Emilia-Romagna has a significant length of coastline along the Adriatic Sea and stretches west almost the whole width of Italy, bordering Veneto and Lombardia to the north and the Marche and Toscana to the south, to meet Liguria.
As you might imagine, Emilia and Romagna were once separate regions. Emilia covers Bologna and the provinces to the west and Romagna is the area along the coast. They were combined, in administrative and political terms, after the Second World War but they still retain their own characteristics. Traditionally, Emilians are contented and fun-loving, while the Romagnoli are more fiery and energetic.
This is a cultured region, with left-leaning politics, a sound infrastructure and a thriving economy built on both industry and agriculture. Industry in Emilia-Romagna includes mechanical engineering and the manufacture of some of the world's most coveted cars. The region's agriculture is the basis for a wide range of gastronomic delights (see below).
In the south-east of Emilia-Romagna is the Republic of San Marino. This is the third smallest state in Europe, after Vatican City and Monaco, and the oldest republic on earth.
What to see and do in Emilia-Romagna
Enjoy the mountains
The wide open spaces of the Apennines and the mountain springs and torrents offer wonderful opportunities for all sorts of activities. As well as hiking, biking and riding, you might like to try some orienteering, canoeing or hang-gliding.
Enjoy the sea
Visit the cities of art
Emilia-Romagna is famous for its città d'arte, cities of art. Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Ferrara, Ravenna, Faenza, Forlì-Cesena and Rimini all provide a feast for the art lover, both in their museums/galleries and in their architecture.
Bologna, the region's capital, is an amazing place, which has changed remarkably little, to look at, since medieval times. Home to the oldest university in Europe, Bologna is a very cultured city as well as a foodie's dream.
A few days in Bologna can be a satisfying experience for all the senses.
Visit Italy in miniature
Italia in Miniatura is a theme park just outside Rimini, where the whole of Italy is laid out for you to explore.
Visit a spa
There are several lovely spas in Emilia-Romagna, where you can lose all your worries through a pampering treatment.
Eating and drinking in Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna has a strong claim to being Italy's gastronomic capital and you should ensure you make the most of your time there by eating out as often as you can afford!
Many staples of Italian cuisine originated in this region. The obvious ones are:
- 'bolognese' sauce (although in Bologna they call it ragù)
- Parma ham and Parmesan cheese
- balsamic vinegar from Modena
The popular sausage mortadella comes from Bologna and several varieties of pasta are said to have been 'invented' in Emilia-Romagna, including tortellini, cannelloni and lasagna. (While you will find polenta and rice, in this region it's really about pasta.)
The most prominent wine from Emilia-Romagna is Lambrusco.
Recommended reading from Emilia-Romagna
A book I found interesting is Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis), about Jewish teenagers in the Fascist era, coming up to the Second World War. Several aspects of this have stayed with me for years.
Carlo Lucarelli is active in the Italian media and someone it's useful to have heard of. He writes crime novels set in Bologna, such as Almost Blue, which was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award.
As I mentioned on the Italian Culture page, I've always loved the Don Camillo stories by Giovanni Guareschi. Click here to read an article from The Guardian about the author and the area he lived in and wrote about.
For more information about Emilia-Romagna...
Buy a guide book for travelling around Emilia-Romagna.
Check out this website:
Emilia Romagna Turismo - official website