Italy is a country well known for its history and romance, as well as architecture, art, and landscapes, but it’s best known for its food. Few people dream of Italy without conjuring up images of thin crust pizza, plates of perfectly cured meats and hand cut cheeses, bowls of homemade, al dente pasta drenched in a decadent butter sauce with mounds of rich and flavorful gelato…sigh. There is a reason people travel from around the world to sample Italy’s cuisine, and nowhere is this truer than in Emilia Romagna, a region in northern Italy that is considered by most to be the food capital of the world.
Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna, is a university town filled to the brim with little cafes, farmer’s markets, street vendors and classy restaurants. The culture in this city is world class, as is the pasta. Famous here are dishes like brown butter tortellini, (seemingly) 12-layered meat lasagne, and parmesan and balsamic vinegar dusted tagliatelle. You can spend days exploring all the history and culture Bologna has to offer, simply giving you more time to indulge in the aperitivos, like the pizza, wine, pasta- and everything that makes Bologna The Food Capital and the gastronomic hub of the world.
Come for the mosaics, stay for the food. Ravenna is smaller and perhaps less vibrant than its neighbor, Bologna, but the historical churches and architecture firmly cements Ravenna as a must-see town in the region. Like all Italian towns, the food here is mouth-watering, but being located in Emilia Romagna means that everything is hand crafted , local and made with pride. Great cafes and restaurants are plenty here, but less tourists and starving university students lend this city a more small-town feel with world class food.
There is balsamic vinegar, and then there is balsamic vinegar from Modena- it really is that good. Put it on pizza, in pasta, drizzled it on bread and even ice cream. There is a reason people come from all over to sample this delicacy. Modena is home to many important historical sites, part of the city has UNESCO status and it is the birthplace of many famous people. The town itself is one of the richest and most socially advanced in Italy, but the balsamic vinegar made here is so special, gastronomic foodies and joe blos leave raving about the food, not the history. Don’t forget about the locally cured hams, handmade pasta, and local cheeses, just make sure they come loaded with balsamic!
Parma is, you guessed it, the home of the traditional Parmigiano Reggiano. Famous worldwide, the cheese here is made from the milk of cows that graze only on grass immediately surrounding the city and is aged anywhere from 18 months to 30 years before hitting the market. The cheese is delicious enough to eat plain, but be sure to try it alongside the local cured ham, Prosciutto di Parma, aged at least 10 months and cut so razor thin that this salty, yet sweet meat can be eaten as a snack by itself or in any of the local stuffed pasta dishes.
Far less known than its neighbors to the south, Ferrara is the perfect Italian city for those that want to venture off the traditional Venice-Rome-Florence tourist trail. As an idyllic Italian city with plenty of history and traditional architecture, this city is best enjoyed in one of the many cafes that dot the streets and squares. Ferrara’s local pasta dish, cappellacci di zucca (round pasta stuffed with pumpkin or squash and topped with butter and sage or meat sauce), is delicious enough that you could be perfectly content enjoying it for breakfast, lunch and dinner; should you want to try something else though, there are many other local dishes and delicacies that will surely keep you in Ferrara for days. Try the pizza- the locals order one full one each! They are topped with all the local hams, cheeses and seasonal veggies, or the piadina- a pressed, crispy sandwich on homemade bread.
Located on the east coast, Riccione is one of Italy’s most popular seaside resorts. Being a port town, the seafood is fresh and local. The eel is popular here among locals and you can be sure to find many exquisite seafood dishes at all the restaurants and cafes. Riccione though, is perhaps more famous for its meats, in particular the salami and prosciutto. This resort is most definitely geared towards the many tourists that visit here each year; without a doubt the prices are higher and the restaurants, busier. But, this town is located in the region of Emilia Romagna for a reason. The quality of food found here is on par with the rest of the towns that make up this gastronomic hub. Venture off the common tourist streets and you can still find local, family run cafes, serving delicious, Italian food, with a view of the Adriatic Sea, no less.