City visits

  • July 12, 2013

The Emilia Romagna region is full of wonderful medieval and Renaissance cities with beautiful cathedrals, ducal palaces and narrow, winding streets. You’ll be spoilt for choice – the only problem is, you won’t be able to see them all!

Bologna (100km), the region’s capital city, is a real delight, with its characteristic red-brick buildings and over 40km of covered porticos (useful in bad weather). It is also home to the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088, earning it one of its nicknames, La Dotta (The Learned). Also known as La Grassa (The Fat), Bologna takes its food very seriously; in fact, it is considered by many to be the food capital of Italy.
Modena (60km) is a thriving city whose Duomo is considered one of the greatest examples of European Romanesque architecture and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Parma is 70km away and is an affluent town rich in art, culture and history. It has a lovely Romanesque duomo (and is of course home to Parma ham).
Reggio Emilia (50km) is a small but smart and well-to-do town with an attractive historic centre and some good restaurants.
Ferrara (150km, 2hr), another World Heritage city, was an artistic and intellectual centre during the 15th and 16th centuries. Unesco describes it as an ‘outstanding planned Renaissance city which has retained its urban fabric virtually intact’. It is surrounded by 6 miles of 15th and 16th century walls. Along with those of Lucca (below), they are the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy.
Ravenna (180km, 2hr 20) is home to many of the most beautiful and opulent mosaics in Italy, some of which date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. Dante lived and is buried there.

Just over the border in Tuscany, Lucca (98km) is about 2 hours away. Although less famous (and less touristy) than its neighbours, Lucca is a beautiful old city with a rich history. The centre, still enclosed within Renaissance walls, boasts lovely churches and great restaurants. Well worth a visit.

If you take the mountain route to Lucca you will pass by two beautiful medieval walled towns, both worth checking out: Castiglione di Garfagnana, which is officially ‘One of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy’ and the larger Castelnuovo di Gargagnana, both around 1.5hrs from home.

Mantova (about 2 hrs) and Verona (half an hour or so further on from Mantova) are also realistic day trip candidates.

If you get an early start and are prepared for a long day, trips to Florence, Pisa and Venice (all around the 3hr mark) are also manageable.