Stretching from Rimini on the Adriatic Coast to Piacenza on the banks of the river Po, the Via Emilia is a must do for BUCKiTDREAMERs looking to road trip across The Boot of Italy. Built back in 187 BC, the road was originally a Roman trunk road constructed under the imperialist reign of the Romans. Their rather aggressive tactic for expansion was to build a lovely new road through a freshly conquered territory and build a number of colonies along it, whether the defeated locals protested or not.
At only 176 miles (260 kilometers) long, you could easily drive the whole length of the Via Emilia in less than three hours, but why would you want to? With detours aplenty beckoning you off the road, it’s best to give yourself at least two weeks to fit in all the adventures, curiosities and gastronomical delights that are waiting for you in the Emilia-Romagna region.
As Western tourists are typically more drawn to Tuscany in the west and Rome to the south, the Via Emilia is certainly the road less traveled. Although this does have its drawbacks, the main one being that English is spoken much less here than in more tourist-orientated parts of Italy, it makes your journey a much more authentic one than you’ll experience anywhere else.
Thankfully, the relatively short length of the Via Emilia means you can pack a lot into a couple of short weeks. There is a lot to see, do and most importantly eat along the way! Narrowing it down to six must-see spots is quite a feat, seeing as you travel the road you’ll encounter countless more Italian gems along the way – all worthy of inclusion in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
I hope you’re a hungry BUCKiTDREAMER because we’re about to burn rubber through the gastronomic heart of the most delectable country on earth!
Fill Up At the Home Of Italian Ham and Cheese In Parma The Via Emilia is home to what was the agricultural backbone of the Roman Empire, so it’s no wonder that some of the best food in the world can be found along its path. Although nearly every town along the route is brimming with their own unique gastronomical delights, the culinary gem in the crown has to be the city of Parma. It is the home of iconic Italian dietary staples such as prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano, or parma ham and parmesan cheese to English speakers.
You can organize ready-made tours of large parmesan and parma ham producers with Explore Emilia, we suggest that you go solo and find smaller, local producers to visit here and here. When you’ve had your fill of the fine cuisine that Parma is famous for, head to Enoteca Fontana on the Via Farini to have some Lambrusco, which is the sweet, fruity wine of the Emilia-Romagna region, whilst rubbing elbows with the locals.
Drink To Your Heart’s Content in Reggio-Emilia The city of Reggio-Emilia envelopes the Via Emilia and is notorious for its wild nightlife. If you think that you can handle the pace, start your night off in La Trampa, a lively music bar that’s as famous for its €1 shots as it is for its friendly and chatty bartenders.
After you’ve had enough of the finest liqueurs that the region has to offer, make your way to RE Club, Reggio-Emilia’s most infamous mainstay of the nightlife scene. When you wake up the next morning with one of the most potent hangovers of your life, get yourself to Macelleria Trattoria Fornaciara for some perfect food to banish nausea and headaches.
Buckle Up in Maranello When choosing the car to rent for this unforgettable road trip, no doubt you picked something quintessentially Italian like the omnipresent Fiat or the reliable Lancia? You’re going to have to swap in those keys for something slightly more exciting as we rev up towards Maranello, our next stop and home of the Ferrari.
On arriving, the first thing to do is to travel to the Mecca of modern racing and pay homage to the legend that is Enzo Ferrari at the Ferrari Museum. Here, you can drool over the vintage and new legendary cars, learn more about the iconic brand and live out your dreams in the Formula 1 simulator.
Now that your blood is pumping and you’re eager for more, pop across to Push Start where you’ll get to experience the real thing in their fleet of supercars. Push Start offer you the chance of town or country driving in your dream car or for the more adventurous, they can organize a two-hour driving course in the mountains.
Eat and Drink Like Kings in Bologna Rejoin the Via Emilia and make a beeline for the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region – Bologna. Almost as famous as the pasta dish to which it lends its name, Bologna is the beating heart of the Via Emilia. Food lovers head straight to the Quadrilatero, a food market that dates back to medieval times. Here, you can pick up some world famous foods that have their roots in Bologna, such as tagliatelle, tortellini, and Bolognese sauce.
As the sun starts to set, move to one of the bars in the sprawling Piazza Maggiore to partake in the Italian tradition of the Aperitivo hour as the sun sets. Aperitivo hour is a pre-dinner drinks tradition in most of Italy whereby locals head to their local bar for a drink, traditionally an Aperol Spritz, and some sumptuous antipasti before dinner. Don’t get too greedy, though. Although you’ll never be refused, it is frowned upon by the locals to go up for a second or third helping of antipasti. Remember, this is just a snack, not a whole meal!
Seek Inspiration and Thrills in Ravenna Taking your biggest detour off of the Via Emilia, head east to the dreamy streets of Ravenna. Home to what is arguably the world’s most divine and well-preserved mosaics, Ravenna is an art lover’s dream with numerous masterpieces on display, both indoors and outside.
While Florence is the city most associated with visionary poet Dante Aligheri, it is Ravenna that is his final resting place. This is where he spent the last part of his life following his exile from his beloved Florence. You can visit his tomb to pay your respects to one of the most influential writers that have ever lived. Starkly contrasting the art and literary grandeur of Ravenna is Mirabilandia, Italy’s largest amusement located just outside the city in Savio.
As trips to theme parks are usually hampered by unending queues, we recommend picking up a Flash Pass to help expedite the process.
Soak Up the Sun In Rimini After all that driving, it will be time to submerge those aching feet in the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. The white sand beaches of Rimini are exactly what the doctor ordered.
Tired of stretching out on the beach with nothing but a shoddy, market bought towel between you and the sand? You won’t even be afforded the opportunity to do so in this seaside town. Rimini beaches are famous for being absolutely covered with edge-to-edge sun loungers and parasols, meaning you’re nearly always guaranteed a comfy place to relax without the worry of getting sand down your shorts.
Local businesses typically rent out the beds on the beach and as there is no fixed price, you’re best to shop around for the best price. If you plan on staying in Rimini for a few days, be sure to let your attendant know as they often give discounted rates for longer stays.
Thanks to its brevity, you don’t just have to settle for one trip down the Via Emilia. If you get to the end and are raring for more, why not make your way back up? There are endless, adventures to be had on the 260 km stretch! When you make new discoveries, don’t forget to log them into your BUCKiTDREAM planner and share across your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the #BucketList hashtag to inspire your fellow foodie BUCKiTDREAMERs!