Visit Emilia Romagna: Italy’s Newest “Region Of Honor”

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has announced that Emilia Romagna is its 2023 Region of Honor.

Italy is a perennially appealing destination because its twenty regions are so diverse in their history, customs, and traditions.

To truly appreciate the country’s richness, visitors need to immerse themselves in the varied experiences offered by the different regions.

The NIAF Region of Honor Program

Each year since 2013, the foundation has recognized one region through its prestigious Region of Honor Program. The initiative aims to showcase the diversity of the regions, each with unique histories, landmarks, natural resources, artisans, industries, cuisine, and culture.

By doing so, NIAF hopes to promote tourism and economic development and also strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Italy.

In announcing the selection of Emilia Romagna, Gabriella Mileti, NIAF Director of Special Programs summarized the reasons for the selection:

The region offers a sensual blend of both natural and cultural wonders: marvelous Renaissance monuments, UNESCO heritage sites, seaside rivieras, national parks, and of course superstar gastronomy of rich, mouthwatering Italian comfort food.

Several reasons to visit Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna is located between the Apennine Mountains and the Po River in North Central Italy. Here are a few reasons to consider visiting the region:

A perfect destination for the ultimate road trip

The ancient Roman road, Via Emilia, traverses the region linking some of the region’s most important cities, including Rimini, Bologna (the capital of the region), Parma, and Piacenza.

Now a modern highway (SS9), driving from one end to the other takes about five hours, but each city you pass along the way is worth visiting for a day or more. Other not-to-be-missed major cities in Emilia Romagna include Ferrara (home to the Este family) and Ravenna (known for its mosaics).

The road is lined with scenic small towns with churches and castles perched on hillsides worth visiting, too.

Savor sensational gastronomy and wine-making

If you ask an Italian where they would most like to eat (aside from their mother’s house), they would likely tell you Emilia Romagna. The region is known for its outstanding regional specialties.

The fertile region is known for more than 200 traditional IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) products and 26 ingredients with DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status.

Some of the best-known foods include Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella di Bologna, and Culatello di Zibello.

Regional bread specialties include Tigelle (mini flatbreads similar to an English muffin), Piadina (round flatbreads), and Coppia Ferrarese (the twisted bread of Ferrara).

The most famous sweet sparkling wine of the region is Lambrusco.

Here, home cooks and restaurant chefs have honed the art of making some of the best pasta to be found in Italy, including tortelli, tortellini, ravioli, and cappelletti. The area is perfect for food lovers who want to take cooking classes, tour food markets, visit farms and food producers, and dine in outstanding restaurants. The region is also home to the Eataly food park.

Visit a capital city with incredible art, architecture, and history

Bologna doesn’t attract the hordes of tourists that flock to larger cities like Rome, Florence, and Milan but it is one of the most interesting and relatively undiscovered cities in Europe. With a well-preserved historic center, it is also home to the oldest university in the world.

The city’s virtual living room is the magnificent Piazza Maggiore (the main square). It is surrounded on its four sides by some of the city’s most important historical, governmental, commercial, and religious buildings, including the Church of San Petronio.

Bologna has some 38.5 miles of porticos (covered arcades) that were awarded UNESCO recognition. The longest one in Bologna and the world, the Portico di San Luca, is almost 2.4 miles long with 664 arches. In addition to providing a protected path to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, it has religious symbolism. Two recognizable medieval towers, the Due Torri, are considered the symbols of the city.

Have fast fun in Italy’s Motor Valley

The area is considered Italy’s “Motor Valley” because of the concentration of luxury automakers and car museums located in the region. Many visitors attend one or more of the world-class car and motorcycle races that take place there.

Travelers can tour luxury automotive pioneers’ museums and factories, including Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ducati, and Pagani.

Relax at another Italian Riviera

The seaside cities of Rimini and Riccione on the Adriatic coast offer spacious beaches, ancient ruins, seasonal festivals, and vibrant nightlife. But they are being reborn to showcase their emphasis on art and culture.

Rimini is the birthplace of Federico Fellini and film buffs will want to explore The Federico Fellini International Museum, a museum without walls that traces the story of Fellini and his famous films.

Scattered across the region, Emilia Romagna also has a series of historic spas.

But these few suggestions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the region’s art, architecture, and historical treasures.

Or, celebrate closer to home

If you can’t make it to Emilia Romagna, NIAF is based in Washington, DC.

As part of its 48th Anniversary Gala and Gala Dinner, to be held on October 14, 2023, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the nonprofit organization will be celebrating its Region of Honor, Emilia Romagna with entertainment and stories of Italian heritage and culture.

Tickets for the weekend celebration are available to the public.

For more information, visit the websites of Emilia Romagna Tourism and Bologna Welcome.

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