The region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy is considered not only one of the richest regions in Italy, but by many to be one of the most developed and wealthiest regions in all of Europe. Located in northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna lies beneath Veneto and Lombardy and above Tuscany and Marche. Comprised of the two former regions of Emilia and Romagna, it stretches nearly the width of Italy with an area of 22,124 square kilometers.
Geographically, the Emilia-Romagna region is half plains, perfect for the agriculture that dominates the region. Near the coast, the land turns to marshes and wetlands near the Po Delta, with lagoons and salt ponds, as well as some natural thermal springs.
The region borders the Adriatic sea and there are a number of beaches along the coast. The other half of the region is divided fairly evenly between hills and mountains. The Apennines cover over 300 kilometers along the eastern side of the region from north to south.
The capital of the region is Bologna, the metropolitan area of which holds nearly a quarter of the region’s population. Even with its massive population, Bologna consistently rates among the most prosperous Italian cities in terms of economic growth rate and can also claim the highest quality of life index in the country.
Settled since 1000 BC, Bologna has a rich cultural, historical, and economic background that makes it a key tourist draw. It was named the European Capital of Culture in 2000 and a UNESCO City of Music in 2006. Bologna has the second largest historic city centre in Europe at 350 acres, and is a treasure trove of monuments and buildings from medieval to modern times.
The University of Bologna, which is thought to have been established in 1088, is the oldest university in the world that has been in continuous operation and still attracts students to this day.
Modena, Ferrara, and Parma are also key cities of the region, all of them renowned Renaissance and Romanesque cities that have much to offer those seeking a cultural experience. Modena is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Cathedral of Modena and Piazza Grande.
The Cathedral was begun in 1099 and includes a gothic campanile that was added in 1179. The city of Ferrara is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. It is surrounded by six miles of the best preserved Renaissance walls still standing in Italy and is full of Romanesque cathedrals and Renaissance palaces.
The City Historical Archive of Ferrara contains documents that date back to the 15th century and Diocesan Historical Archive contains even older works collected by the Church. Parma is home to the Parma University, which was established in 1117 AD, is another one of the oldest universities in the world like the one in Bologna. Parma is also known for a number of churches, palaces, and monuments dating back as far as the Middle Ages.
The Coastal Areas
The coastal areas of Emilia-Romagna include charming resorts and the mouth of the Po River. Comacchio, a town on the lagoon at the mouth of the Po Delta, is home to the International Po Delta Birdwatching Fair and offers access to the wetlands and salt ponds which are designated a Special Protection Area by the Italian government.
Rimini and Riccione are both known for offering exceptional seaside resorts. Rimini is an extremely popular resort town throughout Europe and its fifteen kilometer sandy beach is lined by a thousand hotels and more restaurants and bars, as well as Roman and Renaissance architecture and monuments.
Riccione is another famous tourist draw to the Adriatic Riviera and is popular with both young adults and with families. The city not only has numerous discos and a thriving nightlife, but it also home to a number of theme parks and many hotels offer babysitting services for those with young children.
Agriculture and Industry
The region’s economy is a healthy balance of agriculture and industry that makes it one of the wealthiest in Europe. As one of Italy’s leading agricultural regions, Emilia-Romagna produces tomatoes, maize, onions, potatoes and cereal grains, as well as fruit.
Local wineries grow grapes used to make Lambrusco, Pignoletto, Sangiovese and Albana wines. Regional farmers also breed hogs and cattle quite successfully. Outside of farming, the region is internationally famous for its automobile manufacturing.
Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini are considered some of the premier luxury sports cars worldwide and all of them are headquartered in Emilia-Romagna. The region is also home to Ducati, who manufacture motorcycles purchased worldwide.
Cuisine in Emilia-Romagna is varied by region, but is typical to most fare found in Italy. Pasta is popular, and Bologna is known for its lasagna, tagliatelle, tortellini and gramigna. Modena and Reggio Emilia are the source of balsamic vinegar, which is made according to strict traditional procedures and stored in barrels.
Parmesan cheese also comes from this region, primarily from Modena, Parma, Bologna and Reggio Emilia, and is very popular in local dishes. Polenta is a popular dish and salami and prosciutto are also common. Coastal areas are known for their eel and clams.
While Emilia-Romagna holds fewer tourist attractions than Veneto or Lazio, the rich heritage and cultural significance of the region makes it an appealing destination. From those who are looking for a relaxing beach resort to a car fanatic seeking a visit to the headquarters of Lamborghini, Emilia-Romagna has a little something for everyone.