Land and sea, gastronomic treasures and fantastic wines, historical and cultural heritage, Romanesque and Renaissance cities, ancient borgo castles and charming coastal towns, verdant meadows combined with undulating hills, streams of the Po river beneath Monte Cimone’s peak. Emilia-Romagna has it all.
As the name suggests, the state divides itself into two subregions, Emilia–inland–and Romagna–the coastal area of the region. In Emilia, you will find the region’s bigger cities, flat agricultural land and provincial suburbs surrounded by rolling hills, while Romagna directly faces the Adriatic sea and is populated by the municipalities with long beaches and misty waters also referred to as la Riviera Romagnola.
Focusing on what really matters–FOOD–Emilia-Romagna is Italy’s capital of pasta (nolini, garganelli, gramigna, passatelli, pisarei, strichetti, strozzapreti, tagliatelle, tortellini, tortelli) and home to a significant selection of world-renowned Italian delicacies including Prosciutto di Parma, Aceto Balsamico di Modena, Mortadella di Bologna and of course, Parmigiano Reggiano…
Raise your fork and get ready: here’s how to spend five days diving into the gastronomic heritage of Emilia-Romagna.
DAY 1 – PARMA AND PARMA PROVINCE
Our journey begins in Parma. To be exact, in an artisanal production of Crudo di Parma, where the Bedogni family of Prosciuttificio Bedogni has been making prosciutto for 60 years.
The Langhirano territory’s air, humidity and climatic conditions create the perfect environment for Parma ham to be matured. This flavourful cured meat is never cooked (crudo translates to raw). The Bedogni family will show you their work of excellence and traditions behind their dry-aged prosciutto crudo which, although thinly-sliced, reveals an intensely delicious taste.
After waving goodbye to the Bedogni family, the hour drive across Parma’s countryside of alternating grass and drylands will lead you to an enchanted destination, which cannot be missed when in Parma: spend your first night (and dinner) at Antica Corte Pallavicina, where the friendly Spigaroli family will welcome you into their 15th century castle originally intended as a customs house. Set right by the Po river, in the Bassa Parmense, this family-run six-bedroom relais offers a unique experience to its guests through its history-filled court, beautiful frescoes and overall simple elegance. The cherry on top: each dish from the hotel’s restaurant is a true treat. Chef Massimo Spigaroli describes his cuisine as gastro-fluvial, meaning that inspirations are drawn from the river and combined with locally-grown ingredients and regional traditions.
Our Secret: You cannot leave the estate without visiting the cellar of Culatello di Zibello, a special cured meat made from a rare black pig breed that is only produced during the winter months. After a rub with Fortana wine and garlic, it is salted in salt and cracked pepper and matured in the Spigaroli family’s historical cellars that date back to 1320.
DAY 2 – PARMA TO MODENA
From Antica Corte Pallavicina, take the road towards Parma and make a stop at the Masone labyrinth on your way. This mesmerizing labyrinth was built by the renowned art publisher and magazine editor Franco Maria Ricci, who was inspired by the work of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges and his recurring themes of labyrinths.
Ricci became passionate about bamboo after discovering it within a little secret garden behind his Milanese residence and soon realized that bamboo was the perfect material for building a maze. Now spread over eight hectares of land, the maze’s paths stretch for over 3km lined with Phyllostachys Bissetii bamboo and numerous other varieties. The labyrinth was intended as a restoring homage of the Franco Maria Ricci Foundation to the area of the Po Valley, visually ruined by its industrial zones. Being a fast growing plant, its high rate of photosynthesis reduces carbon dioxide and gives back huge amounts of oxygen to the atmosphere. Alongside the labyrinth, stop to see the art collection he had collected for over 50 years containing around 500 pieces of art from the 16th to 20th centuries.
Once you arrive in the center of Parma, una seconda colazione (a second breakfast) awaits: for a great cornetto and cappuccino (the former to be dipped in the latter), stop by Pasticceria Battestini. Should you not find yourself in the pastry-mood (almost impossible), grab yourself some impossibly light meringues from Pasticceria Pagani in the historic center of Parma.
From there, make your way to Palazzo della Pilotta, a network of buildings that includes museums, galleries and the Palatine Library. The term Pilotta derives from the Basque “pelota” game, which Spanish soldiers used to play in the courtyard of the complex.
Inside, you will also find the Teatro Farnese, a theater built in 1618, designed with the objective to amaze its audience with its complex staging constructions and operations (which led to high expenses for performances). Equipped with an engineered system for stage sets, the theater could even be flooded to perform naval battles. Although the water feature is no longer active as a portion of the theater was destroyed by bombs in World War II, it has gone through restorations to return it to its former beauty. You will find yourself surrounded by carvings, stucco and frescoes of magnificent Renaissance grandeur.
Arrivederci Parma: the journey continues on to Modena! Here we recommend staying at the country house of three-star Michelin Chef Massimo Bottura located just a 12 minute drive from the center: Casa Maria Luigia. Its restaurant, Francescana at Casa Maria Luigia, offers a nine course seasonal tasting menu set among three shared tables (dinner is only available for guests staying the night). Guests can reside in one of Casa Maria Luigia’s twelve rooms surrounded by endless shades of greenery and one-of-a-kind interior design pieces and art.
DAY 3 – MODENA AND ITS THRIVING PROVIDENCE
First things first: un caffè! If you already had one, have another at Menomoka in Modena’s center. The hip coffee place’s walls are marked by illustrations of iconic characters. Opt between arabica or robusta and enjoy the mural or great people watching.
Stroll down Corso Canalchiaro and take a right on Via Dei Servi to discover Mercato Albinelli and not only how locals (grocery) shop, but also to learn about the different types of foods the region has to offer. Hosting 65 bottegas and stalls of traditional products and locally-grown produce, there is nothing you won’t find for a scrumptious Modenese meal to take home with you or to relish directly at the market.
In the afternoon, leave the city and drive 15km into the countryside to Castelvetro di Modena, an ancient village enclosed by farmland and the birth town of Enzo Ferrari’s son, who, although a billionaire, decided to never leave his hometown.
Here on Castelvetro’s farmland at Caseificio San Silvestro, cheesemaker Giorgio showcases his assortment of regional cheeses, including 12, 24 and 36 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano, butter and fresh Ricotta cheese–all of supreme quality.
A five minute uphill drive from the caseificio, you will reach Acetaia Sereni, a balsamic vinegar production that has been family-run for four generations. Aceto Balsamico di Modena has a very special place in the heart of Modenese people and the Serenis show their visitors why: this tour, exclusively designed for Italy Segreta, begins outside, right in the Grasparossa and Trebbiano grape vineyards. From there, you will discover each step of how the two types of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (IGP and DOP) are produced–from the must’s cooking room to the aging attic to their little museum containing the first PDO protected bottle of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, bottled by Acetaia Sereni itself. Using a special wine lifter, you will be given the opportunity to taste a few drops directly from two barrels containing the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (more than 90 years old!), the purest form of Balsamico. Finally, on the Terrazza Sereni, you’ll taste six different balsamic vinegars, from the youngest to the oldest, followed by a four course lunch of dishes paired with balsamic.
Speaking of grapes, you cannot leave the region without trying a glass of its renowned lightly sparkling red wine, the Lambrusco. Fattoria Moretto, a small family business founded in 1971 encircled by Grasparossa vineyards, offers a tasting of four different types of Lambrusco as well as Pignoletto, a sparkling, dry white wine.
Last but not least, music enthusiasts should visit the home of Luciano Pavarotti, now open to his admirers for a peek into his private villa, including the bedroom he passed away in, his bathroom and the walk-in closet filled with his personal belongings. Furthermore, his private letter collection includes praise from his fans all over the world, other musical legends and royal families.
To end the day with more traditions, dine at La Nunziadeina in Nonantola, right next to the 13th century old abbey Abbazia di Nonantola. The owner Rina Mattioli, who comes from four generations of restaurateurs, has faithfully followed recipes of the Modenese. We recommend trying any of her fresh pasta dishes or if you feel more adventurous, when available, the Carrello dei Bolliti. This typical dish is usually ordered on a special occasion, festive days or Sunday lunch and mainly consists of beef and chicken boiled during the preparation of the tortellini brodo (broth) along with cotechino (cooked pork sausages), zampone (pig’s trotter) and other cuts of meat such as tongue and testina (head).
DAY 4 – BUONGIORNO MODENA, BUON POMERIGGIO BOLOGNA, BUONANOTTE FORLÌ
Get an early start and head to nearby Bologna, the city of arcades, for a sugar rush breakfast: when you enter Pasticceria Regina di Quadri, your nostrils will be greeted by fragrances of roasting coffee and vanilla bourbon thanks to talented pastry chef Francesco Elmi, known for his little “pasticcini di bontà” (pastries of goodness). Alternatively, biscuit lovers should grab a bag at La Bottega di Coco–we love the Baci di Dama and Rose del Deserto–or if you want to visit a real carb-heaven, stop by the bakery Forno Brisa, where they live by the motto “FANCULA LA DIETA” (“f*ck the diet”). Try their pizza in teglia, brownie, Veneziana with pistachio cream or for vegans, the vegan Sacher–a chocolate dream come true.
For a digestive walk, wander along the walls forming the city’s main square Piazza Maggiore; just remember to never cross it diagonally as legend says it will bring you bad luck. Just around the corner, check out Bologna’s oldest bookstore, Libreria Nanni–very much worth a visit for rare book collectors.
Leaving Bologna and Emilia, follow signs towards the sea and to Romagna. The Predappio Valley’s hills are ideal for the maturation of grapes and have been home to viticulture for centuries due to its special climatic conditions–continuous sea breeze and mountain temperatures. Here at the Condé vineyards, the Condello family protects viticultural traditions, preserving their natural environment through hand selection of grapes and without use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Join Chiara Condello on her guided tour and tasting to discover the deep reds of her Condé Sangiovese wines.
After a long day, rest your head at Borgo Condé, a chic wine resort nestled among the vineyards surrounding Forlì: the perfect place to indulge in a spa treatment and relax in an idyllic countryside context.
Our Secret: To end the day with a feast, set out to Cesenatico, an old seaside village, where in Via Aurelio Saffi you must ring doorbell #8 for your dinner reservation: at Osteria da Beppe, try their Monfettini, Strozzapreti, Passatelli and Tagliatelle made with nothing else but flour, eggs, two hands and a rolling pin, served with fresh seafood.
DAY 5 – THE ONE & ONLY LA SANGIOVESA
Under an hour’s drive from Borgo Condé, the day begins in the medieval town of Santarcangelo, situated in the province of Rimini, at Osteria La Sangiovesa, a restaurant immersed in the lush green countryside where every meal of traditional dishes is unforgettable.
The Maggioli Family converted the ancient chambers of the Nadiani Palazzo into this restaurant, and booking the experience through Italy Segreta means dining in the Cagnacci Room, where a menu–composed of ingredients from the osteria’s farm, the Saiano Estate–has been exclusively prepared for Italy Segreta guests. Our guests will also receive a private, guided visit to see where their meat, wine and oil are produced, and together with the osteria’s in-house perfumer Baldo, be introduced to herbs, spices and essential oils used for the vermouths and liqueurs.
Wines and vineyards, endless options for incredible food (both sweet and savory), esteemed gastronomic experiences and authentic street food stalls, buzzing city centers and tranquil countrysides. Did we already say Emilia-Romagna has it all?