The ancient city of Bologna is known as la dotta, la grassa, la rossa, which means the learned, the fat, the red: the thriving university was founded in 1088 and is one of the oldest in Europe; the food is fabulous; and the city is full of red brick buildings with red roof tiles.
Bologna has 38 kms of porticoed streets, and its vast Basilica is Europe’s fifth largest church. In medieval times there were around 100 defensive towers in Bologna, and 24 of these towers are still there today.
The city centre offers a myriad of delicious dining options, from the street food of the medieval market Mercato di Mezzo, to traditional restaurants and trattorias under the porticoes.
Compact Parma is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities. Celebrated for its parmesan cheese and Parma ham, this is also Verdi’s birthplace and the city has a rich cultural history.
The fresco in the dome of Parma’s cathedral (consecrated in 1106) is by Correggio. The cathedral’s marvellous pink and white marble octagonal baptistry dates from 1307.
The vast 16th century Palazzo di Pilotta complex houses various museums, including the Galleria Nazionale, with works by Fra Angelico, Canaletto, Leonardo da Vinci and others. The site is also home to the impressive Teatro Farnese, a 3,000-seat wooden theatre dating from 1628, restored after WWII bomb damage.
The vibrant city of Modena is famous for the balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco wine which are produced in the area. Modena’s winding streets are home to many fantastic eateries, including Osteria Francescana, voted the world’s best restaurant in 2016 and 2018. It’s also where both Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari were born, and the Ferrari Museum is in nearby Maranello.