In Bologna, rose-red palaces glow, lavish churches shine and teetering towers strive for the skies – all looped together by miles of classical colonnades. Hidden amongst the shadows of its porticoes is a veritable treasure trove; from elaborately frescoed churches and Byzantine masterpieces to medieval and Renaissance palazzi. It’s not all about the past, though: Bologna is a vibrant town with a fine gastronomic tradition, thanks to the fertile lands of the surrounding Emilia-Romagna. Beautiful though Bologna is, there is more to this region than just the city: dotted amongst the gloriously verdant countryside are proud towns rich with Etruscan history and dynastic legacies, and the region yields wonderful produce (Parma’s cured ham, Modena’s rich vinegar and the vast truckles of aged parmesan cheese are its most famous exports). Diverse and understated, Bologna and Emilia-Romagna offer all the delights of Italy with far fewer tourists than its neighbouring provinces.
April, May, June, September, October
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Today pretty and provincial, but once dynastic and imperial, Ferrara was a stronghold of the powerful Este family for 300 years. The town’s Renaissance, UNESCO-listed centre is strewn with palaces linked by arcades, a Gothic cathedral with Romanesque features, and dominated by the 14th century Castello Estense – former seat of the Este dynasty. Ferrara was a major centre for art in its glory days, and today the work of the highly regarded Ferrara School can be enjoyed at the Pinacoteca Nazionale which is found inside the grand, 15th century Palazzo dei Diamanti.
Elegant and sophisticated, parma ham and parmesan cheese form the foodie foundations of this gourmet town. Centuries of history are represented in the grand architecture of Parma, which was ruled by the Farnese dynasty from the 16th to 18th centuries. Parma also has a strong musical tradition, and is known for its fine operas.
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