I absolutely fell in love with the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, located in Northern Italy. It is a total food lovers paradise! Here is my recommended foodie itinerary.
Day One: Ravenna
Tour the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Tour the incomparable Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo erected in the 6th century. It’s a UNESCO heritage site and one of many stunning churches located within this region. Our host told us that if you were born in this city, you are able to get married in this church for free! This is an active church that still has mass on Sundays.
Visit the Classis Ravenna Museum
After visiting the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, stroll next door to the Classis Ravenna, considered one of the most renowned archaeological museums in Italy, with over 600 artifacts throughout the history of Ravenna. This is the first of the eight structures in Ravenna that are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we are going to visit today!
Walk the Ravenna Baptistery of Neon
Next up is the Ravenna Baptistery of Neon. This is the most ancient monument of the city and was built in the late Western Roman Empire.
Located right next to the Ravenna Baptistery of Neon is my recommended lunch spot! Stop for lunch at the Ristorante Pizzeria Al 45. It’s prepared in the typical style of the region, using high-quality ingredients that are simple and delicious. They also serve gluten-free pizzas
Visit the Archbishop’s Chapel
Our third UNESCO Heritage Site of the day is just a few steps away at the Archbishop’s Chapel also known as the Capella di Sant’Andrea. It’s the smallest of the mosaics that you must see in Ravenna. The mosaic is from the 6th century and it is the only Early Christian private oratory that is still surviving.
Tour the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
This next UNESCO heritage site is a basilica church built in the early 6th century by king Theodoric the Great. This is one of the larger mosaics that we are visiting today.
Stroll the Mausoleum of Theodoric
You might want to take a taxi to this next monument but it’s worth the trip. It was built by the king Theodoric the Great in 520 AD as his future tomb and burial spot. It’s actually located right outside of Ravenna. The significance of the Mausoleum of Theodoric is in its Gothic style and is the only surviving tomb of a king from this time period.
Visit the Arian Baptistry
Just a couple more UNESCO heritage sites to go to hit all of Ravenna’s right! Here’s another Christian baptismal building built by King Theodoric the great near the same time that the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo was erected.
Tour the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
The second to last UNESCO heritage site of today’s journey is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. It’s described as the most artistically perfect of the group and the earliest and most well preserved. It contains three sarcophagi and is not being used as a mausoleum currently and its original purpose is unknown. It is covered in mosaics.
The outside of the building is rather plain compared to the sheer opulence of the designs inside. The lower surfaces inside are covered in marble slabs while the upper areas feature blue backgrounded mosaics. The themes feature Hellenic-Roman and Christian traditions.
Finish at the Basilica of San Vitale
Here’s the last of the eight Ravenna UNESCO heritage sites! The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most significant, still surviving examples of Byzantine art and architecture. It’s deemed a “basilica” by the Roman Catholic Church which is only given to churches with extraordinary ecclesial and historic importance.
Dinner at the Beach!
Head down to the beach for dinner and gorgeous views! The Toto Beach Bar has delicious pasta dishes They also have a great bar and happy hour menu, make sure to order a seafood pasta to enjoy with your feet in the sand.
While in Ravenna, I stayed at the Casa Masoli a charming little Airbnb that is elegant and located inside an 18th-century building. It’s 10 minutes away from everything, the UNESCO heritage sites and the train station. The owners are so sweet and not only is there a solid breakfast spread every morning but the room that I stayed in was HUGE!
Day Two: Reggio Emilia
Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Tour
Guided tour of Venturini Baldini, local wine and balsamic vinegar producer including an ancient vinegar cellar with tasting of wines and vinegar. This agricultural estate was founded in 1976 and is located in the province of Reggio Emilia
The producers of balsamic vinegar in this region have a clear advantage because the weather and soil of this area are optimal for the production of wine or vinegar.
After touring the facilities, we participated in a session of harvesting grapes. It was super fun, it was incredible to see how bountiful the harvest was, we each quickly filled up our individual baskets!
Lunch at the Vineyard
After our fun harvesting session, we settled in for a delicious vegetarian boxed lunch in the beautiful setting. I was unsure about how filling the vegetarian meal could be after our mini-workout, but it was quite delicious and filling. Here is what it consisted of:
Vegan hamburger, Savory pie with seasonal vegetables, Vegan Erbazzone (semi-wholemeal pasta with turmeric) with spinach filling, Semi wholemeal stuffed focaccia, Whole pear and chocolate cake with no added sugar.
During this cooking demo from Chef Gianni d’Amato at Caffé Arti e Mestieri, we learned about the local dish, Erbazzone Contemporaneo and the history of this delicious treat!
Chef Gianni d’Amato traveled all around Europe, cooking in different regions, before returning to Italy at the age of 26, at a restaurant north of Tuscany. He next opened another restaurant North of this province, where he earned his first 2 Michelin stars. In 2012, there was a big earthquake, which destroyed the restaurant, and he has now opened this new restaurant in Reggio Emilia for the past seven years.
Chef Gianni d’Amato taught us about Erbazzone Contemporaneo, which is a salted and savory pastry featuring the freshest of local herbs. It features onion or leek, depending on the season and lots of what is considered the King of the region Parmigiano Reggiano.
Caffé Arti e Mestieri | Address: Via Emilia A S. Pietro, 14, 42121 Reggio Emilia RE | Phone: +39 0522 432202
After the cooking demo, we sat down for a formal dinner at the Caffé Arti e Mestieri. This city is the cradle of the gastronomy of Reggio Emilia, a region celebrated for its especially delicious food. The restaurant is housed in a historic, former dialect theater, the D’Amato has transformed it into a modern restaurant serving elevated local cuisine in a family atmosphere. This is one of Gianni’s newest restaurants, he chose this region as one of his favorites in the world for cuisine.
Starter: Parmigiano Reggiano soft polenta, Tagliatella ragù of varieties of meat, Guancialino with Lambrusco and Saba sauce, spicy fennel, Grape sauce wines: Spergola ancestrale di Lusvardi and Lambrusco Medici
The Albergo delle Notarie is a romantic hotel located conveniently near many of Reggio Emilia’s hotspots, most of which are in walking distance! The room that I stayed in was spacious and charming. Albergo delle Notarie | Address: Via Palazzolo, 5, 42121 Reggio Emilia RE |Phone: +39 0522 453500
Day Three – Polesine Parmense- Parma
Visit Parmesan Factory
A must stop for any trip to this region of Northern Italy is the Caseificio Santo Stefano a Parmigiano Reggiano Dairy. Sign up for their tasting session, sampling 3 agings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Raw cow milk cannot be refrigerated so the cows are milked twice a day and the cheese is made once a day. Each vat includes 3000+ liters of milk. The cheese producers here are also the farmers which results in the exceptionally high quality of the milk.
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The master cheesemaker does the cooking, and the cheesemaker here is hot! Our guide also told us that he earns a nice paycheck for his incredible work 🙂
I purchased a wedge of 30-month cheese and just used it on some homemade pasta last night. It was DIVINE. Don’t leave this place without some cheese to take home!
Visit the Museum of Culatello and Masalen
From the cheese factory, next up, drive to Polesine Parmense to visit Antica Corte Pallavicina , a restaurant and Culatello Production center.
Antica Corte Pallavicina | Address: Strada Palazzo due Torri, 3, 43010 | Phone: 0524/936539
The Antica Corte Pallavicina hosted our next three activities, the museum tour, pasta cooking class, and a delicious lunch! First up, we toured the Museum of Culatello and Masalen and learned all about Culatello (so delicious!)
Culatello is local to this region because it can only be made in this region because it has the perfect weather conditions for making Culatello. Culatello is made from the meat from the buttocks of the pig only and only Italian pigs can be used. All that’s used to make it are the essentials: salt, pepper, wine, and garlic.
The tour ends with the Culatello storage cellar, where all the meat is tagged with the names of the chefs who will be receiving it when it is finished aging! Anthony Bourdain used to have a section here!
Pasta Cooking Class
After the tour is a hands-on cooking class with Michelin starred Chef Massimo Spigaroli. Here we learned how to make Gnocchi Aperti and Tortelli.Pasta: Anolini, Tagliatelle, Tortelli alla parmigiana, gnocchi aperti
Next up is a lunch at the Hosteria del Maiale:
menu: large selection of “Salumi dell’Antica Corte” , Pasta prepared during the cooking session: Anolini, Tagliatelle, Tortelli alla parmigiana, gnocchi aperti+fresh vegetables of the Antica Corte. Local wine and water.
Gelato Break at Gelateria Ciacco
After a long leisurely lunch, head back to the city center and walk the streets to Gelateria Ciacco, which is just across the street from the Teatro Regio. This famous Gelato won the 2019 Gambero Rosso Award as the Best Italian Gourmet Gelato.
Afterward, you can continue walking around the city center or take a brief rest at your hotel.
Visit The Museum of Music
After your gelato break, stop by the Museum House of Music, which is free to enter from 10am to 8pm. It features the most memorable technological innovations of the 20th Century, More than 400 items are featured in this museum from phonographs to mp3s to vintage radios.
Next up is dinner at La Cucina del Maestro. I recommend sitting on the outside patio, a great place to people watch! The streets are super lively with young people in the evenings. The people in this city are gorgeous!
Here’s what we ordered: Vegetable flan with Parmigiano Reggiano fondue, Potatoes flan with truffle sauce, fresh vegetables (pinzimonio); Fried vegetables, Two half portions of Tortelli filled with spinach and ricotta + Risotto Giuseppe Verdi style, Hot Spalla Cotta slices (pork meat) with baked potatoes, Local wine, water
La Cucina del Maestro | Address: Strada Luigi Carlo Farini 19 Parma | Phone: +39 0521/1855977
I stayed at the lovely Parma Hotel Sina Maria Luigia. It’s located in the city center, is a modern, clean and has a solid breakfast. It’s affordable and would make for a great business hotel option also.Parma Hotel Sina Maria Luigia |Address: old town centre Viale Mentana 140 Parma | Phone: +39 0521/281032.
Day 4 – Parma
Visit the Romanesque Cathedral aka Cattedrale di Parma
Visit this stunning cathedral to admire the artwork by Antonio da Correggio. Painted during the period of the Renaissance, it is in the style of an illusionistic fresco. The Parma Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is a Roman Catholic cathedral.
Visit the Teatro Regio
The Teatro Regio is an opera house and company located in Parma. It’s has a 1,400 seat auditorium and was inaugurated in 1829. Today four operas are performed per season.
Lunch is at the Ristorante Il Trovatore where I had the best Tiramisù of my life! In fact, I had no idea what Tiramisù was before this experience, I’ve only had the awful, cake-like Tiramisù that are soaked in coffee flavor. The Tiramisù here was sublime, totally airy, and something that I dream about. Btw, is it totally lame that I’ve never had lasagna with Bechamel before? It makes a huge difference!
Here’s what we had: Lasagna with Bolognese ragout, Fresh salad with tomatoes and carrots, TiramisùMalvasia sparkling local white wine.
Ristorante Il Trovatore | Address: Via Affò 2 Parma | Phone: +39 0521/236905
Visit The Roman Bridge
The Roman Bridge was recently restored and dates back to 187 bc. It’s located near the Ponte di Mezzo. It’s been rebuilt several times because of natural disasters. On display in the underpass are 260 archaeological fragments from 1st and 2nd centuries ac
Roman Bridge | The bridge is located underground at the crossroads between Via Mazzini, Via D’Azeglio, Viale Mariotti and Viale Toscanini in the historical center
Walk Parco Ducale
Parco Ducale used to be the private garden of the Duchess Maria Luigia who was formerly the wife Napoleone Bonaparte. It’s since been transformed into a public park where Parmigiani (the citizens of Parma) can bring their families or play sports leisurely.
Trattoria dei Mascalzoni | Address: Vicolo Cinque Piaghe |Phone: +39 0521/281809
menu: First course: Paccheri strolghino ragù and crispy Parmigiano Reggiano
Second course: “Rosa di Parma” Veal meat roll with Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano
Side dish: Baked potatoes and fresh salad with tomatoes and carrots
Dessert: Zuppa inglese (traditional Italian Pudding)
I would love to hear about how you enjoyed visiting this region of Italy! Most Americans haven’t even heard of these cities, even though it’s one of the most stunning and delicious regions in Italy!
I was hosted on this trip by the Social Travel Summit but as always all opinions are my own