36 hours in Emilia-Romagna, Italy


Bucket List Worthy  

photo credit: castgen via photopin cc
photo credit: castgen via photopin cc

Emilia-Romagna is all too often overlooked by visitors who come to Italy. Legacy cities like Rome, Venice and Florence get the majority of the more than 40 million tourists who stream through Italy’s borders each year. But for anyone willing to step off the tourist trail, Emilia-Romagna—that gorgeous region in the heart of Northern Italy anchored by Bologna–offers everything you could possibly want from a trip to Italy. Thirty-six hours is not nearly long enough to do this historical region justice. But by using Bologna as your home base,  it will be enough to stoke your palette.

On Arrival

7:30 p.m.

Taste the Difference

Make your way to Cantina Bentivoglio (Via Mascarella, 4/b) for authentic Tagliatelle al Ragù or one of Chef Ivan Polleti’s other regional dishes. While there, enjoy some jazz and a bottle of vino from one of the best wine cellars in Bologna.

A chef making Bolognese ragù in Bologna.
Chef Ivan Polleti making Tagliatelle al Ragù | Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

Day One

7:00 a.m.

Say Cheese

Catch the regional train from Bologna to Parma for an 8 a.m. tour of a Parmigiano Reggiano consortium (free). This two hour tour gives you an all access look at how traditional Parmesan cheese is made and includes free tastings. To book a spot on a tour, send an email at three weeks before your desired tour date to sezionepr@parmigianoreggiano.it. Tours are given Monday-Friday.

11 a.m

Sandwich Artists

Take the train back towards to Bologna and stop off in Modena. Enjoy a panini at Bar Schiavoni (Via Luigi Albinelli, 13) near the popular Mercato Albinelli. The restaurant is famous for its inexpensive and imaginative creations such as focaccia squares loaded with figs, smoked tuna, herbs and red onion.

3:30 p.m.

Black Gold

True balsamic vinegar can only come from Modena and Reggio Emilia and has to adhere to strict government guidelines—such as being aged for a minimum of 12 years in wood barrels—to be certified as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. One of the best places to sample the good stuff is Acetaia di Giorgio (Via Sandro Cabassi, 67), a small family-run balsamic vinegar producer in Modena. Proprietor Giovanna will walk you through the fermentation process and concludes the tour with a tasting of their different varieties. Tours are free and can be booked via email at info@acetaiadigiorgio.it.

True balsamic vinegar from Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena.
Tasting true balsamic vinegar at Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena | Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

6:30 p.m.

Good Food for a Great Price

Enjoy the evening train ride back to Bologna. Once in town, make your way to Trattoria del Rosso (Via A. Righi 30), which is Bologna’s oldest continuously running restaurant. The trattoria is known for its great prices, authentic recipes and large portions.

10 p.m.

Get Hoppy

Italy isn’t necessarily known for its beer, but then again Bologna does like to march to the sound of its own drum. Grab a table in the back room of  L’Ortica (Via Mascarella, 26) and dive into their excellent selection of craft beers (wine is also available). The atmosphere at L’Ortica is lively and feels more like a café than a pub or bar.

Day Two

9 a.m.

A Canal Runs Through It

Walking along Bologna’s cobblestone streets, it’s hard to imagine that a network of medieval canals flow underneath of you. Originally used for trade, most of the canals have been paved over. However, visitors can still get a glimpse of what lies beneath through a small window at 16-18 Via Piella, which looks out over swift moving stream.

Hidden canal in Bologna, Italy.
One of Bologna’s medieval canals | Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

10 a.m.

Sweet Emotion

You won’t have a problem finding gelato in Bologna, but if you want to treat yourself to one of the best then head to The Sorbetteria Castiglione (Via Castiglione 44). This classic gelato shop is home to some of the most creative as well as flavorful scoops in the city.

10:45 a.m.

No Gain Without Pain

Climb the 498 steps to the top of the Tower of Asinelli and you’ll be rewarded with a mesmerizing panorama of Bologna. Plus, you’ll be able to boast to your friends and family back home that you climbed the tallest leaning tower in Italy. At one point, Bologna’s skyline had nearly 200 towers, now less than 20 remain with Asinelli and its neighboring tower, Garisenda, being the most famous.

Parmigiano Reggiano consortium in Parama, Italy.
Parma, Italy | Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon


About the Author: Randy Kalp

Randy Kalp is a semi-intrepid journalist traveling the world and missing his 7-pound hound. His stories have appeared in Men’s Health, GAdventures’ The Looptail, the San Diego Uptown News, Coast News and San Diego Reader. You can read about Randy’s latest adventures on his award-winning travel blog and follow him on his social networks (below) and Pinterest.

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