One of the best ways to visit the Emilia Romagna region is to rent a car and travel slowly, with purpose, along the Via Emilia. With trees and flowers in bloom and temperate weather, spring is one of the prettiest times of the year in much of Italy.
This scenic road, spanning some 200 miles, starts in Piacenza (southeast of Milan and northeast of Genoa) and follows almost a straight line to Rimini, which lies southeast along the Adriatic coast. Constructed by the Romans some 2000 years ago, it is now a modern highway, called SS9. The road is literally steeped in history; Parts of it actually sit atop original Roman ruins.
If someone were to drive from one end to the other, they could probably drive the length of the Via Emilia, non-stop, in five hours—without getting a speeding ticket.
But to truly savor the richness of a region filled with history, exceptional art and culture, and great foods and wines, it’s prudent to travel this trunk road slowly, stretching out the experience as long as your travel itinerary allows.
In addition to soaking in views of the magnificent countryside with medieval villages, castles, and farmlands dotting the hills, tourists have easy access to the many unique cities and small towns along the way. Along with Piacenza and Rimini, these include Bologna, Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Cesena, Forlimpopoli, Forlì, Faenza, and Imola.
Considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world, it is also a gateway to UNESCO World Heritage sites, parks, and nature preserves.
An itinerary for food lovers
Often called the “breadbasket of Italy,” Emilia Romagna is the region in northern Italy probably best known for its extraordinary gastronomy. Even most Italians, who tend to exhibit strong regional pride, would concur.
Plan to spend a few nights at one or more of the contemporary hotels, quaint inns, B&Bs, and other accommodations en route. And, of course, every meal offers an opportunity for hoteliers and restaurateurs to showcase regional and local specialty foods and dishes.
Located on the branch roads veering off of SS9 are food producers, wineries, and food museums where visitors can learn about and sample the region’s 44 traditional products that have garnered PDO (Protected Designation of Original) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) certifications for quality, authenticity, and sense of place.
These products include Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Mortadella, and balsamic vinegar.
What’s new in Emilia Romagna?
This spring, some of the new openings and highlights of a road trip along this historic road include:
This new castle network links the region’s historical fortresses, castles, and manors that are all open to the public.
One highlight of the route is the I Castelli delle Donne (the Castles of Women) itinerary featuring castles in seven municipalities that are linked to legendary female figures.
Cyclists can leave their cars at their accommodations and rent bicycles. The new Via Romagna, which opened in 2022, is the first permanent regional route in Italy dedicated to cycling.
Its low-traffic, asphalt secondary roads span 290 miles between the hills and the seas. Visitors can cover portions of the circuit that connects the provinces of Ferrara, Ravenna, Forli-Cesena, and Rimini, crossing 30 municipalities.
Lovers of the cinema will want to visit the Federico Fellini International Museum in Rimini, which celebrates the life and work of one of the most influential 20th-century filmmakers.
This year not only marks the 30th anniversary of the film director’s death but also milestone anniversaries of some of his most memorable films, including Amarcord, which was made 50 years ago. The museum includes drawings, costumes, exhibitions, film showings, and other multimedia presentations.
Speed and automotive enthusiasts will enjoy the Motor Valley Fest that will be held from May 11-14, 2023 in Modena. This open-air event celebrates racing with four days of shows and activities. This year’s festival pays special tribute to the 60th anniversary of the legendary Lamborghini.
The fourth edition of the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will take place in Imola between May 19-21, 2023 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
A road trip on the Via Emilia is an unforgettable experience, one even worth repeating.
For more information about this road trip itinerary and a host of other reasons to visit the region, see the Emilia Romagna tourism website.