[Travel Advice] Italy Emilia-Romagna Road Trip

Random Observation/Comment #486: If you have celiacs, you’d probably die in Italy of starvation (or be miserable and grumpy all the time).

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This full road trip includes drives to towns of Brisighella, Bologna, Rimini, San Marino (for the passport stamp), Ravenna, Imola, Dozza, Castelvetro, Castelnuovo, Modena, and Parma.

Things Emilia-Romagna does well:

  • Pasta pasta pasta. It’s just so freaking good.
  • Reasonable food and wine prices. This might be because the USD is doing extremely well against the EUR or because I just came back from a trip to Oslo.
  • Surprisingly nice and non-oppressive Northern Italians. I was told the Northerners would be cruel and mean, but I guess that only happens when they get in a car.
  • Agriturismos. What a beautiful concept all together – all local farm grown food made by an old lady/man with no real menu.
  • Meat and cheese. Yes. Give me all the prosciutto and parm. I really enjoyed the wild boar. Even the supermarkets on the side of the highway has amazing stuff. I’d suggest investing in a car knife and platter for meat and cheese cutting.
  • Old people. Thank you for making our pictures better
  • Day drinking. You can easily polish off a half bottle of wine at lunch, continue driving, and still not be the worst driver on the road (this is probably because everyone else finished a full bottle).
  • Driving signage. Instead of North/South/East/West, they give exits at roundabouts the direction towards major cities. This means you should know your relative location and where all the major cities are with respect to you. For example, in Brisighella your north west is Bologna and your east is Ancona on the major interstate. On local roads, you should also note the smaller towns you’d want to go towards (like Imola nearer to Bologna or Rimini further East)

Things Emilia-Romagna can improve:

  • Aggressive tailgating drivers. This happens a lot of places, but we just noticed a bit more impatience here. The cars are also much smaller, so I feel people are a lot more gutsy with their maneuvers.
  • Cooked meat dishes. Don’t get me wrong, the sauces are still fantastic and it’s all still made really well, but compared to the pasta dishes and flavors, it’s clearly inferior. Just order two pasta dishes everywhere you go.
  • (Racism). Not everywhere, but there was this one guy in Ravenna that wouldn’t let me touch this cheese I was clearly going to buy.

Givens:
You should definitely have someone who speaks Italian on this road trip and be prepared to drive an average of 2.5 hours a day with some pretty crazy drivers.

Driving advice:

  • Autogrill is the superior stop. It’s always good to stock up on some road snacks like salami and Parmesan chunks.
  • Don’t forget to get water and stay hydrated.
  • Feel free to go off the beaten path and look for signs for castles when driving local roads (SS9 was the main one we drove to explore). It really pans out nicely. Dozza was one of those awesome random finds that I’d highly recommend.
  • Put together an awesome playlist or just put it on shuffle and feel self conscious about the other people in the car judging you.
  • Have spare change in the car. There were quite a few interstate tolls and our rental didn’t have a telepass thing, so we needed to keep stopping to pay tolls. It’s just always easier to have coins.
  • Bring a map (if only just to see which towns are nearby). You can totally get around without GPS because there’s usually just one road between major towns.
  • Have a coffee (Normale, not Lattes). Espresso is lovely and really helps with the driving.
  • It’s almost impossible to not have any meal without a glass of wine (especially if it’s like $4 a glass). I don’t condone drinking and driving, but I get the feeling everyone in Italy is drunk on the road.
  • Driving signage is very clear once you reach a round-about (which are everywhere), so make sure you look out for any concentric “bulls-eye” circle symbols for the centro as well as little castle symbols for Rocco.
  • Eat at more Agriturismos because they’re so awesome.
  • Read a book about small talk because you’ll definitely have plenty of time to explore different conversation blocks.

Our itinerary:

Day 1: Explored Brisighella to the castle, clock tower, and church. Great view and lots of old people walking around being photogenic. Also really cool donkey road hidden treasures.

brisighella

Lunch at Framboise:

ravioli with bacon
tortellini with crispy bacon at Framboise

Dinner at Cheterena Trattoria:

wild boar pate with truffles at
wild boar pate with truffles at Cheterena Trattoria

 

Day 2: Explored Bologna: Archeological museum and randomly walking around. It seemed like a typical Italian old town with great arch walkways.

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Lunch at Donatello Ristorante in Bologna

taglitelli bolognese
taglitelli bolognese from Donatello’s

 

Dinner at Trattoria S. Eufemia in Brisighella

three pastas
it’s like truffles are free for them
pappardelle
pappardelle with boar

Day 3: Genealogy day in Rimini looking for Malfroni’s and stopping in San Marino for a passport stamp.

genalogy day

Visited cemetaries and archives tracing back all the Malfroni’s

Lunch at Locado de San Marino in Rimini

Part of the appetizer of fried fish
Part of the appetizer of fried fish

San Marino cloud city pretty nice surprise

san marino passport stamp

 

cloudy city

Dinner back at Trattoria S. Eufemia (but now we are regulars)

Strangling priests
Strangling priests

Day 4: Drive towards Ravenna and Imola looking for castles

look how photogenic this guy is
look how photogenic this guy is

Ravenna has surprisingly well-dressed old people, Wifi all over the place, and also disgusting public bathrooms. You can go see some cathedrals, Dante’s tome.

Lunch at Piadina

piadina proscuitto
Do not go see the domus di tappeti di petre (house of carpets of stone). It’s just boring and a rip off.

Imola old town – Pretty nice castle with a nice looking moat and music school next to it

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Dinner again at Trattoria San Euphemia (now they want to marry us off to their cousins)
Wild boar everything

i do like me some wild boar proscuitto
i do like me some wild boar proscuitto

Day 5: Drive around and wander some more old cities in SS9 heading straight towards the Centro.

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Riola terme – Apparently good for baths

Castel San pietro
Beautiful little old part with Christmas music playing

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Lunch at La Querciola (Agriturismo noms)

FYI: Keep driving up the scary mountain single road

agriturismo food
Dozza – this place is awesome and the best kept secret of the area.
Randomly dropped by from a sign of a castle. Beautiful textures and lovely wall murals
Everyone has a different door all together.

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Dinner at Ristorante La Grotta in Brisighella
If they have it on their Christmas menu, get the L’uovo al tegamino con tartufo. It’s a ravioli stuffed with raw egg yolk quickly poached so the center is like an over-easy egg.

Seafood noms (not recommended)

truffle rissotto

Day 6: Drive back to Milan stopping in little towns, Modena, and Parma

Castelvetro di Modena. Beautiful castle small town area with a Christmas center and people making barrels, chairs, and random photogenic things

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Castelnuovo di Modena. There was a huge Zampone festival.
Borlingho crepe thing with lard

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Lunch at Il Patriarca
garganelli con speck e rucola

Modena. Walked around and wasn’t too impressed

Parma. Had some cute markets and old bits

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Overall, I’d definitely recommend Dozza, Imola, and Brisighella as day trips. I would have honestly wanted to eat at more agriturismos, but we were definitely not disappointed by all the great food and friendly people. It rained every day while we were here and still it was quite lovely just hanging around.

~See Lemons Love Italy

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