Italy is always a good choice with its long history, magnificent architecture and delicious food. As already the name of our blog tells you, we love trying new food, and so we decided to visit the home of two of our favorite foods – Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. They both come from Emilia-Romagna, a region in the north of Italy, between Venice, Milan, and Florence. In this blog, we will show you our 2-day itinerary of the area which lets you explore the highlights of Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna.
Day 1 – Modena, Parma, Regio Emilia
Modena, the city of vinegar and Ferrari cars
Our first association to Modena was, of course, the balsamic vinegar. But Modena is so much more! It is home to wonderful old architecture, Ferrari cars, and the world’s best restaurant! You can start your visit in the main square of Piazza Grande and visit the amazing cathedral built in the 14th century and now under Unesco’s protection. Did you know that funeral of one of the most famous people from Modena, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, was held in that cathedral?
Next to the cathedral, do not miss the 86-meters high bell tower Torre della Ghirlandina on which you can also climb and get fantastic views over Modena. The belltower was built already in the 12th century and was just recently renovated. In the tower, you can see the famous bucket, which Modenese stole from the Bolognese after a war in the Middle Ages.
If you are a foodie, do not miss the old market Mercato Albinelli and enjoy the fresh food and typical Italian dishes like cheese Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma ham, fresh pasta, fruits, and vegetables. The ultimate foodie experience in Modena is the Osteria Francescana, the world’s best restaurant with 3-Michelin stars. We, unfortunately, did not go there as you have to book a table several months in advance and it is also slightly over our budget.
There are many more things to see, and you can adapt the itinerary according to your wishes – the museum of Luciano Pavarotti, the Enzo Ferrari museum, galleries.
Reggio Emilia, the home of Italian flag
On the way to your next stop, the town of Parma, you can stop for a traditional gelato ice cream in Reggio Emilia. Reggio Emilia is most known as being the birthplace of the Italian flag as it was sewn there for the first time by the local women when Napoleon marched into town.
Parma – the city of the Parma ham
The afternoon is dedicated to the city of Parma and its sights. The top thing you should not miss is the baptistery. It is one of the most important Medieval buildings in Europe and has a beautiful interior with frescoes.
Our favorite thing in Parma was just walking along its streets as they were quite empty and peaceful.
You can finish the day like we did – with a fantastic local dinner with lots of Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, and fresh pasta.
Day 2 – Parmesan cheese factory, Bologna
The ultimate foodie experience – making of Parmesan cheese
We are big fans of the Parmesan cheese, and we were excited to learn that you can visit a dairy and observe the whole process of making the cheese. The Parmesan cheese is made each day in the morning. We visited the dairy Grande (more in another blog), but there are several open for visits. The list is available at this LINK
Bologna was the most touristy and crowded place of all the cities we visited on our itinerary. You should start your visit right in the heart of Bologna – on Piazza Maggiore, an enormous square. First, admire the Fountain of the Neptun. Right next to the fountain, there is the palace Palazzo d’Accursio which now serves as a town hall.
Just a few steps away from the palace you can visit the vast basilica of San Petronio which you should not miss. The facade is still not finished, and only one-half of the church is covered in marble. Supposedly, the locals wanted to make the church more beautiful than the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, but the pope stopped the venture, and the church remained unfinished to this day.
Then, you can walk to the landmark of the Bologna, the two towers from the 12th century. Bologna used to be the city of towers, as in the Middle ages 180 towers existed. Today, only twenty towers remain, and the two most famous of them are the Asinelli and the Garisenda. Did you know that the Asinelli tower was used to perform experiments which proved that the Earth rotates?
The place we really loved in Bologna was the Quadrilatero – old Medieval trading quarter which is now full of cute little restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and street musicians. It is a perfect place to have lunch while observing people passing by. Of course, the dish you really must order in Bologna is the tagliatelle al ragù – the pasta with sauce Bolognese.
Your trip to Emilia-Romagna can be extended for several days if you visit some of the less known and touristy places. Still, in two days you see just enough to want to come back!