Prosciutto di Parma – Parma prosciutto:

Prosciutto di parma

There’s a lot a person could do with a  prosciutto. In an Almodovar film, an exasperated housewife uses one to kill her husband. The Italians have turned to making it a culinary work of art, dedicating 9 to 18 months to the process, depending on weight. The proof of their efforts lies in the taste and texture of the best cured  prosciuttos in the world, universally known as prosciutto. Particularly good are those from Parma and San Daniele, enjoyed in paper-thin slices. In addition to these prominent products, there are myriad Tuscan and Umbrian prosciutti, prosciutto di montagna (mountain  prosciutto) and the greatest delicacy of them all – culatello, a legendary super-prosciutto from the Emilia region.

Prosciutto di Parma:  what is prosciutto?

In Italian there is a distinction between prosciutto crudo, literally “raw ham”, which is cured ham, what English speakers refer to as “prosciutto” and prosciutto cotto, “cooked ham”, which is similar to what English speakers call “ham”.

Parma is a cultivated city, wealthy and well-disposed, located in the Emilia-Romagna region. This is one place where people know how to live well: Sunday mornings are whiled away breakfasting (for at least 2 hours!) on cold-cuts and champagne at a bistro with friends. People who know so well that there’s a time to work and a time to enjoy, couldn’t do anything but produce a truly perfect prosciutto. More than 200 curers are located in the Parma region, where  prosciuttos are sent from all over to be cured without added chemicals in the area’s exceptional air. At the end of the curing process, the  prosciuttos graduate with honors: certified prosciutto di Parma with a characteristic cornelian red color and melt-in-your-mouth taste. The “Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma” is the farmers’ union safeguarding the quality and goodness of prosciutto di Parma. In order to be entitled to the “prosciutto di Parma” distinction, a prosciutto ham must bear the mark representing a five pointed ducal crown, symbol of the Consorzio.

A bit of History of Prosciutto di Parma

The production of genuine prosciutto di Parma is the story of a special relationship between man and nature. Since Roman times, the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce the highest quality prosciuttos that have been appreciated by gourmets for centuries.

“Prosciutto” is from the Latin “perexsuctum” meaning “dried” – an indication of the purity of Parma  prosciutto production and its ancient roots. The processing of prosciutto di Parma has an ancient tradition. It was in 100 BC that Cato the “Censor” first mentioned the extraordinary flavor of the air cured  prosciutto produced around the town of Parma in Italy; the legs were left to dry, greased with a little oil and could age without spoiling. A tasty meat was obtained which could be eaten over a period of time while maintaining its pleasant flavor. Even earlier, in 5BC, in the Etruscan Po river valley, salted preserved pork legs were traded with the rest of Italy and with Greece. The similarity between present-day prosciutto di Parma and its “ancestor” is evident. Fortunately the taste has not been lost with the passing of time: nowadays the tradition of prosciutto di Parma is as strong as ever.

Recipes with Prosciutto di Parma

Parma: Piadina Romagnola

Piadinas are flat-breads some 14 cm in diameter and as thick as three stacked flour tortillas. To make them yourself, you’d need a “testo” (a kind of wrought iron or terra cotta griddle akin to a pizza stone). It would be much easier to buy them ready-made at the supermarket, heat them and fold them in half over a filling of thinly-sliced Parma. If you are not near a specialty shop which stocks piadinas, you can substitute Indian prathas or flour tortillas. This tasty snack is best enjoyed in the company of a glass of Sauvignon from the Parma hills, or a spirited young red.

Parmigiano Reggiano and its history

Eight centuries of nobility – from the XIIIth century to the present

Parmigiano Reeggiano DOP

When they talk about the fact that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is “for at least eight centuries, a great cheese”, they not only affirm it’s very ancient origin, what is evident is the fact that this cheese is today made exactly in the same way as it was a good eight centuries ago, with the same appearance and the same extraordinary fragrance, made in the same way, in the same places with the same rituals of expert’s hands.

Historical testimonies show that as far back as 1200-1300, Parmigiano Reggiano had reached that perfect icon that has remained essentially unchanged up to the present time. This means that the cheese production of the area surely has much older origins, because of the fact that one could reasonably suppose the peculiar characteristics of the product were reached much earlier.

The standard of the Parmigiano Reggiano is in fact an evolution of ancient and extraordinary cheeses, cited by Latin authors, determined by constant perfecting of the technical aspects of cheese making. The first cheese makers, who obtained the traditional markings from their original forms, understood full well that those markings were unique and made the product one that cannot be copied; they had created a work of art, and as wise men, were satisfied by the excellence achieved.

The effort and the dedication had been rewarded; but as per every creative effort, God’s part “ was not  missing”. As a matter of fact, other elements, independent of man’s hands, contributed to produce the perfect results. Those are elements that rarely can be found elsewhere and never in duplicated composition: the geological formation of the land, the special breeding of the cows, that calculated combination of an environment which is geo-agricultural, as well as human quality, all combine to make the production of a prized milk, different from other areas that are geographically close, the only milk that can give origin to an exceptional cheese, capable of very slow ageing that charge it with inimitable tastes.

We must give credit to the men for having conserved proudly over the centuries, the secrets of the nobility of the Parmigiano Reggiano and to not have caved in, even today – when all is technology and automation – to the temptation of simplifying the process. So today, the cheese makers, as it once was, continue in their struggle and with risk. They are obstinate in their loyalty and pride in making their cheese, with only milk, rennet, with fire and with art and perseverance in the strict observance of their century old methods and always applying a technique that is the fruit of their particular vocation and mature experience.

According to Platina, a cremonese humanist of the ‘400s: “there are two cheeses today in Italy that vie for first prize: the “marzolino”, so called by the Etruscans because it is made in Etruria in the month of March and Parmigiano, in the cisalpine region, which can also be called “maggengo”, from month of May”. Another quote is taken from a book of Francesco Maria Grapaldo, with passages taken from Vitruvio and other Latin authors.

This is how they are translated: “Parmigiano cheese: in our times, in Italy, a first prize for quality is given to Parmigiano cheese, while a long time ago, pride had it for the abundance of wool. From this the couplet..I am the nobil fruit of the milk of Parma ..”. It is not necessary to do laborious research in our libraries in order to collect documents on the ancient origin of Parmigiano Reggiano.

One of the most significant passages is found in the Decameron and there is no doubt – that the words used and which Maso refers to describe Parmigiano, to Calandrino, town of Bengodi, is exactly the same cheese, that today prides itself with the Parmigiano Reggiano name. The quote is as follows: “and there was a mountain of grated Parmigiano cheese, upon which were people, that nothing else was doing, but for maccheroni and ravioli”, whit another good one, that once cooked they rolled them in cheese so as to make them tastier.

So is the tradition of dressing pasta with Parmigiano cheese, once of ancient tradition, as in the testimony of Friar Saltimbene in 1500 in his “The Chronicles”. We owe to the testimony of the XVI th for affirming “in this times, the first prize is given to Italy for Parmigiano Reggiano, while a while ago, it was given for abundance of wool.” In 1656, Francesco Serra in his dictionary synonyms says that “the name of cheeses derive from places where they produce it best; such as Parmigiano, which takes its name from the place and from the goodness” (meaning from the place in which it is really good). One is taken by the curiosity of the mentioning of the celebrated Cristoforo di Messisbugo, describing in one of his recipe-books, the private dinner, which he had orgered to be prepared in his house, January 17 th , 1543.

Parmigiano Reggiano aging

It was a small dinner, among friends, as we would say today, with about 20 people and unpretentious (Sir Cristoforo emphasizes: “without veal and without capons”) but with “fruit and confections”, meaning dessert, which included “6 plates of Parmigiano cheese” besides all the rest. Also one must note the refinement of serving Parmigiano Reggiano with fresh grapes and pears: this combination of cheese and fruit (not only pears and grapes but also apples, peaches, nuts, figs, kiwi etc.) is being rediscovered today as the ending of dinner or as a dessert for gourmet.

There are many indirect testimonials, such as, for example, those referred in various Moliere biographers: in his old age, the great writer of comedy nourished himself primarily with Parmigiano. He was already in tune with the modern dietary precepts which recommend this cheese to babies as well as to the elderly due to its high nutritive power, for its digestibility and for the special richness in calcium and phosphorous, which is easily assimilated. But the most direct testimonials come from the manuscripts and the archives of Reggio Emilia, Parma and in particular those from the export of goods in which they document large shipments of Parmigiano Reggiano to all of civilized Europe .

There are many episodes to mention, one amongst all, a passage from a letter from “The papers of the Elderly of Reggio Emilia”, dated January 21 st , 1536. These gentlemen, having collected the complaints of “A. Patacino, our citizen”, protest politely, because “attributing Parmigiano Reggiano to Venice ”, they force them to pay the duty”. Whit its interesting twist in timing, we can close our choice of quotes.

Obviously, even the recent history of Parmigiano Reggiano has its important chapters; it is the history of how 600 small artisan dairies from the delimited zone (that represent about nine thousand agriculturists who produce milk), have received recognition from the law, because of their determination to preserve without alteration, the working methods and the highest level of quality production; it is the history that shows how the quality guarantee of genuine Parmigiano Reggiano, is today, absolute, as per the enforcement of precise laws, applied with rigid self discipline as to conformity and with rigorous control.

From Azienda Agricola Villa Aiola

I Love Italian Wine and Food series – Emilia-Romagna Region

Emotion wine... Photo © Serrano77 BIG papa......
Emotion wine… Photo © Serrano77 BIG papa……

An article by: Levi Reiss

If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Emila-Romagna region of northern Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on the fact-filled wine education tour.

Emilia-Romagna stretches from the Ligurian border in northeastern Italy to the Adriatic Sea. As the name indicates, historically it was composed of two regions, Emilia and Romagna.

It may be the only region of Italy named for a road, one constructed by the Ancient Romans almost 2200 years ago. It is one of the most prosperous regions of Italy with strong agricultural, industrial, and tourist economic activity. Its total population is about 3.9 million.

Emilia-Romagna produces a very wide variety of pasta, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheese, and fresh and cured meats. Two of its biggest stars are a cheese, Parmigiano Regianno, and a ham, Prosciutto di Parma. Parmesan cheese as it’s known in English, was mentioned by the famous Italian author of the Fourteenth Century, Giovanni Boccaccio.

We review it below. Parma ham, as it’s known in English, is an uncooked ham that is dry cured for at least ten months. Usually it is served in very thin slices, often as appetizer with melon.

Bologna whose population is about 375,000 is the administrative center of Emilia-Romagna. It is the home of the first university in the Western World, founded in the 11th Century. Bologna is also considered the capital of Italian gastronomy, in spite of its unfortunate association with a low-quality sandwich meat. Another city of interest is Rimini, a resort center on the Adriatic Sea with a population of 135 thousand.

Emilia-Romagna devotes about 178,000 acres to grapevines, it ranks 5th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 125 million gallons, giving it a 4th place. About 57% of the wine production is red, leaving 43% for white. The region produces 18 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 1 DOCG white wine, Albana di Romagna. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. In fact, while this wine was the first white wine to be accorded the DOCG designation in Italy (1987), many feel that Albana di Romagna does not deserve such an award. (I have never tasted this wine, and from the reviews that I’ve read, I’m in no hurry to taste it.) About 21% of Emilia-Romagna wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Emilia-Romagna is home to more than four dozen major and secondary grape varieties, a few more red than white.

Widely grown international white grape varieties include Malvasia and Trebbiano. The best known strictly Italian white varieties are Albana (source of the DOCG wine) and Pignoletto.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the only widely grown international red grape variety. The best known strictly Italian red variety is Bonarda. The Italian red varieties Barbera and Sangiovese are found elsewhere, including California.

Before we reviewing the Emilia-Romagna wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Gelato di Parmigiano, Parmigiano “Ice Cream”, which includes heavy cream and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, suggested as an appetizer. A more traditional dish is Scaloppine di Vitello alla Bolognese, Veal Scaloppine all Bolognese, which also includes Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, as well as other local specialties Prosciutto di Parma and balsamic vinegar. For dessert (as if the ice cream wasn’t a dessert) try Torta Bonissima, a Honey and Nut Pie.

 

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY While we have communicated with well over a thousand Italian wine producers and merchants to help prepare these articles, our policy is clear. All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Donini Lamberti Trebbiano-Chardonnay IGT 2005 12% alcohol about $8 (liter)

Everybody has prejudices. I approached this bottle with several of them. It seems to me that a liter of wine is usually too big, accentuating quantity at the expense of quality. Given the economics of the wine industry, I am usually reticent to purchase a bottle for $8, which would be $6 for a regular-sized bottle. And finally while Emilia-Romagna is often known for its red wines, it is not particularly known for its white wines, with an unfortunate exception, the DOCG wine Albana di Romagna, discussed above. And now to the actual wine.

The first time that I drank this wine I found that its taste was one of green apples, dominating everything else but still light on flavor if not unpleasant. It didn’t really accompany the food, a breaded chicken cutlet in sweet and sour sauce with potatoes cooked in chicken fat. As the wine aged a bit, (it takes a long time to finish a liter if you don’t care to drink very much at a time) it got better instead of worse. I have read that 3.5 million bottles of this type wine are produced yearly. I understand that it is popular in fish restaurants along the Adriatic Sea. I’d love to find out for sure. Final verdict, not bad for the price.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cooked, unpressed semi-fat hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk. It is encased in a thin, yellow rind. This cheese is finely grained and very flaky. Its taste is delicate and fragrant, and frankly wasted with a wine of this quality.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at ital@mail.theworldwidewine.com.

Emilia-Romagna Wine

emilia_wine

Emilia-Romagna, as the hyphenated name reveals, consists of two distinct sectors which coincide more or less at the capital of Bologna. To the west lies Emilia, with its prosperous towns strung like jewels along the ancient Emilian Way: Modena, Reggio, Parma, Fidenza, Fiorenzuola, as far as Piacenza on the Po. East of Bologna lies Romagna with the towns of Faenza, Forlì, Cesena, Ferrara, Ravenna and the Adriatic resort of Rimini.

Emilia-Romagna’s wines might be considered northern Italy’s most eccentric, different on the whole from their neighbors’, often facile in style but always refreshingly individualistic.

In Emilia the premier wine is Lambrusco, in frothy shades of purple to pink, made from grapes grown on high trellised vines, mainly in the flatlands south of the Po. Romagna’s wines come primarily from the native Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Albana, the variety that accounted for Italy’s first white DOCG.

Lambrusco is produced in volume in the four DOC zones around Modena and Reggio, though few consumers abroad have tasted the wine in its authentic dry style. Most Lambrusco shipped away is amabile or sweet, while most of what is drunk at home is dutifully dry and more often than not DOC. Though there are historical precedents for both types, the dry is considered the unparalleled match for the region’s rich cooking.

Even the hill wines of Emilia tend to be frothy. Vineyards in the foothills of the Apennines to the south render fun-loving whites made from Malvasia, Trebbiano and Ortrugo and zesty reds from Barbera and Bonarda. But there is a definite trend in the DOC zones of Colli Piacentini, Colli Bolognesi and Colli di Parma to make still and somewhat serious wines from such varieties as Sauvignon, Chardonnay, the Pinots, Barbera, Cabernet and Merlot. Natural conditions favor wines of depth and finesse, but markets seem to favor the lightweights.

Moving into Romagna, the plains of the Po basin between Ferrara and Ravenna are noted for fruit, vegetables and ultra productive vines, most of which are sources of blending wines. The hills south of Imola, Faenza, Forlì, Cesena and Rimini are known for wines from the native Albana, Sangiovese and Trebbiano, all of which carry the name Romagna.

Albana di Romagna, which emerged in 1987 as Italy’s first DOCG white wine, is most often dry and still with a distinctive almond undertone and occasionally some complexity. Albana’s best expression seems to be as a richly sweet passito from partly dried grapes. The traditional semisweet and bubbly versions are usually consumed at home. Romagna’s Trebbiano, distinct from other vines of the name, is almost always light and fresh, whether still or bubbly, with a fragility that makes it best in its youth.

The favorite of Romagnans is Sangiovese, usually a robust red with a certain charm in its straightforward fruity flavors. But increasingly producers of Sangiovese are making reserve wines of greater depth of bouquet and flavor with the capacity to age gracefully.

In Romagna, too, trends favor Sauvignon, Chardonnay, the Pinots and Cabernet. But many producers are devoting major efforts to developing superior strains of Sangiovese and Albana, while building interest in such rare local wines as the DOC white Pagadebit and red Cagnina and Bosco Eliceo Fortana.

The Emilia-Romagna wines match very well the Emilia-Romagna cuisine, with its local recipes.

Emilia-Romagna has ten IGTs which account for about 35 percent of total production.

DOCG Wine
Albana di Romagna

DOC Wine
Bosco Eliceo
Cagnina di Romagna
Colli Bolognesi
Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto
Colli della Romagna Centrale
Colli di Faenza
Colli di Parma
Colli di Rimini
Colli di Scandiano e Canossa
Colli di Imola
Colli Piacentini
Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro
Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce
Pagadebit di Romagna
Reggiano
Reno
Romagna Albana Spumante
Sangiovese di Romagna
Trebbiano di Romagna

IGT Wine
Bianco di Castelfranco Emilia
Emilia or dell’Emilia
Forli’
Fortana del Taro
Modena or Provincia di Modena
Ravenna
Rubicone
Sillaro or Bianco del Sillaro
Terre di Veleja
Val Tidone

I Love Italian Wine and Food series – Emilia-Romagna Region: an article

Argenta and its Eco-museum

Argenta
Argenta is situated in Ferrara’s province; it has about 22.000 inhabitants on 311 square meters divided in 13 hamlets. This city boasts of an ancient town-center ed a complex system of museums, the Eco-museum of Argenta, grown up around a beautiful oasis of marshland.

Argenta foundation goes back to roman time or a little later. His name seems to derive from silver reflections on humid ground and of waters that in the ancient times surrounded it. Since origins Argenta depends on Ravenna’s diocese and, about X – XI century she known a period of great glory thanks to its river port on Po of Primaro, now called Reno.

From XII century Estensi dukedome wanted the control on the city and so Pope Clemente VI gave it in leasing during 1344 and Estensi kept it till Alfonso II’s death in 1597 when the whole Ferrara dukedome was transferred to Pontifical State.

Inhabitants of Argenta fought during Independence Wars with hundreds of volunteers: the prevalent personage of this period was the lawyer Giuseppe Vandini, that was the first mayor of Argenta after national unification. During the Second World War Argenta was seriously damaged by the British Army.

After the post-war period Argenta developed, particularly in the last 15 years. Between the most important economic activities we want to remember agriculture, building trade, working plastics, commerce of vegetables and wicker or rush objects. In Argenta we have a large market on Thursday and a beautiful Fair in September, apart from theatrical performances and cultural initiatives.

Argenta

Eco-museum: The modern concept of “Eco-museum” has its origin back in the ’70s in France with the notion of musèe èclatè. This term clearly expresses the idea behind it, which is a type of museum that goes beyond architectural bounds and that, by enclosing the surrounding territory and socio-cultural background, opens a channel of communication with external reality. The Eco-museum of Argenta is composed of three museums and a natural site: the Museum of Marshes, the Museum of Reclaimed Land, the Civic Museum and the Oasi of Campotto.

The Museum of Marshes is placed in the former shooting lodge of Campotto, 4 kilometers far from Argenta town; it’s a historical and natural documentation center. It houses both the organizational and visiting center of Eco-museum of Argenta, as well as the center of the Regional Park of the river Po Delta for all that concern services, information, reservations and guided visits. It also performs such tasks as tourist orientation around the area. Thanks to its peculiar communicative and educational system, in 1992, it has been awarded the prize “European Museum of the Year” by European Committee.

Outside is situated the educational little lake, which puts together and reflects all the different elements of the surrounding natural environment, Furthermore, in the museum’s courtyard you can find a parking area as well as a sort of former shooting-box, where lectures and seminars are held to discuss certain topics in depth through the teaching instruments that the museum puts at the visitors’ disposal. Finally, at the end of this a coffee break is also arranged.

Built between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the structure that houses the museum was originally a farmhouse of three floor, the original ground floor has been buried as a result of land reclamation that lifted up the level of soil.

On the actual ground floor the following facilities are available: the reception, the museum’s lobby where are displayed some cartographical representations of the Oasis and where the bookshop is also situated, the meeting room, the historical section and the demonstrative plastic model showing the functioning of mechanical reclamation; on the upper floor there are the Room of Sounds, which offers the “Concert of the Marshes”, a video that gives the opportunity to watch and listen to both images and sounds of the Oasis, with picture of birds and their solo and polyphonic singing; the Naturalistic Section offers a series of illustrated panels on the flora and fauna of the Oasis: these panels tell us about the route of migratory birds and their food, they also illustrate the height at which each species of birds nests and obviously all that can be seen in the Oasis (all these instruments are supported by dioramas and water and land environments models that faithfully reconstruct the natural wetland; the Laboratory, finally, supplied with microscopes is made available to allow visitors, particularly students, to participate in researches and studies trying to combine theory and practice together.

The Campotto Site of Argenta was acknowledged as wetland of international interest by the Ramsar Convention in 1972, the Oasis is an open-air museum that extends for about 1600 hectares. It’s the 6th site of the river Po Delta Park and is composed of overflowing terrain case of Campotto, Bassarone, Valle Santa and of Bosco del Traversante. This is what is left from the large inner humid areas of fresh water and it functioned as a shooting preserve until ’60s. It was only in 1977 that the Oasis for the safeguard and protection of flora and fauna called “Valli di Argenta e di Marmorta” (Argenta and Marmorta Marshes) was created, according to the will of the Municipality of Argenta, the local authority of Ferrara Province and the manager-owner body of “Consorzio della Bonifica Renana”.

Argenta

The Museum of Land Reclamation is sited at 1 km far outside the built-up areas of Argenta and it’s placed within the water-scooping plant of Saiarino; it’s not a simple historical documentation museum, but rather a sort of true “building” yard. It is, therefore, a living museum, the history of which is nowadays still in evolution. The only way to visit the museum is by guided tour, the museum being located inside an active work yard, which continuously monitors the situation of water in order to intervene in case of danger.

The route has been called “A history of men and waters” with the intention of setting up an indissoluble link between the two major actors dominating the scene in the museum and whose interaction has been historically significant: men and water. The route winds through the park and the buildings of the work yard, and the visitor needs an average time of 90 minutes to walk through it. The route is made up of the following stages: the drain of the bye-wash, the archeological walk-path, the pumps room, the thermo-electrical plant.

The Civic Museum is situated in the town center of Argenta and it’s housed in the church of San Domenico: the Civic Museum is the center representing and embodying the historical and urban environment within the Eco-museum of Argenta. It’s made up of the town Picture Gallery and Archeological Section. The church that houses the Museum is a typically 14th century one and it was influenced by Biagio Rossetti’s style. Inside, its apse is adorned by the representation of the “Stories of Saint John the Baptist and the Doctors of the Church”. In order to enjoy the visit to utmost, it is suggested that the tourist should first follow the artistic route of the Picture Gallery, which is located in the side niches of the church, and then admire the archeological collections, placed at the center of the aisle, that collects the finds of the excavations made on the territory of Argenta between 1980 and 1993. Those finds come from the marshy Palmanove, the country church of Saint George and from Matteotti Street and Vinarola Street in Argenta.
TEXTS ARE PROPERTY OF ARGENTA’S TOURIST OFFICE

The Romagna Subregion: Tour of Italy

Rimini Spiaggia

Author: Tasha Fayee

If you are hankering for a Europe destination, you should really consider the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. Emilia-Romagna may be the only region of Italy that is named for a road, one constructed by the Ancient Romans almost 2200 years ago.

This article describes the Romagna subregion, some of 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 follows the highway 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, boasts an excellent collection of local wines.

Formula One auto racing fans will want to visit the town of Imola in mid-April. Other attractions include 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. 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. Check out the Basilica di San Vitale (Church of Saint Vitale) with its famous mosaics. If you are up to it you can visit a historic mausoleum and the tomb of that great Italian poet Dante. For some reason Ravenna is home to many sites with historic mosaics.

Rimini on the Adriatic coast an important European holiday destination is really crowded during the high season. Its Grand Hotel was featured in Fellini’s 1973 movie Amaracord.

Perhaps it is no accident that the founder of Italian cuisine Pellegrino Artusi was born in this region. See our companion article I Love Touring Italy – The Romagna Subregion for a sample menu and more information on Romagna wines as well as an in-depth examination of Romagna’s tourist attractions. It is the home of the controversial 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.

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Rimini Monuments

Rimini Piazza Cavour
Rimini’s Piazza Cavour photo © Paolo Marini

Rimini: large equipped beaches to host every summer tourists that come here by thousand. Night-life, gastronomy, Fellini and the sea have made famous this city and his coast.

Rimini’s history begins from the beach. Up to 800,000 years ago, primitive man inhabited the coastal area as far back as the hillside of Covignano.

From pre-historical times, the road to civilization passed through the main evolutionary stages, taking Rimini to the forefront of the Roman era.

Rimini, which consists of an extensive sea-beach side and an old heart, the town center, is an open, hospitable and people-friendly city.

In the center of Rimini, the ancient narrow streets and squares such as Corso d’Augusto, Via Gambalunga, Piazza Cavour, Piazza Tre Martiri and Piazza Ferrari are pedestrian zones and some parts, like the ‘old fish market square’, are a popular meeting place for young people in particular, who have become even more numerous now that Rimini is an important university center with over 5,000 students.

Near the old stone counters where fish was once sold, trendy bars and pubs have opened turning this charming ‘little square’ into the heart of ‘nightlife’ in Romagna.

Rimini Monuments

Rimini Arengo
Rimini Arengo photo © Paolo Marini

The Arengo and Podesta’ Palaces
Under the Arengo Palace’s portico, which dates from 1204, justice was administered and the municipal assembly met in the hall with multi-lancet windows situated on the first floor. Next door, is the fourteenth century Podesta’ residence where the entrance is underlined by an arch with Malatesta symbols. Garampi Palace, which is now the municipal residence, was built at the end of the sixteenth century, modifying the facades of the Arengo and Podesta’ Palaces. Following an earthquake in 1916, which brought to light remains of the medieval buildings, restoration work was carried out that redesigned the palaces in Neo-gothic style.

The church of San Giovanni Evangelista
known as Sant’Agostino church. The Agostiniani built the church, which is rectangular-shaped with an apse and two side chapels, in the thirteenth century. The decorations that remain in part consist of frescoes and a wooden crucifix attributed to the fourteenth century Rimini school of art. In the eighteenth century, Ferdinando Bibiena modified the facades and the interior, which was enriched with stuccoes and frescoes by Vittorio Maria Bigari. The fourteenth-century painting was actually hidden and only came to light in 1916 following an earthquake. The Giudizio universale, which is on the triumphal arch, was removed in 1926 and is now housed in the Municipal Museum of Rimini.

Rimini Arch of August

The Arch of Augustus
As its inscription declares, the arch was built in 27 B.C. as an honorary gate to celebrate Octavian Augustus. It once formed part of the stone-built city walls, the remains of which are still visible, but is now isolated because the adjacent structures were demolished in the 1930’s. The structure, which was originally topped by a parapet bearing a statue of the Emperor, is richly decorated with religious and political references. In fact, the divinities represented in the round shields (Jupiter, Apollo, Neptune and Rome) recall the grandeur of Rome and of Augustus himself.

The Malatesta Temple
Giotto decorated the Temple, which was built on the site of the 13th century church of San Francesco, and indeed one of his wooden crucifixes is still housed inside. It was conceived by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta as a memorial tomb for his family and although building work began in 1447 it was still incomplete on his death.

The temple was designed by Leon Battista Alberti and Matteo dei Pasti and Agostino di Duccio created the bas-relief decorations in the chapels, which highlight the dominant personality of the commissioner who was celebrated by Piero della Francesca in his fresco of the prince and San Sigismondo.

The temple, which was recently consecrated a basilica, has undergone restoration work financed by the Cassa di Risparmio di Rimini Foundation. Its completion, in Jubilee year, returned the marble and bright colors of the interior chapels to their former splendor.

Castel Sismondo or Malatesta Fortress
Building work on Sigismondo Malatesta’s residence-fortress began in 1437 and lasted around 15 years. Today, unfortunately only the central nucleus remains. The castle appears on numerous Malatesta medals as well as on Piero della Francesca’s fresco in the Malatesta Temple where it is depicted with towers, walls, a wide moat and an imposing keep. On the inscription at the entrance, Sigismondo claims responsibility for the building ex fundaments, but it actually incorporated several older buildings. In the 17th century, the building became a Papal fortress and was then used as a prison until 1967. Nowadays, it is the prestigious venue for numerous cultural events.

Pigna Fountain
The heart of medieval Piazza Cavour is the fountain, which also features in the painting of the city housed in the Malatesta Temple. Even Leonardo da Vinci was enchanted by the harmony of the waterspouts when he passed through Rimini in 1502. Giovanni Carrari from Bergamo restored it after damage caused in 1540 by fireworks placed in the tub to celebrate a high prelate lending it its present shape, which respects the original ancient layout. A statue of Saint Paul once crowned the fountain but was replaced in the nineteenth century by the ‘Pigna’ (pine cone) that gives the fountain its name.

Rimini  piazza Cavour
Rimini’s Piazza Cavour photo © Paolo Marini

The Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre, which dates from the second century as a coin of the Emperor Hadrian found buried in the walls testifies, was situated close to where the coast once was. It was originally a sombre brick structure, consisting of two superimposed orders with a colonnade of 60 arches.

It was an extremely impressive sight, particularly when approaching from the sea.

The Amphitheatre was elliptical-shaped and measured 117.7 x 88 meters while the arena was 73 x 44 meters wide, almost the same as those found in the great amphitheatres. Gladiatorial events held here drew at least 15,000 spectators at a time.

Rimini Tiberius bridge
Rimini’s Tiberio Bridge photo © Paolo Marini

Tiberius Bridge
As the inscription on the internal parapets recalls, work on the bridge over the Marecchia River, then known as Ariminus, began under the Emperor Augustus in 14 A.D. and was completed under Tiberius in 21 A.D.

The bridge still connects the city center to Borgo San Giuliano and leads to the consular roads Via Emilia and Via Popilia that lead north. Built in Istria stone, the bridge consists of five arches that rest on massive pillars with breakwater spurs set at an oblique angle with respect to the bridge’s axis in order to follow the current.

The bridge’s structure on the other hand, rests on a practical system of wooden poles.

Courtesy of Rimini Tourist Board

Rimini Marina

Rimini marina

The MARINA
Fellini Park, situated just next to the Grand Hotel, is the very heart of seaside Rimini. This is where the first bathing establishment was set up in 1843, commissioned by the Baldini Counts and Dr. Claudio Tintori.

This health-conscious vocation developed thanks to the well known professors Paolo Mantegazza and Augusto Murri and in 1872, a new bathing establishment was built named Kursaal (it was destroyed in 1948).

The layout of the city began to change with the construction of a new road, now called Viale Principe Amedeo, to connect the old city center to the marina.

The twentieth century saw a move to a more elite tourism and 1908 was a particularly symbolic date as it marked the opening of the Grand Hotel, a strong source of inspiration for Fellini.

Before becoming the European holiday capital, over the years Rimini was an extremely important port. Nowadays, the port’s ‘pile trestle’ is the most popular place for Riminese to take a walk. It evokes pleasant memories and is the kingdom of sailors and fishermen, watched over by the lighthouse and ploughed by the ‘poveracciaie’ (boats equipped for clam fishing).

From dawn to dusk, throughout the day the port gives visitors the sensation of diving into the sea and affords spectacular panoramic views dotted by the thousands of colors of the bathing establishments that have made our beach famous throughout the world. On the left side of the port is the new wet dock ‘Marina di Rimini’, a great masterpiece that opened in 2002 and can host up to 680 boats.

Overlooking the Rimini marina are ultramodern hotels, some of them ‘signed’ by great international architects. Running parallel to the promenade is Via Vespucci with its bars and fashion boutiques. The entire Marina Centro area is famous for its bars where young people meet for an aperitif, its trendy pubs and disco bars and its restaurants serving truly memorable menus featuring local produce and in particular, the staple diet or in other words fish, which is cooked on the characteristic grills or in excellent soups.

Courtesy of Rimini Tourist Board

Rimini

Rimini beach

Rimini beach – Photo © T. Mosconi

A blue line of sea and 15 kilometers  of beach from Torre Pedrera to Miramare – this is the visiting card of the 10 districts of the Municipality of Rimini that overlook the coast.

Seven kilometers  north of Rimini city center lies Torre Pedrera that welcomes visitors with two kilometers  of sandy beach, characteristic reefs and great hospitality, guaranteed by the tourist committee CT (tel. 0541.720290) that is ever ready to organize festivals and events.

A local market is held every Sunday along the road that skirts the railway line.

The district immediately to the south is Viserbella (events are organized almost every evening by the CT tel. 0541.734504), famous for its rich water table whose springs began to draw holidaymakers here as early as the start of last century.

Worth visiting is the exhibition on equipment linked to the world of fishing and on Mediterranean shells (Rimini, Via Minguzzi, for information and visits on request tel. 0541.721060).

Viserba (the home of Italy in Miniature theme park) is famous for the sand sculpture competition that has been held on the beach here every summer for more than 50 years (CT tel. 0541.738656). Two kilometers  north of the city center is Rivabella (CT tel. 0541.26977), the ideal destination for all those who wish to take the diuretic waters that rise from the same vein as the Sacramora spring.

Between the Rimini port and the Marecchia River deviator is San Giuliano Mare (CT tel. 0541.730165) that is mainly famous for its fish restaurants and also nowadays, for its innovative beach organization. Bellariva is famed for its fish ‘grills’ and Sangiovese red wine festivals (CT tel. 0541.382748). Further south is Marebello (CT tel. 0541.376354) and this is where a lovely cycle path starts to wind its way along the coast, passing beside the beach huts. Rivazzurra (CT tel. 0541.372229) is a must for children because Fiabiliandia, the Riviera’s very own ‘Disneyland’, is situated here. The Rimini district that lies furthest south is Miramare (CT tel. 0541.373435) where on the free beach holidaymakers will find Riminiterme thermal spa and, close by, a funfair and go-kart track.

Rimini history

The first bathing establishment was built in 1843. Since then, Rimini has been the principal summer resort on the Adriatic Coast and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Italy.

Rimini is also a city of notable historical interest.

In 390 B.C., Rimini was occupied by the Senone Gauls who established a workshop to coin their own currency.

In 295 B.C. the Romans arrived and founded a real colony in 286. Ariminum thus acquired strategic importance.

Rimini

Rimini became a crucial junction for communications; a starting point for the Flaminian Way leading to Rome (220 B.C.), the Aemilian Way toward Piacenza (197 B.C.) and the Popilian Way toward Aquileia (132 B.C.).

Caesar passed through Rimini after crossing the Rubicon (50 B.C.). After him the Emperor Augustus (9 B.C.) also came this way and had the bridge over the River Marecchia built. The same bridge was later completed by Tiberius, who gave it its name. It was, in fact, to honor Augustus that the people of Rimini erected the famous arch, doorway to the city.

After the barbarian invasions Rimini enjoyed a golden age in the 13th century when it became an independent municipality. New constructions such as Palazzo dell’Arengo (1204), Palazzo del Podesta’ (1330) and new city walls were added to the city.

An important school of painting developed, due in part to the presence of Giotto.

In 1295 the Malatesta name appeared and belonged to a family that was not only concerned with warfare but was also a patron of art. They beautified the city with works like: the Malatesta Temple, the principle example of Renaissance architecture, and Sismondo Castle.

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Courtesy of Rimini Tourist Office

Piacenza

Piacenza

Located at Emilia Romagna’s Western border, Piacenza has always been a transit town, a trait d’union between the river Po, the wide Padana Valley and the Apennine.

Founded in 218 B.C. by 6.000 Roman veterans and given the good omen name of “Placentia”, it was born as frontier colony, military outpost located just before Cisalpine Gaul.

The Via Emilia and the river Po, pilgrims and its strategic position affected so much its development and richness throughout time that it was called” hundred churches and hundred barracks town”.

With its rich history and its many historical remains, it offers several suggestive tracks to follow, notwithstanding the bombardments on the city during the Second World War.

Today Piacenza may be considered as important tertiary and automation industry pole.

Via Francigena in Piacenza and province

via Francigena Piacenza

The Pilgrims who followed the Via Romea from Pavia stopped at the ancient church or Pieve of Olubra, round which the town of Castel San Giovanni has developed.

The importance of this area is due to the fact that important roads crossed here: the Via Romea, the Via Postumia and the road leading up the Tidone Valley.Traffic of both men and goods was heavy.

As a result there were four hospitals here in the 13th century: the hospital of Costola, that of San Giacomo (St. James) of Bardoneggia, the hospital of the Battuti, and that connected to the Pieve. Beyond Piacenza, the Via Francigena coincides with the Via Emilia for several kilometers from this point and passes through Pontenure, Cadeo, Fontanafredda, Fiorenzuola d’Arda, Castell’arquato, Lugagnano, Velleia, Vernasca, Castelletto e Morfasso.

Courtesy of Piacenza Tourist Office