The Food of Emilia-Romagna: A Local's Guide to the Italian Food Valley

The regional specialty foods of Emilia-Romagna.

The regional specialty foods of Emilia-Romagna.

Renown for some of the best food in Italy, Emilia-Romagna is one of the best culinary destinations in the world! As we explore the food of Emilia-Romagna, you’ll notice that some of the most famous Italian dishes and food products from Italy come from this region.

Emilia-Romagna, Italy is known as the Italian food valley. The region owns up to its name because in each and every town you have something different to taste, something different to enjoy. Also, each town has their own specialties that it’s famous for. When you visit Emilia-Romagna in Italy, you must be prepared that you’re going to eat a lot of incredibly delicious dishes!

Bologna is the number one stop for food in Emilia-Romagna.

Bologna is the number one stop for food in Emilia-Romagna.

Besides the amazing food in Emilia-Romagna, each town offers many things to do. Beautiful landmarks, medieval old towns, and history on every corner. Being so, a trip to Emilia-Romagna will give you a rich experience both in Italian food travel and historical sights, as well as stunning landscapes!

There are beautiful cities, medieval historic centers, and many castles to explore. For incredible landscapes, consider visiting the Pietra di Bismantova in Reggio Emilia or the picturesque Val Trebbia (valley) in Piacenza, between many more.

Emilia-Romagna food and the entire region itself are simply amazing! It's a definite must visit in Italy! And now, let’s see the food of Emilia-Romagna!

Highlights of Emilia-Romagna Cuisine

- Vinegar: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

- Cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Provolone Valpadana, and more.

- Meats: Prosciutto di Parma, Coppa Piacentina, Salame Piacentino, Pancetta Piacentina, Mortadella.

- Pastas: Anolini, Tortellini, Gnocchi from Emilia, Cappellacci, Cappelletti, Gramigna, Garganelli, Borgotaro malfatti, Lasagne, Pisarei, Tagliatelle, and more.

- Sauces: Bolognese Ragu, Bechamel, Sausage Ragu.

- Mushrooms: White Truffles, Borgotaro Mushrooms

-Wine: Lambrusco

Freshly made regional Emilia-Romagna pastas.

Freshly made regional Emilia-Romagna pastas.

Food of Emilia-Romagna, Italy by provinces and towns

Bologna—#1 City for Food in Emilia-Romagna

Bologna foods and specialty dishes are some of the most famous in the world, even more famous than the food of Rome! So, for great Italian food experiences in Emilia-Romagna, Bologna is definitely topping the bucket list!

Visit Bologna food market, Mercato Di Mezzo, for regional Emilia-Romagna foods.

Visit Bologna food market, Mercato Di Mezzo, for regional Emilia-Romagna foods.

The most famous local specialty is the Bolognese ragu, that if you’re in Bologna, you should be having with tagliatelle pasta. Then, Bologna’s specialties include the Lasagna, the Bechamel sauce that’s used for it, the imperial soup, the Maccheroni alla Bolognese with white ragu, Tortellini in Brodo, the Mortadella coldcut and the Squaquerone cheese.

If you’re in Bologna, you should definitely take an Italian food tours as well, such as Taste of Bologna. They have food tours also in Modena and Parma.

Another unmissable thing to do is to visit a local Bologna food market. One of the oldest and most popular markets to find in Bologna is Mercato di Mezzo. This is located on the streets of the historic center, right near Piazza Maggiore.

A Bologna salumeria shop like Salumeria Simoni should be on your Bologna food list. Get some provisions for a picnic, buy some souvenirs, or take your time just perusing some of the best food in Bologna.

Gelato lovers must eat ice cream in Bologna! But you can visit the Carpigiani facility right outside Bologna for an even fuller gelato experience. Carpigiani is a premier gelato machine manufacturer, has an interactive Gelato Museum as well that traces gelato’s roots back to Mesopotamia, Rome and Greece.

Bologna salumeria shop in the Mercato Di Mezzo with Emilia-Romagna food products.

Bologna salumeria shop in the Mercato Di Mezzo with Emilia-Romagna food products.

Ferrara—For Cappellacci di Zucca

Ferrara is located North of Bologna, and it’s a town that you should not skip if you’re in Emilia-Romagna. The beautiful historic center of Ferrara that combines the architecture of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages is just one reason.

But when it comes to food in Emilia-Romagna, Ferrara is a must-visit place.

One of the most famous dishes in Ferrara is the Cappellacci di Zucca with ragu. The cappellacci is a type of pasta, which is a bit bigger than the tortellini, and it’s filled with pumpkin. This is served with Bolognese ragu on top and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

One of the best places to try the cappellacci is Osteria degli Angeli. This osteria is located near the famous landmark of Ferrara, the Estense Castle. The restaurant also has outdoor space to sit in the courtyard of the building.

Cappellacci di Zucca, a specialty food of Emilia-Romagna. Image courtesy of Helga from ShegoWandering.

Cappellacci di Zucca, a specialty food of Emilia-Romagna. Image courtesy of Helga from ShegoWandering.

Modena--World's Best Balsamic Vinegar

Modena is home to the world's best balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, or otherwise Aceto Balsamico DOP. If you’re visiting Modena, you must pay a visit to one of the balsamic vinegar producers in town.

One of these is Acetaia Pedroni, which also houses an excellent restaurant! Two other great places to eat in Modena are La Francescana, a very fancy award-winning Emilian-Romangna restaurant, and Trattoria da Ermes, a very affordable place popular with locals at Via Ganaceto, 89, 41121.

Another not-to-be-missed destination in town is the Albinelli Market, where you can shop for the best local products.

Some other traditional dishes and Modena food specialties are the tortellini in Brodo, the Crescentina, Passatelli in Brodo, scalloped macaroni, and the Gnocco Fritto. Modena is also famous for its Modena Pesto, that you shouldn’t miss! For Gelato finds, make sure to visit Gelateria Bloom in Modena

Modena specialty, Tortellini in Brodo, is a must-try food in Emilia-Romagna.

Modena specialty, Tortellini in Brodo, is a must-try food in Emilia-Romagna.

Reggio Emilia—The Best Gramigna alla Salsiccia

Reggio Emilia is another famous foodie destination in Emilia-Romagna.

One of the most popular foods in Reggio Emilia is Erbazzone, a savory pie filled with local greens. Another dish that’s really popular in the area is the Gramigna alla Salsiccia, which is a local pasta made with sausage ragu. This dish is even better to grab in restaurants that are located in the Emilian Appenins, such as the Pietra di Bismantova.

If you want to do some hiking to see the fascinating lands of Emilia-Romagna, Pietra di Bismantova has many trails that range from easy to hard. You can also do rock climbing and via ferrata here.

At the bottom of the cliff, there’s a restaurant that has the best Gramigna alla Salsiccia. This is called Refugio della Pietra. For gelato finds in Reggio Emilia, you should also visit Cremeria Capolinea.

The best Gramigna alla Salsiccia in Reggio Emilia. Image courtesy of Helga from ShegoWandering.

The best Gramigna alla Salsiccia in Reggio Emilia. Image courtesy of Helga from ShegoWandering.

Parma—Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese & Prosciutto di Parma

Parma and its surrounding countryside are the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and parma ham (Prosciutto di Parma), two of the most celebrated foods in not just Emilia-Romagna but all of Italy.

Setting off on a Parma food tour to tour a Parmigiano Reggiano factory and a Prosciutto di Parma factory is at the top of any Parma bucket list, but once you finish the tour, be sure to stick around town to see the sights and maybe try out a local Parma restaurant or two.

For example, Ristorante Cocchi is pricey but very popular, or the Osteria dello Zingaro.

While you’re visiting Parma, you can try out some local specialties like the Anolini pasta, Tortellini with a sweet and sour filling, the pumpkin tortellini, tortelli with porcini mushroom sauce, or Brodetto alla marinara, and wash it down with the local Emilia-Romagna wine, Lambrusco. For gelato finds, check out Ciacco Lab in Parma.

Wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano, one of the most famous food products from Italy.

Wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano, one of the most famous food products from Italy.

Piacenza—Local Italian Salumerias & More

Just as all the previously mentioned cities, Piacenza is a special location in Emilia-Romagna for food finds. This town isn’t really popular with tourists yet; however, it should be!

Italian Salumi of Piacenza.

Italian Salumi of Piacenza.

There are so many things to do in Piacenza, as well as in the nearby hills of Piacenza which are great for hiking and picnics. The hills are hiding many amazing Piacenza restaurants as well with beautiful views on the hills, the vineyards and the rivers crossing the hills.

While you’re visiting Piacenza, you have to make sure to buy in the local Salumerias’ the three most famous cold cuts: the Salame Piacentino, the Coppa Piacentina and the Pancetta Piacentina. These Italian cold cuts in local tradition are served and eaten for aperitivo (happy hour) as well.

In Piacenza, make sure not to miss the Osteria alla Volta, or the Osteria Santo Stefano. There’s also a really traditional place that you can check, it’s called Trattoria La Pierina. However, the food is amazing, you won’t be able to order much if you don’t speak Italian. It’s that traditional.

While exploring the food of Piacenza, try the local anolini, the Panzerotti al Forno, the Pisarei a faso, and if you’re up for it, horse meat is really popular in this area too!

You can also visit on Wednesday and Saturday the local markets on Piazza dei Cavalli and Piazza Duomo. Then, for gelato, you should visit the Cioccolatteria Bardini, or my personal favorite, Cremeria Emilia.

In addition to delicious food, Piacenza offers beautiful historic sights like this main square.

In addition to delicious food, Piacenza offers beautiful historic sights like this main square.

Rimini—Seafood and Pasta in Emilia-Romagna

Rimini is the most popular seaside destination in Emilia-Romagna. The summer festivals, the sun and the seafood are what you must not miss in Rimini.

Some of the most popular dishes you should try in Rimini are the home-made pasta dishes, porchetta rabbit, the white truffles, and obviously the fresh seafood grill!

For great seafood you should visit Osteria de Borg.

Seafood Grill at a Rimini summer festival.

Seafood Grill at a Rimini summer festival.

Visiting Emilia-Romagna

Now that you know the Italian regional dishes of province Emilia-Romagna and the specialties of the Italian food valley, we suspect you’ll want to taste them for yourself! So, here are some helpful tips for visiting Emilia-Romagna.

How to arrive to Emilia-Romagna, Italy?

Emilia-Romagna fits nicely on an Italy itinerary because it’s located between three of the most popular tourist regions of Italy. So, if you’re traveling to Milan, Venice, or Florence, you can get to Emilia in 1-2 hours by bus, train, or car.

Nearby airports are:

Milan: you can fly into Milano Malpensa, Milano Linate, or Milano Bergamo. The first stop of Emilia-Romagna, the town of Piacenza is a short 53 minute train ride from Milano Centrale train station.

Venice: you can fly into Marco Polo airport, Nicelli, or Treviso. Then with a rented car or train, Bologna is about 2 hours away.

Florence: you can fly into Amerigo Vespucci airport, then you can take either FlixBus, or train, or rent a car to reach Bologna in about 2 hours.

Bologna also has an airport, so depending on where you're coming from, you might be able to fly directly to Bologna! The train lines in the region are great, so if you're not renting a car, you can easily stop in each main town of your Emilia-Romagna food tour traveling by train.

Driving through the Modena countryside while visiting Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Driving through the Modena countryside while visiting Emilia-Romagna, Italy

When to visit Emilia-Romagna?

Whether for the Emilia-Romagna food, or pure tourism, it is an all-year-around destination. Besides eating in Emilia-Romagna and sightseeing, you can do winter sports in the winter like snowshoeing, trekking, and hiking. During the autumn, spring, and summer you can enjoy nice walks in the colorful cities, visit agritourism places around the region, spend time on the beach, do outdoor activities, and much more!

Your Thoughts on Food in Emilia-Romagna

We’d love to hear if you’re planning to visit Emilia-Romagna! Which towns of the Italian food valley are on your Emilia-Romagna food bucket list? Which Emilia-Romagna foods are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!

Author of Food of Emilia-Romagna, Helga from SheGoWandering.

Author of Food of Emilia-Romagna, Helga from SheGoWandering.

About the Author

Helga, from ShegoWandering

Travel and lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur, and photographer based in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. I'm passionate about life, traditions, culture, food, warm destinations, and Latin countries. The focus of my work is on Italian and Spanish destinations, food, and life, sharing the most authentic and colorful places to visit!

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