How to Eat Well on a Food Holiday in Emilia Romagna Italy

Each region of Italy seems to have its niche. Milan has its fashion, Venice has its canals, Naples has its pizza and Florence has its art. What is the Emilia Romagna region of Italy (Bologna and around) known for? Here it's all about fine food.  Here are 16 reasons that a food-focused holiday in Emilia Romagna should definitely be on your travel wishlist.

1. Where Bologna has a First Name...

We spent 4 days in Emilia Romagna with a home base in Bologna. Here Bologna has a first name and it's not O-S-C-A-R, it's Mortadella. Everywhere you go in Bologna, you can order wafer thin slices of Bologna's namesake deli meat and without a massive dose of nitrites. Delicious!
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Mortadella

2. Piadina

There was a queue forming in front of one of the stalls at Mercato della di Terra Bologna, the slow food market in Bologna. Everyone seemed to be ordering a piadina, thinly sliced Parma ham served on a round flat bread. We took a cue from the locals and ordered one ourselves. This turned out to be a good move as the sandwich had an amazing salty flavor with just a hint of crustiness to the bread.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Piadina

3. Fresh Fruit

Tables at Mercato delle Erbe are piled up and overflowing with all sorts of seasonal fruit and vegetables. We visited in June when cherries, strawberries, apricots, and tomatoes seemed to be at their peak. We bought a kilo of cherries (my favorite!) and took them back to the hotel to enjoy with a glass of wine later.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Fresh Cherries, Strawberries, and Apricots

4. Construct Your Own Sandwich

We discovered a quaint little bar/restaurant called Zerocinquantino on a pedestrianized street just off of Piazza Maggiore. We were given a menu that folded out into four panels. Using the instructions, we built fresh mortadella and ham sandwiches with our choice of bread, cheese, and spread. This was a great spot to get out of the sun for a short afternoon break and enjoy a bite with a glass of local frizzante wine.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Make Your Own Sandwich at Zerocinquantino

5. Pasta Fresca

You simply cannot visit Emilia Romagna without sampling fresh pasta. Our trip was definitely carb-filled but I regret nothing! We sampled ravioli filled with meat, tortelloni filled with pumpkin, and home made spaghetti with asparagus and Parma ham. The pasta was definitely a foodie highlight of our trip.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Fresh Pasta

6. Tortellini in Broth

Tortellini in brodo is another local specialty. The meat filled pasta makes for an energizing lunch (despite the warm temperatures when we visited) to fuel an afternoon of exploration.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Tortellini in Brodo

7. Generous Wedges of Parmesan

Parmesan cheese traces its origins to Parma in the region. We didn't think we'd have the luggage allowance to tote home a wedge or wheel of the stuff but we did enjoy shaved parmesan over pasta, salad, and more during our trip.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Parmesan Cheese

8. Aperitivo Time

The late afternoon aperitivo tradition is alive and well in and around Bologna. We visited a no-nonsense bar not far from the Due Torri. We ordered two Campari and soda and sipped our drinks curb-side while munching on the chips and peanuts included for free. We had a fantastic time people-watching and relaxing in the sunshine.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Aperitivo

9. The Coppia Ferrarese, “Ciupeta”

Ferrara is known for X shaped and twirled dough baked into a hybrid between bread and a cracker. They were a little dry on their own but I can imagine them being quite tasty dipped in soup or slathered with butter.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Ciupeta

10. Cool Off with a Cup of Gelato

We visited Bologna and Emilia Romagna in early June and it was actually quite hot (given our acclimation to chilly Dublin weather). What better was to cool off than with a cup of gelato! We sampled the cold sweet stuff in Bologna and Ferrara.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Gelato

11. Creamy Cakes

It seems that Emilia Romagna has a sweet tooth. We were spoiled for choice and indeed had a hard time choosing between the myriad of cake squares inside the chilled counter before us. We ultimately decided on a cheese cake and chocolate mousse square topped with cherry to counterbalance our pasta lunch.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Cake Squares

12. Oozy Chocolate Tarts

In Bologna, we discovered a local bakery selling tarts sprinkled with powdered sugar. We ordered one with a coffee and were delighted when we bit into the still warm crust to find oozing chocolate inside. That's my kind of dessert.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Chocolate Tarts

13. Lambrusco and Pignoletto

Not only did we eat well in Emilia Romagna but we also drank well. Lambrusco may have a reputation problem (think cheap wine) abroad but in Italy it's dry, fine, and fizzy. Cooled slightly it's a refreshing accompaniment to a meal or just for quaffing in the sun. We also tried Pignoletto, another local wine that I haven't seen before outside of the region. Pignoletto is dry, white, and slightly frizzante. I could drink Lambrusco and Pignoletto all summer long.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Lambrusco and Pignoletto Wine

14. A Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar from Modena

Check out any high end supermarket in the U.S. or even Ireland and you'll find balsamic vinegar with a Modena pedigree. Modena is an easy day trip from Bologna and we got to try the thick, slightly sweet balsamic vinegar that is native to the town. The balsamic vinegar was especially good drizzled over pasta with shavings of parmesan.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Pasta drizzled with balsamic vinegar

15. Parma Ham

Any list of food finds in Emilia Romagna would be incomplete without mention of Parma ham. Parma is another easy day trip from Bologna and you can find the namesake meat hanging in joints at restaurants and delis and served wafer thin on platters.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Parma Ham

16. Part of the Family at a Local Osteria

On our last day in Bologna we were strolling under the porticos a good 10 minute walk from Piazza Maggiore when we chanced upon La Traviata. We were eyeing the menu when the owner came up to us. She looked the part of a traditional Italian matriarch. She sold us with tales of the pasta prepared by hand inside. She sat down at the table next to us under the portico to discuss our options. In addition to the fresh pasta, she sold us on the deep fried courgettes. It was an unforgettable meal.
A Food Holiday in Emilia-Romagna Italy - Lunch at La Traviata
As you can see, we ate extremely well during our trip to Emilia Romagna with our home base in Bologna. Are there other foods you'd recommend we try next time? What are some of your favorite foodie destinations?

For more on our trip to Bologna, see Top 10 Things to Do on a Weekend City Break in Bologna in June.

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Sidewalk Safari: How to Eat Well on a Food Holiday in Emilia Romagna Italy
How to Eat Well on a Food Holiday in Emilia Romagna Italy
A self-guided food tour of regional cuisine and delicacies to try in Emilia-Romagna Italy.
Sidewalk Safari
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