Do you have a treat in store! Or I should say treats. You are going
to one of the premier Italian regions, Emilia-Romagna. You'll feast
your eyes as well as your stomach. The regional cuisine features
gnocchi, rolled veal and beef, different kinds of egg pasta, and more.
But it is the art and the history that interests you, so here we go.
I think you could play pin-the-tail- on -the -donkey with a map and
still come out ahead as far as fascinating places to visit. I've
chosen the following cities because they are featured in two excellent
tour guides: "Baedeker' Italy," (2nd Edition, 1993, Prentice Hall
Press, London) and "Michelin Italy" (4th Edition, 1995, Michelin Tyre,
London) which I used as references for history and major city
features. I also used Italian language web sites.
I have listed a number cities in the region and some of the highlights
of their artistic and architectural treasure. I guess you'll have to
choose among them. For each city, I've given a link to the
Wikipedia.org entry for the city even though I did not use it as a
source. Bologna, with over 350,000 residents, is the largest city.
The others have populations well under 200,000 and usually quite
spread out from the historic center.
Since you plan to be out each of your three days for about 10 hours,
you could consider triangulating--visiting two cities each day. For
example, you could do Bologna-Faenza-Ravenna-Bologna in one day. With
about an hour on the road each way plus an hour between towns (and
taking away an hour for lunch --you shouldn't do lunch in less), that
leaves you 3 hours in each town, which should be sufficient to see one
or two major churches or museums and to walk around a bit. The
logistics are up to you. I'd recommend going slower rather than
faster?see less, enjoy more.
Here are the highpoints of several small cities in Emilia-Romagna (the
distances given are from Bologna):
BOLOGNA, your base camp, is a wealthy city known for taking care of
its citizens. It has, for example, superior libraries, schools, and
senior citizen centers providing services benefiting babes-in-arms as
well as the elderly. A walk through its arcaded central streets is a
walk through past ages where you'll see the remains of the original
walls of the city, once forming a circuit of 8 km/5mi.
The city was laid out by the Romans in 189 BC. It is the home of the
oldest European university, started in the 13th Century. The buildings
feature brick work and date from the Gothic through the Renaissance
and the Baroque periods. Artists came from other parts of Italy to
practice sculpture in Bologna, Michelangelo among them.
If you want to linger in Bologna, see the Neptune fountain (Fontana
del Nettuno) in the Piazza del Nettuno and also the leaning towers in
the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana.
further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna
FAENZA (45km,/28mi) is a town famous for faience (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faience ), a delicately colored pottery
also called majolica. The town is still surrounded by ancient town
walls. In the main piazza there is a clock tower and a beautiful
fountain dating back to 1621. There is the International Ceramics
Museum (Museo internazionale delle ceramiche) showing the development
of ceramics throughout the ages, with examples. There are also works
by Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso, among others. In the center of
town, the Piazza del Popolo is an unusual, elongated square with
arcades and galleries all around.
further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faenza
MODENA (39km/24mi). Founded by the Celts in the 3rd Century BC, Modena
became a duchy of the great Este family. In modern times it is the
home of the Ferrari and of Luciano Pavarotti?greatness in all its
variety. Near the Cathedral is the Torre di Ghirlandina, considered
one of the finest campaniles in Northern Italy.
The Duomo (Cathedral) is a truly unique building, one of the most
illustrious examples of Roman architecture. It was built in 1099 and
has splendid 14th Century pulpit close by the terracotta sculpture,
the "Madonna della Pappa."
Another site is the ancient Dukes of Este Library (Biblioteca dei
Duchi d'Este). It features a collection of miniature codices and a
masterpiece, the Bible of the Bursar of the Este family (Bibbia di
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modena
RAVENNA (78km/48mi). Once a seaport, later a lagoon town, like
Venice, the city is connected to the sea by a 10km/6mi) canal. The
city came into prominence in the 5th Century with the establishment of
the Emperor's court there. It was a natural fortress, the sea on one
side and lagoons and marshes on the other.
It has become known as the "City of Mosaics," where the art of mosaics
was born and where it finds expression in many of the churches.
A Latin inscription on the walls of the Archbishop's Chapel states :
"Aut lux hic nata est aut capta hic libera regnat" or "Light was born
here, but once captured, it reigns here free [in the mosaics]" Mosaics
also adorn the octagonal 5th Century baptistery immediately next to
the Duomo of Sant'Orso in the Piazza del Popolo. You can also see
mosaics in other churches in the historic center of the city, such as
San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.
Ravenna is famous also for its Byzantine and Paleochristian monuments
which reveal some of the city' ancient origins. To move around the
historic center of the city it is preferable to leave the car in a lot
on the Via Anatagi, Via Missiroli or Via Randi and tour around to
various points of interest via the very efficient system of minibuses.
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenna
FERRARA (47km/29mi). In 1332, The Dukes of Este established a Ferrara
stronghold which lasted into the 16th Century. There, the great
Italian poets Ludovico Ariosto and later Torquato Tasso were part of
the Este court. Today, the Este Castle, seemingly impregnable with its
moat , stands in the center of town.
Near the castle is the Duomo with its Lombard-Romanesque facade, all
in marble, which is famous for its sculpture and the arrangement of
its openings. Farther along lies the Palace of Diamonds with its
distinctive marble facade, and Este summer residence which is now the
Ferrara is the setting of a well regarded book by Giorgio Bassani,
"The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" which was made into a movie
directed by Vittorio DeSica. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065777/ )
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrara
PARMA (92km/57mi). Although it has a long history dating back to its
founding in 183 AD, Parma is, in places, a "new" town. Many of its
piazzas and houses had to laid out from scratch after World War Ii
when parts of it were destroyed. But it is a town loaded with charm
and good food. Its well known exports, parmesan cheese (parmiggiano)
and prosciutto ham, have become staples in many kitchens throughout
Europe and North America.
Perhaps you'd like to visit Parma to get a taste not only of the food,
but of Italian life in a small provincial capital. Many people still
get around on bicycles. Citizens of all ages gather around the Piazza
Garibaldi to sit in the cafes and restaurants, to gossip, to catch up
with new and old acquaintances.
The Baptistery (Battissero) next to the Duomo has been called "Italy's
most harmonious medieval monument." It is an octagonal structure made
of marble. The National Gallery of Art (Pinacoteca) features Emilian,
Tuscan, and Venetian paintings of the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries by
Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Canaletto, and El Greco, among
The art and architectureof Parma are as fine as any town in the North
of Italy, but, don't forget, this may be indeed be the capital of
Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parma
Michelin's Green Guide Italy
I'd like to wish you a very happy and artistically rewarding trip. Or
as they say in Italy, buon viaggio.