This culinary wonderland north of the Apennine Mountains is home to the university city of Bologna, Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, Renaissance art of Ferrara, and prosciutto purveyors of Parma
Yes, every Italian will defend their own regional cuisine as the best in Italy (the world, really), but if you force them to admit to any one region of Italy—besides their own—that really stands out for its food, most will agree it's Emilia-Romagna.
Emilia-Romagna comprises two ancient lands: Emilia, named for the Via Emilia, the ancient Roman road that bisects its plains and art cities; and Romagna, named for its prominence in the Roman Empire.
There is the bustling university city and regional capital of Bologna, with its arcaded shopping streets and tipsy medeival towers, and the Renaissance cities of Piacenza and Ferrara, with its moated castle on the main piazza.
There are the glittering mosaics of coastal Ravenna, a major capital of the Byzantine Emprie throughout was was, in the rest of Western Europe, the Dark Ages.
There are the factories that makes the fasteet, sexiest motor vehicles on Earth—Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Pagani and more, all part of Emilia's "Motor Valley" around Modena—the educators of Reggio Emilia who have developed one of the hottest educational methods being used around the world today, and the master ceramicists of Faenza, who have made the most sought-after glazed pottery in Italy since the Renaissance (where we get the word faïence).
But it does always come down to the food: The famous balsamic vinegars from Modena, prosciutto and parmigiano (parmesean) cheese from Parma, and from Bolgona itself, those triangular stuffed pasta pillows known as tortellini, pasta in a beef ragù known the world over as alla bolgnese, and the heavily minced lunchmeat spelled in Italy (and the good folks at Oscar Meyer) as B-O-L-O-G-N-A, but also spelled phonetically to generations of American schoolkids baloney.
Many travelers whiz through Emilia-Romagna on high-speed trains and autostrade en route to and from Florence, Milan, Venice, or Rome. They're not only bypassing some of Italy's finest art and architecture, but are also missing the opportunity to experience a way of life that has been largely unaffected by those two great demons of the 20th century: mass tourism and massive industrialization.
Sorry. Nothing fits that criteria.