This region is Emilia and Romagna. In short, Emilia means ham, cheese and Ferrari; Romagna means Sangiovese, the Adriatic Coast and cycling. Many more reasons to go below.
The Regio Theatre in Parma is considered the birthplace of Italian melodrama and is famous, or perhaps infamous if you are a performer, for its highly enthusiastic and critical public. It was built between 1821 and 1829 by the architect Nicola Bettoli who was commissioned by Duchess Maries-Louise of Austria. The theatre was inaugurated in May 1829 with the lyric opera 'Zaira' by Bellini.
The neoclassical portico with its ionic columns boasts decorations featuring the allegories of Fame and Lyre while the interior has four tiers of private boxes around the stalls. This contrasts strongly with the new Niccolò Paganini Music Hall built by Renzo Piano in the nearby Eridania Park. Converted fron an old sugar factory dating from 1899 the open square plan is the venue for the Concert Season of the Regio Theatre.
Fried gnocco or gnocco fritto is typical of Emilia Romagna and especially the area of Reggio Emilia and Modena where they are served with Italian salumi such as mortadella di Bologna, prosciutto di Parma, salame felino di Modena and culatello di Zibello.
Bologna Turismo produced an interesting guide to the porticoes of the city a little while back. It has the evocative title of 'Musica per Archi e Portici - note per un itinerario' in Bologna. Translated that's 'Notes for an itinerary - music for arches and porches. It's always more lyrical in Italian.
But it is certainly true that all the great composers have walked the historical centre of Bologna at one time. The guide mentions Mozart, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Rossini and Donizetti.
If you know where to look, the alleys, ways and hidden paths of the city have left traces and clues to their presence.
Bologna is one of Italy's most interesting and active cities. It has managed to preserve one of the country's most charismatic historical city centers, while at the same time embracing the arts, technology and remaining politically progressive.
Bologna 2000 was one of the Jubilee year's most successful initiatives and the city was also European City of Culture. Bologna is called 'la dotta' (the savant one) as the city is home to the oldest University in the world. They also call Bologna 'la grassa' (the fat one) because of its fantastic food such as 'tortellini' and 'bolognese ragu'
One way to appreciate the city is to climb one or both of the famous towers; the Garisenda and Asinelli built in the 13th century.
From the top, the layout of the historical center of Bologna is clearly visible. It is formed of a series of ever increasing concentric rings heading towards the the countryside, and long porticoes.
The 'Camera di Commercio, Industria, Artigianato e Agricoltura di Bologna' has produced a small paperback called 'La Mercanzia' which outlines the history and background to tortellini pasta from Bologna and tagliatelle pasta. It is without doubt the definitive source for anyone seeking information about Emilia Romagna's classic pasta.
It is at the above Chamber of Commerce where the official recipes for 'tortellini di Bologna' and 'ragu Bolognese' have been deposited for posterity, as well as the correct measurements for real tagliatella pasta from Bologna or 'tagliatella di Bologna'. There is even a sample tagliatella in a locked box used to settle arguments.
Lambrusco wine has regained a certain credibility recently. Not least thanks to a concerted effort by the Consorzio del Marchio Storico dei Lambruschi Modenesi. This no profit entity guarantees the authenticity of the product and the cultivation of the 'lambrusca' grape in a designated territory.
The grape was known in ancient Etruscan and Roman times. Greek physician Discoride, Cato and Pliny the Elder all spoke fondly of the characteristics of version of the wine in their times and documents from the late 17th century recording "strong red grapes" from various areas within the Modena territory including Sorbara, perhaps the definitive territory for Lambrusco.
What is a Piadina
This simple unleavened bread of flour, salt and water has always been part of the basic diet of those living near the Mediterranean Sea. It may be flat, but is beautifully soft and slightly crispy at the same time.
Every town in Romagna has its own slightly different variation with names such as 'Pida', 'Piada' or 'Pie'. The difference is usually in the thickness of the bread due to extra yeast, milk or even honey, but all are typically cooked on clay baking dish or iron plate. A piadina is delicious with salami, grilled meats, cheese and fruits and jams. A very popular recipe of recent times is piadina with Nutella.
The folks of the Parco del Delta del Po Emilia Romagna often organize free tours or itineraries “a filo d’acqua” to help visitors appreciate the eternal struggle between nature and man in this little visited part of north east Italy.