The region of Emilia Romagna is dominated, geographically, by the great Po River. The river is largely responsible for the rich microclimate and flourishing flora. Over the centuries, the vast marshes have been transformed into some of the best farmland in the region, and the delta is the ideal habitat for land animals and fish. In southern Emilia Romagna, the Apennine Mountains divide, and unite, the region with Liguria, Tuscany and the Marche. The region’s fertile plain has been crossed by many populations throughout the centuries who have left their mark on the culture of the region.
The main cities in Emilia Romagna are all located Via Emilia, an ancient Roman road. Each city is unique, but they are all rich in history and beauty. Bologna, the capital of the region, was founded by the Etruscans and is home to the oldest University in the world. Ravenna is a Byzantine jewel and home to many imperial artistic treasures. Ferrara was the capital of the dukedom of Este, and the city’s history is reflected in its splendid palaces. Modena is known for its incredible Romanesque architecture, including the Torre del Ghirlandina, the bell tower of the Cathedral of Modena. Let’s not forget Reggio Emilia, birthplace of Italian National flag, and Parma, an elegant city where Dutchess Maria Luigia from Austria held her court. And lastly, there is Piacenza, which is considered the territorial and historical border between Emilia and Lombardy.
The regional cuisine is a blend of Byzantine traditions and Lombard customs. In Romagna, there is a long tradition of growing olives, and cooking meat and fish on terracotta tiles. In Emilia, however, the local diet relys heavily on salumi and cheeses. These long-lasting products originally come from the nomadic populations in the area that sustained themselves with animals, and few, wild fruits and vegetables.
The regional salumi, or cured meats, are famous throughout the world. Some of the more popular products include Mortadella di Bologna IGP, Salama da Sugo Ferrarese IGP, Zampone, or pig’s trotter, and Cotechino di Modena, a juicy, cooked pork sausage. Pancetta Canusina and Salame di Canossa made in the province of Reggio, are also considered local specialties. Then, of course, there is Coppa, Pancetta, and Salame Piacentini.
The city of Parma must be singled out for its superior salumi. Culatello di Zibello DOP, Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Spalla Cotta di San Secondo, and Salame di Felino are all made in and around Parma. Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, the “king of cheeses”, is produced here, and so are Val Padana DOP and Pecorino reggiano, a niche product that was saved from extinction.
Pasta is king in Emilia Romagna, thanks to the local cultivation of wheat. Fresh egg pasta is rolled and cut into lasagne, tagliatelle, tortellini, cappelletti, and tortelli stuffed with various ingredients like beef, poulty, ricotta and swiss chard, cheese, eggs and herbs. Bread can also be found in numerous shapes and sizes, from the classic piadina, a soft, flat bread typical of Romagna, to the gnocco fritto, or fried dough. Coppia ferrarese DOP and tigelle are other popular breads.
Along the coast of Romagna, you will find many types of fish and seafood, as well as eels from the lagoons in the Comacchio valleys.
Wine grapes are grown throughout the region. At harvest time, the grapes begin their transformation into wines like Lambrusco, Sangiovese, and Albana. These local wines pair excellently with the local cuisine. The grapes are also converted into vinegar. The traditional balsamic vinegars of of Modena and Reggio are rich and delicious, especially the ones that have been aged for over 10 years.
Some traditional products of Emilia Romagna
Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
The quality of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is based on a happy balance of many factors, including the quality of the the milk, the artisanal production methods that have remained unchanged for 7 centuries, the natural aging process, the complete absence of preservatives.
Prosciutto di Parma DOP
Prosciutto di Parma is made by rubbing and massaging the hind legs of pork with an amount of salt proportionate to the weight of the meat.
Aceto Balsamico DOP
Since the end of the Middle Ages, records show the presence of a “tart syrup,” vinegar’s precursor, in the areas between Panaro and Secchia, near Modena, and around Reggio.
Some traditional recipes of Emilia Romagna
Crescentina (deep-fried bread)
A delicious, tasty and easy-to-make appetizer to open your dinner.
Pumpkin Ravioli (Cappellacci)
The sweetness of pumpkin enclosed in home-made pasta: a refined and particular variant on filled pasta.
Beef fillet with Balsamic vinegar
In this recipe, a fillet of beef is paired with one of the most famous Italian products in the world – balsamic vinegar.
Erbazzone (Savory greens pie)
A classic recipe from the Italian gastronomic legacy.
Rice, milk, sugar and candied fruit go into this delicious gluten-free cake from the city of Bologna.