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The Ultimate Emilia Romagna Travel Guide 2024: What to Eat & See

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Welcome to Emilia Romagna, a captivating region in northern Italy renowned for its delectable cuisine, picturesque landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

Nestled between the majestic Apennine Mountains and the sparkling Adriatic Sea, Emilia Romagna offers a wonderful blend of history, art, and, above all, gastronomy.

Also known as “Italy’s Food Valley”, Emilia Romagna is the birthplace of iconic Italian products like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Prosciutto di Parma, and traditional pasta dishes.

You can immerse yourself in the rich flavors and craftsmanship of these delicacies through food tours and visits to local producers. If you’re a food lover, then this is the place for you!

Beyond its gastronomic scene, Emilia Romagna offers a wealth of cultural and historical sights. Medieval cities like Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Ravenna showcase impressive architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Nature enthusiasts will also be delighted by Emilia Romagna’s diverse landscapes. The region encompasses the scenic Apennine Mountains and the picturesque Riviera Romagnola along the Adriatic Coast.

We’ve spent months exploring the Emilia Romagna region. From testing out the best restaurants, food tours, hotels, and getting to know the cities like a local, we have an abundance of tips and knowledge to share from our travels.

In this Emilia Romagna travel guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know to plan the most incredible trip to this region. This includes city guides, hidden gems, our favorite restaurants, and so much more. Let’s get started.

Emilia Romagna: Know Before you go

We’ve included some basic travel information below to help you prepare for your trip to Emilia Romagna.

Closest Airport: Guglielmo Marco Airport (BLQ) in Bologna

Time Zone: Central European Time (GMT+2)

Currency: Euro (€)

Language: Italian; English is widely-spoken in the larger cities like Bologna, but is not as common in the smaller cities.

Electricity Socket: You’ll mostly find Type C (2-prong plugs) sockets in Italy, but it’s also common to find Type F and Type L

Italy Sim Card: Do you need a SIM card in Italy? Yes, you need one if you currently do not have a phone plan that works in Europe. We recommend purchasing an eSIM online from Airalo that can be downloaded before arriving in Italy. This is what we use for all of our travels in Europe.

Rental Car: Getting a rental car in Emilia Romagna is a great idea if you want the flexibility to explore at your own pace. The best option is to get a car from the Bologna airport or train station through Discover Cars, our preferred car rental site.

Getting to Emilia Romagna

Getting to Emilia Romagna is easy and convenient with multiple transportation options. The region is well-connected to the rest of Europe by air, train, bus, and car.

What is the closest airport in Emilia Romagna?

The closest airports are Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) in Bologna and Milan Malpensa International Airport MXP in Milan.

From the Milan airport, you can take the train to any city in Emilia Romagna within 1-3 hours, depending on your location.

From Bologna, you can easily access the city of Bologna from the airport, or take the train from Bologna Centrale station to all cities in the region. Bologna is the best airport to fly into and is the most central location to stay in the Emilia Romagna region.

Getting to Emilia Romagna by Train

Italy is connected to the rest of Europe by train. We’ve taken the train from Southern France to Emilia Romagna several times. You can also easily access Italy via Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

Getting to Emilia Romagna by Bus

You can also opt to get around by bus, which offers many connections from other European destinations. In the past, we’ve used Flixbus to get around Europe and it is reliable, convenient, and affordable.

Getting Around Emilia Romagna

Public transport in Emilia Romagna

The best way to get around the Emilia Romagna region is by train. The rail system is well connected, quick, and easy to use. We suggest downloading the Trenitalia app, or simply using the Trenitalia website, to purchase all of your tickets.

You are not required to print out your tickets, and if you purchase them viat the website, just download the PDF ticket to your phone. Additionally, the app has up-to-date schedules, and you can conveniently download your digital ticket to the app.

Most cities in Emilia Romagna are within 1-2 hours of each other. We suggest booking your train tickets a couple of weeks in advance for the long-distance train rides, and a day or two before for your short distance (1 hour or less) train rides.

Trains in Italy are overall reliable. We’ve had a few instances of delayed trains, but overall, we’ve only had positive experiences on the trains in Italy.

Car rental and driving options

If you plan to discover the Emilia Romagna countryside, stay at a villa outside the city center, or simply want to visit the smaller towns, then we highly recommend renting a car.

We’ve rented a car in the region many times, and it is especially convenient when you want flexibility to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations.

You can usually rent a car in most of the major cities – like Modena, Parma, Ravenna, and Bologna – but Bologna is one of the best places to rent a car due to its central location. It’s also the largest city in the region, so prices may be cheaper.

Main Cities and Towns in Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna is home to beautiful medieval towns, rolling hills, and the gorgeous seaside. It truly has everything to offer. The one thing we love most about this region is that it still feels untouched compared to the rest of Italy.

The region is lesser-known and is often overlooked by the surrounding Tuscany and Veneto regions. Exploring these towns in Emilia Romagna will offer you a genuine Italian experience.


Bologna, the vibrant capital of Emilia Romagna, is known for its delectable cuisine, Medieval city center, and historical sights. Discover the city’s UNESCO World Heritage porticoes, which cover over 62 kilometers (38 miles) around the city. Explore the oldest university in the world, Bologna University, dating all the way back to 1088.

Wander around the Quadrilatero, Bologna’s oldest market, and eat your way through the city tasting regional specialties like Mortadella, Parmesan cheese, Balsamic Vinegar, and more.

Of course, no visit to Bologna is complete without indulging yourself in some of the best food in all of Italy. From tagliatelle al Ragu (pasta with ragu) to tortellini in brodo (meat-stuffed pasta in broth) and Cotoletta alla Bolognese (fried pork cutlet), you’re sure to eat well here.


Modena, a quaint city in Emilia Romagna, is known for its charming countryside, exquisite food, and luxury cars. Home to the Ferrari factory and museum, car lovers flock to this city to take a peek into the process of building one of the world’s most sought-after luxury cars.

For culinary aficionados, take a day trip to the countryside and visit local producers of two of the most beloved Italian staples – Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar. You’ll get the chance to taste the flavors of authentic 12-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Also home to the renowned restaurant Osteria Francescana by chef Massimo Bottura, Modena’s passion for food is unrivaled. If you don’t want to pay the hefty price for a meal at this 3-star Michelin restaurant, then you can taste regional cuisine at a Ristretto Vicolo Coccapani or Trattoria Il Fantino.

Top things to do in Modena:
  • Visit the Modena Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage site)
  • Taste traditional balsamic vinegar
  • Experience the Mercato Albinelli
  • Explore the Enzo Ferrari Museum & Ferrari Factory
Modena articles:


Parma is an unmissable stop for any food enthusiast – it also happens to be one of our favorite cities in Emilia Romagna. Known as the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Proscuitto di Parma, here you can visit producers and get firsthand insight into the production of these local delights.

Another must-see is the stunning Parma cathedral with its magnificent frescoed interiors and the adjacent Baptistry, a remarkable example of Italian Gothic architecture. Whether you have a half-day or a couple of days, Parma is most definitely worth of a visit.

Top things to do in Parma:
Parma articles:


Step into the enchanting world of Ravenna, a city renowned for its awe-inspiring Byzantine mosaics. The city’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites boasts a collection of masterpieces that transport you back in time to the 5th and 6th centuries.

Marvel at the intricate mosaics adorning the walls and ceilings of iconic landmarks such as the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Top things to do in Ravenna:
  • Discover the Byzantine Mosaics
  • Try cappelletti (a stuffed pasta) at a local restaurant
  • Visit Dante’s tomb
  • Stroll Through the Piazza del Popolo
Ravenna articles:


Ferrara, a hidden gem in Emilia Romagna, blends its rich history with a vibrant cultural scene. Step into the past as you wander through the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where magnificent Renaissance architecture awaits every corner.

Explore the impressive Estense Castle, a medieval fortress that will transport you to a bygone era. Take a leisurely bike ride along the ancient city walls, soaking in the scenic views.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the Palazzo dei Diamanti, a diamond-patterned palace housing exceptional art exhibitions.

And of course, indulge in the local delicacies, from the delicious Pumpkin cappellacci (a stuffed pumpking pasta) to the delightful salama da sugo (a boiled pork sausage).

Top things to do in Ferrara
  • Discover the UNESCO World Heritage city center
  • Visit the Estense Castle
  • Cycle along the ancient city walls
  • Explore Palazzo dei Diamanti and its art exhibitions


Photo by eddy.galeotti via Canva Pro

Welcome to Faenza, a small town known as the “City of Ceramics.” Faenza has a rich history of pottery production, and you can explore this craft at the International Museum of Ceramics, which showcases exquisite ceramic artworks spanning centuries.

Delve into the town’s past at the Faenza Cathedral and its medieval architecture. Take a leisurely stroll through the quaint streets, lined with artisan workshops and charming cafes.

Art lovers will appreciate the contemporary exhibitions at the Carlo Zauli Museum, housed in a former brick factory.

For a taste of local flavors, indulge in traditional cuisine at the town’s trattorias, such as La Baita. With its artistic heritage and medieval center, Faenza offers a unique experience for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path Italian gem.

Top things to do in Faenza
  • Visit the International Museum of Ceramics
  • Explore the Faenza Cathedral
  • Stroll through the quaint streets
  • Discover the Carlo Zauli Museum


Photo by venakr via Getty Images

Rimini, a beautiful coastal city in Emilia Romagna, is the perfect spot for beach lovers looking to soak up some sun and enjoy Mediterranean vibes. With 15 kilometers of sandy shores, there’s plenty of beach clubs and waterfront promenades to relax and unwind at.

Delve into the past at the iconic Arch of Augustus or explore the impressive Malatesta Temple, a Renaissance architecture masterpiece.

Plus, Rimini’s historic center is full of vibrant cafes, shops and gelaterias for the perfect Italian coastal experience. And don’t forget to pay a visit to the Rimini City Museum – it’s loaded with fascinating insights into Rimini’s ancient and medieval past!

Whether you’re seeking beachside bliss, cultural exploration, or simply indulging in the pleasures of Italian coastal living, Rimini has it all.

Top things to do in Rimini
  • Relax at the beach
  • Visit the Arch of Augustus, a well-preserved Roman monument.
  • Explore the Malatesta Temple, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is a charming city in Emilia Romagna that’s full of cultural experiences and enchanting castles. Take a stroll through the historic center to see beautiful squares, palaces and the renowned Teatro Municipale opera house.

Then, hop in the car for an easy day-trip to the 10th century Castle of Canossa and Castle of Rossena, where you can explore ancient walls, towers and courtyards surrounded by the stunning Apennine Mountains.

With its cultural heritage and unique castles, Reggio Emilia is a must-visit for travelers looking to experience history, culture and medieval allure.

Top things to do in Reggio Emilia
  • Stroll through the historic center
  • Take a day trip to nearby castles
  • Visit the Museo del Tricolore, a museum dedicated to Italy’s national flag


Photo by milla1974 via Getty Images

Piacenza is a small town that is full of history and delicious food. Stroll through its charming streets and discover architectural wonders like the Palazzo Farnese and the Cathedral of Piacenza.

Discover the Palazzo Gotico, a beautiful Gothic-style palace that houses the Civic Museum and provides a glimpse into the city’s artistic and cultural heritage. And don’t forget to indulge in some of Piacenza’s delicious cuisine – from savory cured meats to exquisite wines produced in the surrounding countryside.

Top things to do in Piacenza
  • Explore the Palazzo Farnese and Cathedral of Piacenza
  • Visit the Palazzo Gotico and its Civic Museum
  • Taste regional specialties like Bargnolino, an Italian liquor, or Coppa Piacentina, a local cured meat

Emilia Romagna Cuisine: What to eat

Emilia Romagna is celebrated as one of Italy’s culinary capitals, and its cuisine is a true delight for food lovers. Rooted in a rich tradition of artisanal craftsmanship and high-quality ingredients, Emilia Romagna cuisine showcases the region’s deep love for robust flavors and time-honored recipes.

Tortellini in a Parmesan sauce

From savory cured meats to delicate handmade pastas, here are eight mouthwatering dishes you must try:

  • Tortellini en Brodo: These small, ring-shaped pasta parcels filled with a blend of meats and cheese are served in a flavorful meat broth, creating a comforting and satisfying dish.
  • Tagliatelle al Ragù: Indulge in the classic tagliatelle pasta dressed in a slow-cooked ragù sauce made with tender meat, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs.
  • Prosciutto di Parma: Savor the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of this renowned dry-cured ham. Made from carefully selected pork legs, aged and seasoned with just the right amount of salt, Prosciutto di Parma is a true culinary gem.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: A true symbol of Emilia Romagna’s gastronomy, this world-famous cheese is known for its rich, nutty flavor and crumbly texture. Grate it over pasta, salads, or enjoy it on its own for a sublime taste experience.
  • Traditional Balsamic Vinegar: Delve into the flavors of traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena. Aged for a minimum of 12-years in wooden barrels, this dark, syrupy vinegar is nothing like you’ve ever had before. It adds a sweet and tangy touch to salads, meats, and even desserts – we love to eat it with gelato!
  • Crescentine/Gnocco Fritto: These small, puffy bread rounds are fried in lard and typically served warm, sliced open, and filled with cured meats, cheese, and spreads.
Gnocco Fritto with Proscuitto di Parma
  • Cotoletta alla Bolognese: This classic dish from Bologna is made of a veal cutlet that’s breaded, pan-fried, and then topped with thinly sliced prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
  • Zuppa Inglese: Finish your culinary journey with this traditional dessert, consisting of layers of sponge cake soaked in liqueur, creamy custard, and chocolate. It’s one of our favorite Italian desserts!

These eight dishes are just a glimpse into the gastronomic wonders of Emilia cuisine. To discover more regional dishes, check out our post on the 13 Must-Eat Emilia Romagna foods.

11 Best Things to do in Emilia Romagna

No matter your interests, Emilia Romagna has something for everyone – from food lovers and luxury car enthusiasts to history buffs. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Emilia Romagna:

Acetaia in Modena
  • Visit the Ferrari Museum and Factory: Situated in Modena, the Enzo Ferrari museum is a must-visit for car enthusiasts, showcasing a variety of models from the iconic sports car brand. Add a stop to the Ferrari factory if you have time to see the race track and to get a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the cars.
  • Take a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory Tour: Learn about the process of making the “king of cheeses” and enjoy a delicious tasting on a tour of a local factory.
  • Taste Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Modena: Tour an “acetaia” (vinegar loft) with an expert guide to learn about the age-old method of producing this cherished condiment and enjoy a tasting.
  • Enjoy the Beaches of Rimini: Unwind on the sandy beaches of this Adriatic Sea resort town, also known for its thriving nightlife and Roman relics.
  • Admire the Mosaics of Ravenna: This city houses eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most notably known for their stunning, intricate Byzantine mosaics.
  • Visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca in Bologna: Walk up the longest portico in the world and visit this historic basilica, which offers breathtaking views of the city.
Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca in Bologna
  • Take a Food Tour in Bologna: Known as Italy’s culinary capital, Bologna is the perfect place for a food tour. Taste local delights like tortellini, mortadella, and gelato, while exploring the city’s historic food markets and traditional delicatessens.
  • Join a Pasta Cooking Class: Emilia-Romagna is the birthplace of some of Italy’s most loved pastas, including tagliatelle and tortellini. Enroll in a cooking class to learn how to make these traditional dishes from scratch.
  • Enjoy a Wine Tasting Session: Taste the region’s celebrated wines, including the fizzy Lambrusco and the delicate Pignoletto, in one of the local vineyards or at a wine bar.
  • Visit Rocchetta Mattei Castle: Travel to the outskirts of Bologna to explore this unique and whimsical castle, which blends diverse architectural styles. From its intricate interiors to its grand courtyards, Rocchetta Mattei offers a step back into the fascinating world of its creator, Count Cesare Mattei.
  • Explore the small towns: Rent a car and visit some of Emilia Romagna’s charming small towns, such as Dozza and Brisighella.

Where to stay in Emilia Romagna

Bologna, the region’s capital, is an ideal base for exploring Emilia Romagna. Its central location makes it a great place for day trips, as most cities are within 1-2 hours from Bologna by train and car.

Agriturismo Opera 02 is an organic winery and hotel outside of Modena.

Here are our top Bologna hotel picks:

  • Casa Bertagni – A charming boutique hotel located just outside of the city center with well-decorated rooms and a delicious breakfast.
  • Hotel Touring – Located just a few minutes from Piazza Maggiore, this hotel offers panoramic views of the city from its rooftop and spacious rooms.
  • Hotel Porta San Mamolo – A lovely hotel with stylish rooms, a delicious breakfast, and modern amenities in the Bologna city center.

If you’re looking for a smaller city to call home for a few days, then we suggest either Modena or Parma. Both cities are foodie heavens and have plenty of fantastic restaurant options. They are also well-connected to the rest of the region by train.

Our favorite hotel in Parma is Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati, a lovely old palace that is located right next to the city’s cathedral and baptistry.

In Modena, you’ll find beautiful accommodations at Salotto delle Arti in the city center, or alternatively, you can stay in a castle just 4km from Modena at Hotel Castello. If you want a secluded, countryside stay then we recommend Opera 02, an organic winery and hotel with spectacular views.

Best time of Year to Visit Emilia Romagna

Parco Ducale in Parma, Italy

The best time of year to visit Emilia Romagna is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). During the fall and spring, the weather is pleasant and the landscapes are the most vibrant and colorful.

Springtime in Emilia Romagna is filled with blossoming flowers and mild temperatures, making this a great time for sightseeing and outdoor activities. You may experience a bit of rainfall, but what’s more magical than walking around Italian cities in the rain?

Fall is our favorite time to visit Emilia Romagna. The vineyards in the countryside turn into a vibrant array of colors, with red and orange leaves dominating the scenery. This is also the time of the fall harvest, which means the pasta options are endless. From mushroom tagliatelle to pumpkin tortelloni, the food is on another level in the fall.

The summer season is hot and busy, with high temperatures hovering around 86°F (30°C). Of course, if you plan to go to the beaches, then this is the best time to visit. However, if you want to avoid the crowds, then the shoulder season is for you. Do not visit in August, as most of the shops and restaurants are closed for summer holidays.

Winter is cold and wet, but the season is quite festive with holiday decorations and local Christmas markets around the towns. This is a good time to experience the local cuisine, such as warming broths and hearty pasta dishes, which are all the more comforting in the chilly weather. 

Events and Festivals in Emilia Romagna

Emilia-Romagna boasts a lively festival scene throughout the year, with many events celebrating the region’s rich culinary traditions and cultural heritage. Here are some of the top festivals to look out for:

  • Cherry Festival in Vignola (June): Celebrate the cherry harvest in Vignola, near Modena, with tastings, local markets, and events dedicated to this sweet fruit.
  • Al Meni in Rimini (June): A circus-themed food festival where top chefs cook their gourmet takes on street food, accompanied by music and entertainment.
  • Tortellino Festival in Bologna (October): An event dedicated to one of the most beloved pastas in the region: tortellino. 20 chefs come together and present their take on this classic pasta dish.
Tortellino festival in Bologna
  • Parma Ham Festival (September): This festival in the city of Parma provides an opportunity to visit ham factories, enjoy tastings, and learn about the production of this world-renowned cured meat.
  • Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna (June – July): A must-visit for cinephiles, this film festival showcases restored films and forgotten masterpieces from the history of cinema in the heart of Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.
  • Tartófla in Savigno (October – November): An annual festival dedicated to the white truffle, with four weekends full of truffle tastings, exhibitions, and local producer markets in the charming old town of Savigno.

Emilia Romagna Travel Guide FAQs

What is the best base for Emilia Romagna?

Bologna is the best base for exploring Emilia-Romagna. It’s centrally located, making it convenient to reach other major cities, such as Modena, Parma, and Ravenna. Bologna also boasts excellent transport links, including a well-connected train station and an international airport.

Do you need a car in Emilia Romagna?

A car is not necessary for visiting Emilia Romagna, especially if you only plan to visit the main cities. The region is well-connected by trains and buses making it easy to get around. However, if you want the flexibility to explore the countryside, visit food producers on your own, and enjoy some of the region’s natural beauty, then having a car is very convenient.

What is Emilia Romagna best known for?

Emilia Romagna is best known for its rich culinary heritage, luxury cars, and its picturesque landscapes. Often referred to as Italy’s “breadbasket,” Emilia Romagna boasts world-renowned delicacies like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, and pastas like tortellini and tagliatelle al ragù.  It’s also home to famous luxury car brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ducati, and you can tour many of these factories on a guided tour.

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