I Love Touring Italy - the Romagna Subregion

By: Levi Reiss

If you are planning to tour Europe you should consider the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. This may be the only region of Italy named for a road, one constructed by the Ancient Romans almost 2200 years ago. The present article describes the Romagna subregion, including a bit of its history, its many tourist attractions, local food, and local wine. A companion article presents Emilia, the inland western "half" of the region that borders the Lombardy, Liguria, and Tuscany regions of Italy.

Our Romagna tour is very straightforward; it follows the highway basically from east to west, going slightly southward along the way. Start by visiting Rocca Sforzesca (Sforza Castle) in the village of Dozza whose wine shop, Enoteco Regionale, has a great collection of local wines. If you like Formula One auto racing you'll want to visit the town of Imola in mid-April. Otherwise, you'll pretty well have to be satisfied with shopping for fancy ceramics and eating at San Domenico's, a world class restaurant with a three thousand item wine list.

Pottery fanciers will enjoy the city of Faenza, a center for faience pottery since the Twelfth Century. Guess what's on display at the Museo delle Ceramiche. I don't think you'll need a translation. If you like spas be sure to visit the neighboring city of Bagno di Romagna with its hot springs.

Ravenna, north of the highway, was once the capital of the Roman Empire. But before long it was captured by the Ostrogoths and then the Byzantines who left their mark, for example in the Basilica di San Vitale (Church of Saint Vitale) with its famous mosaics. You may also wish to visit the Mauselo di Galla Placida (Galla Placida Mausoleum) next door. In spite of its name, Galla Placida, the sister of the Roman Emperor who moved the capital to Ravenna is not buried here. The Battistero Neoniano (Neonian Baptistery), probably once a Roman bath, is also known for its mosaics. Depending on the season, reservations are required or recommended for these sights. Ravenna is home to the Tomba di Dante (Tomb of Dante) with a small museum. The Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra (Home of the Stone Carpets) is an underground site containing the remains of a Sixth Century Byzantine palace with among other things, lots of mosaics. Would you believe that this site was discovered by accident? I am tempted to dig in my own backyard.

Our Romagna tour ends at Rimini on the Adriatic coast. It's a major European holiday destination, crowded during the high season. You might visit the Grand Hotel featured in Fellini's 1973 movie Amaracord. Rimini is also home to the oldest surviving Roman arch, the Arco d'Augusto erected in 27 BC.

What about food? Romagna shares many foods with its neighbor Emilia. You won't have to go very far to find Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, and balsamic vinegar. Perhaps it is no accident that the founder of Italian cuisine Pellegrino Artusi was born here. In the interest of historical accuracy he did move to Tuscany before publishing his cookbook in 1891 that is still one of Italy's most popular books. Let's suggest a sample menu, one of many. Start with Tagliatelle alla Duchesa (Chicken Livers and Tagliatelle Noodles). Then try Brodetto (Adriatic Seafood Stew). For dessert indulge yourself with Crostata (Raspberry Tart). Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.

We'll conclude with a quick look at Romagna wine. Emilia-Romagna ranks 5th among the 20 Italian regions for acreage devoted to wine grapes and 4th for total annual wine production. The region produces about 57% and 43% white wine. Emilia-Romagna produces about twenty DOC wines about half of which come from Romagna. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. It is the home of Albana di Romagna DOCG, Italy's first white DOCG wine. The G stands for Garantita. While one can guess what that word is supposed to mean, many feel that this honor was far from deserved. I have never tasted this particular wine, but from my readings I have no great desire to do so, except to set the matter straight. Romagna's major white grape is the fairly pedestrian Trebbiano, perhaps surprisingly the source of its famous balsamic vinegar. The red Sangiovese grape that can be so excellent in Tuscany wines is usually not so great here. Look for the red Barbarossa variety often found near the town of Bertino east of Bologna. Between you and me Emilia-Romagna's the wine can't match its food.

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