The food of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is as rich as its culture. Words by Reyhaan Day.
Visit this area for exceptional sightseeing, scenery and cuisine at every turn.
Of Italy’s distinct regions, Emilia-Romagna lays most claim to being the country’s gastronomic heartland.
The popular cities of Bologna, Modena and Parma are each famed for their culinary culture and produce.
There are also a number of smaller cities and towns that are putting the spotlight on their own cooking traditions.
Food and culture
But this north Italian region also offers a diversity of cultural heritage – from film to art and architecture.
After landing in Bologna, head an hour and a half south along the coast towards Santarcangelo di Romagna. This quaint town has cobbled streets and a bustling market.
Situated just outside the town in a beautifully rustic part of the countryside is Collina Dei Poeti.
This is a small hotel set among olive groves and vineyards, from which extra virgin olive oils and full-bodied Sangiovese wines are produced.
Ask to participate in a cooking class with a pair of true Italian “nonnas” (grandmothers).
They will teach you passionately (and patiently) the art of making piadina bread and tagliatelle by hand.
The mosaics of Ravenna
A short drive will take you to Ravenna, home to eight early Christian monuments recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
These feature innumerable intricate mosaics painstakingly created over many years, depicting religious imagery – and must be seen to be believed.
It’s a tradition which exists to this day, with many local artisans keeping the mosaic craft alive in workshops throughout the city.
Before heading out of town, stop by Corte Cabiria for a bite to eat.
This secluded restaurant serves elevated Italian dishes such as turbot, vegetable caponata, beetroot sauce and bergamot in a bright dining room or minuscule courtyard.
The wonders of Rimini
Next stop is the ancient city of Rimini; and the preferred place to stay is still The Grand Hotel Rimini.
This is the best and most luxurious hotel in town with its Liberty-style façade, marble floors, 18th-century furniture and Murano glass chandeliers.
The rooms ooze romance. Balconies look out across the hotel’s manicured gardens towards the nearby beach.
This hotel was a favourite of legendary Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, who was born and raised in Rimini and immortalised the hotel in his 1973 movie, Amarcord.
Soak up “la dolce vita” on the hotel’s terrace.
See the sights
From here, it’s a cinch to see the sights of the city.
Ancient structures such as the Arch of Augustus and the Tiberius Bridge sit alongside Plaza Cavour’s recently renovated Teatro Galli.
See sugar cube-white churches or visit the art nouveau Cinema Fulgor where the young Fellini fell in love with film and .
Wander through charming Borgo San Giuliano, the clay and pastel-toned district where Fellini grew up.
For a slight change of pace, make the journey to the medieval village of Pennabilli, set in the dramatic, rolling hills and peaks of the Montefeltro countryside.
It’s a fairly sleepy town, but Il Piastrino is recognised by the food bible. Find fantastic value, inventive dishes with both Italian and wider European influences, served in a renovated farmhouse.
It’s a short drive to the hilltop town of Sant’Agata Feltria – located between the valleys of the Savio and Marecchia rivers.
Aside from its scenic beauty, the town is known for hosting an annual truffle fair for the past three decades.
Every Sunday in October, thousands of food lovers descend on the town to wander the cobbled streets and sample produce – including the region’s famous white truffles – from hundreds of stalls.
Here, truffle is found in everything – from pasta to bread to beer. If you’re lucky, you might find a truffle hunter and his dog to show you how they’re unearthed.
If you haven’t spoiled your appetite with tasters, then head for lunch at Il Tulipano Nero. This is a no-frills but excellent establishment serving pasta dishes to die for – many, of course, loaded with “white gold”.