenza
Between the Po River and the Appennino mountain range south of Parma and Piacenza lie a series of wonderfully preserved castles. If you are traveling by car, seeing a few castles makes a pleasant day and a good way to see some of the beautiful countryside.
Favorite Small Towns
Interesting small towns and villages dot the interior of the region. San Leo and Castell'Arquato are pretty hill towns leading up to a castle. Santarcangelo is a larger hill town with interesting museums and a castle. Brisighella is a thermal spa center whose picturesque medieval village is set below an unusual clock tower and fortress perched on cliffs, while nearby Dozza is known for its murals and art.
Bobbio is a small town in the Trebbia River Valley, surrounded by beautiful countryside, known for its ancient Devil's Bridge and annual snail festival. Busseto is a peaceful town dedicated to opera composer Guiseppe Verdi, who once lived there.
Eastern Emilia-Romagna has several historic sites and castles, plus beaches, outstanding cuisine and centers for the production of ceramics and mosaics. Here's our suggested itinerary for enjoying a few days in the eastern Emilia-Romagna, from Bologna to Rimini.
Top Cities to Visit
- Bologna is the largest city in Emilia-Romagna. Called the "red city" because of the use of red bricks in its architecture and for its leftist politics, the city is one of the richest and oldest in Italy and it's also home to one of the oldest universities. There's a young, lively vibe here, plus lots to see, from the giant medieval towers tilting precariously in the center of the city to the lively marketplace and the central square, Piazza Maggiore.
- Parma is a culinary mecca with a fine compact historic center that includes an interesting 12th-century Baptistry, its Romanesque Cathedral with frescoes, and an unusual bell tower on the Governor's Palace. The city holds a Verdi Festival in the fall and the neo-classical Regio di Parma theater holds opera, dance, and drama performances as well as concerts and special events.
- Modena is lightly touristed but has a wonderful medieval center built around its 12th-century Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Modena was the hometown of Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari, whose childhood home just outside the historic center is now the Enzo Ferrari House Museum. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is produced outside the city and a good place to find out about it is at the Spilamberto Balsamic Vinegar Museum.
- Ferrara is a walled Renaissance city with a castle, a beautiful 12th-century cathedral, and good examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. During the Renaissance, Ferrara was an intellectual and artistic center, designed according to the late 15th-century principles of the "ideal city". It's part of the UNESCO Quadrilateral of historic towns.
- Ravenna is famous for its mosaics. Once the western capital of the Roman Empire, Ravenna has stunning Byzantine-style, 5th-6th-century mosaics inside its ancient churches and monuments.
- Faenza is one of Italy's top producers of ceramics and it has a fantastic ceramics museum. The city itself is interesting to visit and has a huge central square lined with porticoes. Like many Emilia Romagna cities, it's full of bicycles.
Towns to Visit on the Adriatic Coast
Rimini, on the Adriatic Coast, is one of Italy's top beach resorts and is known for its nightlife, beaches, and as the hometown of Federico Fellini. It also has an interesting historic center and Roman ruins.
Stretching along the coast on either side of Rimini are other seaside resort towns with good beaches such as Riccione and Bellaria-Igea Marina. They offer more laid back alternatives to the party feel of Rimini and have good facilities for families. Both towns have hotels on the seaside promenade and have small centers with shops, bars, harbors, and parks. Buses run along the coast road connecting to Rimini and both towns have a train station.
- In Bellaria Igea Marina, try the family-run Hotel Eliseo with an old-fashioned, welcoming feel. It's a great place to relax while being well taken care of, use the private beach, or try a cooking class. Excellent meals are included in the room rate and once a week there's a special Romagna night with live music and traditional food.
- In Riccione, check out these Hotel Corallo, a comfortable 4-star hotel with a nice spa, swimming pool, and beach.
- Cesenatico, built on a canal that runs to the sea, is a great seaside town. There's an excellent nautical museum and along the picturesque canal and seaside promenade, you'll find shops, bars, and restaurants.
- Cervia is a seaside resort with 10 kilometers of sandy beach. It's a big center for sea salt and there's a sea salt museum you can visit.
- Comacchio sits in a lagoon and is really a collection of islets connected by bridges. You can take a guided boat ride into the lagoon, a protected area that also offers hiking and biking opportunities. The area is known for its eel fishing and there's a small museum dedicated to the fisheries.