Despite its convenient location between the big tourist draw cards of Toscana to the south and Lombardia and Veneto in the north, Emilia-Romagna is largely overlooked by the visiting masses. The regional capital, Bologna, was one of the most important medieval cities; its university is Europe's oldest, and turned out the likes of dante and Petrarch. Bologna has also lomg been regarded as Italy's culinary capital, drawing on produce from the fertile plains along the Po valley and adding tortellini and lasagne to the Italian table. It is a sophisticated city, well worth a visit of several days, and makes a good base for short trips to Ferrara, Modena and Parma, all once important Renaissance towns.
The Adriatic towns of Ravenna, which boasts one of the world's best collection of Byzantine mosaics, and Rimini, with its beaches and nightlife, add to the region's diversity, as does the marshland of the Po delta, which Emilia-Romagna shares with Veneto.
A highlight for those interested in trekking is the Grande Escursione Appenninica (GEA), a 25-day hike that cuts a path through the Appennini, taking in rifugi and many of the dozens of medieval castles dotting the range. Emilia, which stretches west of Bologna, and Romagna to the east were joined on Italian unification. Both forner papal states, they each retain their own identity: the Emilians are an industrious people, and the Romagnoli are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, which finds a special expression in tourism.
Transport along the Emilia is excellent and bus connections enable exploration into the mountains and north along the Po river. The region's prosperity means prices are relatively high, but thanks to several youth hostels even a budget traveller can see the entire region without too much trouble. Squeezed in between Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche to the south is the tiny "independent" republic of San Marino.
City: Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì, Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio nell'Emilia, Rimini
Surface: kmq 22123
National Parks:Parco Nazionale del Monte Falterona, Campigna e delle Foreste Casentinesi (1990).