Emilia-Romagna: Tuscany without the crowds

Jools Stone

written by
Jools Stone

updated 06.01.2022

Emilia-Romagna is tourist-light Tuscany, without crowds but with plenty of similar charms. Take a look at why and when you should visit Emilia-Romagna. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy.

Emilia-Romagna is the 'Food Valley' and home to many charming towns, but it's also the heartland of Italy's auto industry so it tends to work a lot harder than Tuscany to win over visitors.

You'll definitely find it more authentic and considerably less busy than Tuscany. Yet Emilia-Romagna is very much capable of surprising, as even the briefest glance at its highlights quickly proves.

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The region for Italy's finest cured pork

Pork is an Emilia-Romagna speciality and almost every meal here starts with cold cuts. Parma Ham is the best known but don't miss the delectable local Culatello di Zibello, produced in Colorno.

There are only 14 Culatello producers worldwide and Al Vèdel is one of them. Here they serve Culatello with sparkling red Lambrusco wine which perfectly complements the dense, richness of the pork.

Don't shy away from the thought of Lambrusco, the local Emilia-Romagno version is as complex as its home region and absolutely nothing like the supermarket Lambrusco that's sold outside Italy.

Look forward to Gnocchi Fritti as a side dish. This puffy fried bread stuffed with meat and cheese complements pork dishes beautifully. And if you've already developed a taste for Colorno, stay at Antica Grancia Benedettina.


Emilio-Romagna is the region for Italy finest cured pork © Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock

Spend time in palatial Parma

A former Roman trading post and staging town for pilgrims, Parma is now Emilio-Romagna's cultural hub. It's renowned for grand architecture and La Pilotta complex of extraordinary buildings is a perfect example.

Don't miss the Villa Farnese Theatre which was built in 1611 to stage epic royal performances and is used today as a concert venue. Then, to fully immerse in cultured Parma, stay at Palazzo Gozzi in the historic centre.


Parma is the cultured heart of Emilio-Romagna © Sergey Dzyuba/Shutterstock

Fast cars meet slow food in Modena

Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari are all built in Modena, but it's a city that pairs its fast cars with slow food. So visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum but leave plenty of time to eat at Osteria Francescana.

Don't even think about missing out on a a Modena Balsamic Vinegar tour and make sure to go gaze at the photo wall on Piazza Grande. You'll find Modena very inviting, so instead of rushing off, stay at Salotto delle Arti in the Old Town.

Comacchio, Emilia-Romagna's Venice

Comacchio sits on the Po Delta and, while not exactly Venice, it has an impressively extensive canal network. So take a moment to admire the stylised bridges and pastel-painted canal buildings, without Venetian-style crowds.

The intriguing Eel Pickling Factory and Museum is another local highlight. And don't miss the canal side restaurants where you have to try 'Donkey's Beak' - eel soup with polenta. If you want to stay longer, book a night or two at B&B La Pitagora.


Comacchio is Emilia-Romagna's own little Venice © Rsphotograph/Shutterstock

Explore the pleasures of Piacenza

Piacenza translates as 'pleasant abode' and it's the largest town on the Po River. Celebrated for its DOP and DOC food production, it's the place to eat as local as possible, so start with dinner at Taverna In.

Teatri Piacenza, created by the architect responsible for La Scala Milan, is another must in Piacenza. And think about staying at Grande Albergo Roma on Piazza dei Cavalli, the square known for its equestrian statues and Gothic Palace.

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places in Italy as well as the best things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from our Italy Travel Guides and our local travel agents in Italy. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay in Italy once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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Jools Stone

written by
Jools Stone

updated 06.01.2022

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