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Emilia Romagna

This is the region of the Great River Po, of the painter Parmigianino, of arcades and castles scattered over the hills: the land of mists, poplars and bicycles celebrated by Bernardo Bertolucci in his unforgettable film Novecento. From Parma to Imola, there is not a town or village without at least one stretch of road that is shaded in the summer and sheltered in the winter.
Arcades dominate in Bologna, with more than 38 kilometres of arcaded streets, where you can roam all over the old town centre without an umbrella on a rainy day. The real heart of the city is piazza Maggiore, where you can admire the palazzo del Podestà, the palazzo dei Banchi, the palazzo dei Notai, the Comune (Town Hall) and the magnificent Basilica of S. Petronio: they all overlook the magnificent bronze statue of the god that tops the fountain of Neptune, by Giambologna, one of the symbols of the city. Piazza Maggiore is the people’s square, charming and exciting, a place for meeting people and for strolling; the ideal shopping area is under the elegant arcade of the Pavaglione: 400 metres of “salon”, full of jeweller’s shops, boutiques and curios.
The Emilian gastronomic tradition is exceptional and includes gnocchi fritti (fried dumplings) and piadine (flat bread), coppa and culatelli (varieties of dry-cured ham), but the glories of Bologna are its tagliatelle alla bolognese (noodles with meat souse), tortellini (rings of stuffed pasta), lasagne and wonderful snacks, such as a bread roll with freshly sliced mortadella sausage, not forgetting Sangiovese wine and Modena balsamic vinegar..
Parma is a refined and cultivated city, with a tradition of booksellers and fine art printers; the Biblioteca Palatina library, in palazzo della Pilotta, contains over 700,000 volumes including splendid artistic codices, manuscripts and extremely rare Hebrew incunabula. Parma’s poetic atmosphere continues in the charming parco Ducale, with many fine buildings, and the Teatro Regio, a neoclassical masterpiece and one of Italy’s most important opera houses. But the symbol of the town is its wonderful Romanesque Duomo, with decorations and sculptures telling the story of the city in stone. The Province of Parma is full of churches, oratories, abbeys and castles dating back to the Middle Ages, but also of strongholds and fortified towns ready to repel enemies or welcome ladies and gallant knights. Roccabianca looks like something out of a fairytale: the backdrop of its scenic square is the façade of a castle that was a gift of love from a noble knight to his beloved Bianca Pellegrini. The romantic story continues in the Torrechiara castle, perched on a hilltop, with perfect outlines visible from far off: a true mediaeval fortress, menacing and stark. This is where the two lovers used to meet secretly: the Camera d’Oro (golden room) depicts their love story in the frescoes on the ceiling and the wall coffers decorated with interlaced hearts and initials. The castle is close to Langhirano, where the tall narrow windows of the buildings and the wide terraces are essential factors for the production of prosciutto crudo di Parma (Parma dry-cured ham), famous all over the world and Parmigiano Reggiano (Reggiano Parmesan cheese), which is king in the town of Soragna.
Reggio Emilia is a city of arcades and bell towers decorated with many contemporary works; in the cloister of the thirteenth-century monastery of San Domenico stands Less than by the sculptor Robert Morris: a big, bronze, headless figure bearing a heavy amphora on its back.
Two other interesting cities are Ferrara, with its wonderful palazzo dei Diamanti (palace of the diamonds), faced with elegant pointed blocks, which houses the important Pinacoteca Nazionale picture gallery, and Ravenna, world famous for its mosaics: these treasures of humanity are in the San Vitale complex and the eye never tires of the marvellous Byzantine pictures.
But it is the Po, a river full of life, crowded with canoes and pleasure boats all the year round, and the villages along its banks that are the most authentic and fascinating part of a region made up of special atmospheres, where even the mist, in winter, gives the landscape a mysterious charm and where every place is steeped in the music and memories of Giuseppe Verdi, who was born in this area. Brescello, the village of don Camillo e Peppone, still calls to mind the romantic battles between the mayor and the parish priest, who came to be loved throughout the world. Piacenza is a beautiful city, reserved, with buildings that have plain facades but on the inside are filled with splendid gardens and courtyards, statues and staircases; however, their luxury is always restrained and discreet: in palazzo Farnese everybody is charmed by the Madonna adoring the Child by Sandro Botticelli.
Motor enthusiasts will, on the other hand, be charmed by the Ferrari gallery in Maranello. And, of course, admirers of Federico Fellini just have to go to Rimini, the “queen of beaches”, crowded with “vitelloni” (idlers), where everything reminds us of the great Master.

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