From UNESCO World Heritage cities to beach resorts and natural wonderlands, Italy’s Emilia-Romagna is a feast for the senses and a treat for train travellers.
Stretching north from the Apennine Mountains down to the wetlands of the Po Valley and the beach resorts of the Adriatic coast, northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is where food, Renaissance art and lush landscapes come together in perfect harmony. Here are some of the best places to visit in the Emilia-Romagna region by train.
Capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is part bougie, part bolshie but wholly singular in its architecture, gastronomy and historic beauty. Known as “la dotta, la rossa e la grassa” (the educated, the red and the fat), the city’s nickname refers to its ancient university, its leftwing political leanings and a food legacy as rich as the ragu it gave birth to. Explore Bologna’s stretches of UNESCO-listed medieval porticos, palazzos and piazzas, then climb Le Due Torri (Bologna’s two towers) for panoramic views of the city's red rooftops.
Located between Bologna and Venice in the Po Valley, Ferrara is a city brimming with art and culture. Known for its Renaissance architecture, colossal palaces and intact medieval walls, this UNESCO-listed city was once a stronghold of the House of Este, rivals of the famous Medici family. Ferrara’s history as a key Italian city is seen in its array of beautiful buildings and public spaces, including the Palazzo dei Diamanti and Parco Massari. Ferrara is a tranquil city whose bike-friendly streets and picturesque palazzi are still relatively unexplored.
Nestled between Bologna and Parma, Modena is one of Italy’s greatest gastronomic cities. The birth place of balsamic vinegar, Lambrusco wine and tortellini, Modena is fully food-focused, its backstreets bursting with some of the best restaurants few people have ever heard of. If fantastic food isn’t enough to whet your appetite, Modena also boasts a UNESCO-listed Romanesque cathedral, plenty of palazzos and a museum dedicated to Ferrari cars, another Modena export. Head to Spilamberto, just 17km from Modena, in October for Mast Còt, an annual festival in celebration of balsamic vinegar.
Italian Capital of Culture for 2020, Parma is a parade of historic and cultural sights. It’s also the birthplace of parma ham and parmesan cheese, making it one of Italy’s gastronomic goliaths. Parma also boasts a cornucopia of culture, with art galleries and medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture sprinkled around its historic streets. Don’t miss the pink marble Battistero in Piazza del Duomo, Parco Ducale, and having lunch in Piazza Garibaldi, once an ancient Roman forum. Visit Parma in September for the city’s annual Parma Ham Festival. Read more about Italy’s food festivals in our blog.
Located between San Marino and Bologna, Ravenna has a long and illustrious history, once serving as capital of the Western Roman Empire. Thanks to its once powerful position, Ravenna boasts a plethora of cultural and historic landmarks, including several UNESCO-listed sites including Baptistery of Neon and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Ravenna’s biggest claim to fame, however, is its collection of Byzantine mosaics that decorate its many churches and buildings throughout the city. It’s also worth knowing that Cesenatico is just 27 mins away by train, a colourful port town with golden sand beaches and Brisighella, one of the region's most beautiful medieval villages is just over 1 hr away by train via Faenza.
One of Europe’s best known beach resorts, Rimini’s 15km stretch of white sands may have lost the lustre of its Fellini-famed past, but its nightclubs, Roman relics and historic monuments still attract visitors to its sunny Adriatic shores. Take in some of Rimini’s best sights by walking from the Arch of Augustus towards the canal and across the 2,000 year old Tiberio Bridge. Head to Piazza Cavour for seasonal markets and many of Rimini’s most historic buildings, including Teatro Galli. For further beach basking, take a 7 mins train down the coast to Riccione, known for its golden beaches and thermal springs.
You might also enjoy reading our blog on top Italian cities to visit by train.
Image credits top to bottom: Bologna iStock ©ValerioMei, Piazza Roma in Modena Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Richard Mortel, Parma in Italy Flickr Commons (cropped) ©skyseeker, Brisighella iStock ©Flavio Vallenari, Rimini Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Herbert Frank
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