The northern-central region of Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic heart of Italy, famous for its Parmesan, prosciutto, tortellini, various kinds of charcuterie and balsamic vinegar (produced from grape must in Modena). Astride the European culinary frontier between butter and olive oil, the natives of Emilia-Romagna love rich sauces, slow-braised meats and cheese. The region can also boast the magnificent cities of Bologna, Parma, Modena and Ferrara, each of which is a treasure trove of art and architecture.
The Mosaics of Ravenna
Nowadays, Ravenna is a pretty, peaceful and unassuming place. However, from A.D. 402 to 476, it was the last capital of the Western Roman Empire. The city is chiefly notable for the magnificent mosaics in the basilicas of San Vitale and Sant’Apollinaire Nuovo and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which offer a striking visual record of the fall of Rome. Visitors can see the grace and fluidity of Roman art give way to the static, idealized opulence of Byzantium right before their eyes.
The Fat One
Affectionately nicknamed “La Grassa” (The Fat One) because of its sublime cooking, Bologna is, in fact, an exceptionally elegant city. The streets that surround the central Piazza Maggiore are an architectural tour de force, the most prominent landmarks being the famous Due Torre, or the soaring towers built during the Middle Ages as an expression of mercantile wealth and power. The city also boasts several superb museums; Europe’s oldest university, founded in 1088; and dozens of vaulted red-brick arcades.
Top Modena Sights
Home to both Ferrari and Maserati, Modena also boasts a gorgeous cathedral, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture anywhere in Italy, as well as a remarkable museum, the Galleria Estense.
Founded in 1932 in Bologna, Tamburini stocks a sublime assortment of cheeses, pasta and charcuterie, including some 30 types of prosciutto. And in Modena, Giusti was founded in 1605 and remained in the same family until 1980, when it was sold to an employee. This is the place to purchase an outstanding bottle of balsamic vinegar.