The northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is a food lover’s paradise, but you will need to be fit to find their famous tartufo!
When one conjures images of Italy, food is ubiquitous in our minds. From selected hams to unctuous cheeses and those magical precious stones of the fine dining world, the truffle (tartufo), Italy has it all and more.
Italy is divided into 20 regions, of which Emilia-Romagna is a broad strip of land which lies at the top of the boot of Italy, where the ‘leg’ joins the mainland continental mass, extending from the eastern seaboard almost reaching to the west coast, where the region of Liguria keeps it from the Ligurian sea and the port city of Genoa.
Not only is Emilia-Romagna a centre for food production, but it is also home to automobile giants such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ducati. It is also one of the wealthiest regions in Europe and is a tourist centre and cultural hub: the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world.
“A visit to the old town is a must; the mosaics and architecture of the numerous UNESCO sites have been lovingly preserved”
Globally, Emilia-Romagna is perhaps most famous for its cities and their namesake foodstuffs: Parma for its ham, Modena for its balsamic vinegar and wine and Bologna for its sausage (or ‘baloney’ if you are from the States). It is also one of the most fecund regions for its tartufo, of which the best areas in low-lying shaded woodland by waterways are a closely guarded secret.
Suffice to say, with all these places in geographical proximity to Bologna airport, and connected via motorway in an almost perfect diagonal line from the northwestern tip of the region to San Marino in the southeast, it means sampling a country’s culinary delights has never been so convenient.
However, it is away from these loci of regional activity where one can find the real gems of the region, where food, wine and history combine to create a sensorial delight.
Situated some 31 miles northeast of Bologna is the town of Ferrara. Dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, this quaint town is built on level ground with wide-open streets and spaces, making it perfect to be seen by bicycle, where one can cruise its old town walls and numerous palaces in leisurely comfort. For its charm, beauty and cultural importance it has been qualified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In the town centre is Castello castle with a history dating back to 1385, when its first sections were constructed in order to guarantee the security of the nobility in the event of civil unrest.
While in Ferrara, a prime destination for any foodies should be Cusina e Butega, a bastion of local food serving the finest of local specialities; they also sell local produce there, so that you might take a little of the magic home with you. Estense, a moated medieval
An hour’s drive southeast is the coastal town of Ravenna, connected to the Adriatic Sea by the Candiano Canal. It is known for its well-preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture, and has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire in 402 AD and changed hands several times between the Ostrogoths, Romans and Lombards. Here, a visit to the old town centre is a must; the mosaics and architecture of the numerous UNESCO sites have been lovingly preserved and many remain as vibrant and impressive as the original artists would have wished, carrying their thoughts, feelings and devotions across the ages.
This long and loving tradition of mosaic is continued to this day at the KOKO Mosaic Laboratory, a mosaic studio and mosaic school, where guests can observe, learn and buy mosaics, and even meet the resident artists.