Between the eight years we lived full time in Milan, Italy while my children were in school, and over the past ten years where we have lived half of every year in Umbria, Italy, I have been very fortunate to have traveled across Italy extensively, and have visited just about every region. For some reason though, the one region that I never had the opportunity to explore is Emilia Romagna. We have passed through the region often as we headed up north to explore Venice, or Alto Adige, but I had never been to Bologna, Modena, or Parma, and I wanted to change that. Emilia Romagna is located in north central Italy, wedged between the River Po, the Apennine mountain range, and the Adriatic Sea. This region is one that is great to visit year round as it has beaches, art, amazing food, music, castles, and extremely fast cars. The food in Emilia Romagna is often said to be some of the best in Italy as it is the land of stuffed pasta, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and hundreds of cured meats including Prosciutto di Parma. Around Bologna and Modena, car enthusiasts can visit the Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, and Pagani factories. Bologna holds a number of music festivals throughout the year, and has enough galleries and museums to keep any art lover happy for days on end. Being a food centric family, we wanted to visit a balsamic vinegar, a Parmesan cheese, and a Prosciutto di Parma factory and I spread out the tours over three mornings.
I decided that we would need at least five nights in Emilia Romagna to get a good feel for the region, so I booked two nights in Bologna, two in Modena, and one in Parma. When booking hotels, my two priorities are to find hotels that have parking since we drive from Umbria, and Also require hotels that accept small dogs, since our little Yorkie Zoe goes everywhere with us. Fico – World Eataly is located just outside of Bologna, and I had very mixed feelings about visiting it because I have heard a number of negative reviews. Fico is advertised as the world’s largest food park, but in the end I felt we had to visit it since we were there. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, and I did not find it crazy expensive like many described. We just briefly explored Fico, and grabbed a tasty mortadella panini for lunch before heading into Bologna, but you could easily spend an entire day there if you booked some of the tours and classes offered and visited the many farm areas outdoors.
Bologna is a limited traffic zone city, ZTL, so if you are bringing a car into the city center, you must have the hotel give your license plate to the local police or you may get a large fine for driving in the ZTL area. I chose the Hotel Corona D’Oro which had a private parking garage just a block or two from the hotel. The hotel was lovely and the staff very friendly and helpful. The hotel was situated right in the historical center so once we parked our car, we were able to walk everywhere. Bologna has an unlimited number of places to dine from the very casual found around the markets or to more elegant options, and from my experience it is very easy to dine very well at either. We are lucky to have a number of friends in Italy who do tours around Italy, and they shared with us their favorite restaurants in Emilia Romagna. By coincidence, it seemed that our choices were all very small restaurants that had minimal number of tables. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Bologna, loved the food markets we explored, and was surprised to see how just how walkable the city was. There was shops of every description on just about every street in the city center, and enough museums to keep one busy for days. The meals we enjoyed in Bologna included some of the region’s specialties such as gnocco fritto (fried bread served with salumi), tortellini (stuffed pasta), tagliatelle (fresh egg pasta), salumi (cured meats), piadini (soft round flatbread stuffed with meat and veggies), tigelle (yeasted formed bread stuffed with cured meat), stracotto (slow cooked beef dish), and bollito misto (boiled meat served with sauces and mustard fruit). Obviously this is not a region to visit if you are dieting!
After two nights in Bologna, we headed to Modena, which is said to be one of Italy’s richest cities. It also has one of the largest car-free city centers, making it another great city to explore on foot. Being another ZTL city, we were worried about parking in the center but our hotel told us that the police in Modena are not as strict as they are in Bologna and that they would give us a pass to leave in the car during our stay. I chose Salotto delle Arti for us to stay in which is an old restored Palazzo right in the historical center. Though our stay in Modena was a rainy one, I did enjoy exploring the city, and we again enjoyed some extraordinary meals. We have tried for two years to get into Massimo Bottara’s Osteria Francescana with little luck, so we booked his more casual restaurant Franschetta58. Surprisingly, I found it just okay, and although I am glad we dined there, I do not think I’d go back. Our favorite meal of the trip turned out to be at a tiny restaurant in the back of a butcher shop with just four tables. We had the tasting menu at Hosteria Giusti, and I found the potions perfect and each dish was delicious.
After two nights in Modena, we headed to our last stay which was Parma. Parma is a very elegant city, and is known as being one of Italy’s great art cities, and was Italy’s first Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy, so you know that this is another city where you will eat well. I had some trouble finding a hotel in Parma that would both accept dogs and had parking, but I eventually booked our stay at Park Hotel Pacchiosi. The entire staff were Russian, but were extremely friendly, and it was a lovely, centrally located hotel. Parma was yet another city that was very enjoyable to explore on foot, had lots of shops, coffee bars, and great restaurants. We have a good friend who lived in Parma and still owns a home here. He recommended Ristorante Cocchi for our last meal in Emilia Romagna and it was another great choice. It is a restaurant within a hotel that has been around forever and the food offered was traditional specialties of the region.
Emilia Romagna Hotels & Restaurants
Hotel Corona D’Oro
Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 12, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
Trattoria Del Rosso – Famous For Tortellini in Brodo
Via Augusto Righi, 30a, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
Ristorante Sette Tavola
Via Cartoleria, 15/2, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Via Santa Caterina, 51, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy
Salotto delle Arti
Via Rua Muro 86, Modena, 41121, Italy –
Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena MO, Italy
Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 75, 41121 Modena MO, Italy
Park Hotel Pacchiosi
Str. Quartiere, 4, 43125 Parma PR, Italy
Viale Antonio Gramsci 16, 43126, Parma, Italy
+39 0521 981990
One Of Bologna’s Amazing Markets
Tortellini in Brodo
Caffe Terzi – One Of Bologna’s Most Famous Coffee Bars Right Next To Our Hotel
Lobby in Hotel Corona D’Oro
Deborah Mele 2019