Cultural & Gastronomic Treasures of Emilia Romagna Itinerary

A 9 day trip to Italy 
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Emilia Romagna brims with cultural riches that satiate music lovers, car fanatics, and culinary enthusiasts alike. Your custom-tailored Italy itinerary will immerse you in the wealth of enchanting history and captivating flavors embodied in the restaurants of Bologna, dairy farms of Parma, artisan studios of Cremona, elegant racecars of Ferrari, and the lingering notes of the master composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Enter forbidden studies in the protected fairytale castle of the Este family and then sample delicate homemade tortellini during a private cooking class. Embrace an enthusiasm for life in the beauty of food, music, cars, and history of Emilia Romagna throughout your vacation. As you look forward to your Italy travel, consider browsing our many Italy tours to perfect your own handcrafted experience. Also, consider our Italy culinary tours for more food and wine inspiration.

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General Information

Photos
Balsamic vinegar barrels for storing and aging.
Aerial view from the tower in Bologna old town center.
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from the province of Emilia-Romagna.
Close up shot of a violin being made in an Italian workshop.
Aperol Spritz drink with appetizers.
An Italian Ferrari from the Ferrari Museum in Emilia Romagna. Photo Credit: Matteo Paciotti.
Parma ham curing in a cellar.
Sunflower fields in Bologna.
Woman holds up a traditional Italian appetizer in a local market.
Handmade pizza fresh from the oven.
Kneading dough for fresh pasta.
The beautiful streets of Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna.
Traditional ring-shaped pasta tortellini with bolognese.
Byzantine mosaics in Basilica di Sant Apollinare. Ravenna, Italy.
Piazza duomo in Parma, Emilia Romagna.
Racks of Pecorino cheese inside a dairy farm.
Fruits and vegetables market in Bologna, Italy.
 Protected Designation of Origin Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Photo courtesy: Andrea Golod.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Parma, Bologna, Ferrara, Ravenna, Modena

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Parma – Arrive in Parma for a Remarkable Tour of the Charming City

The influence of the Dukes of the Farnese and the former French legacy under the reign of Napoleon’s wife, Marie Louise, permeates throughout the unique culture, the dedication to cuisine, and the enchanting ambiance of Parma. The Cathedral shines with 11th-century Romanesque appeal and the 13th-century bell tower hides the masterworks of artists like Correggio while it casts a shadow over the cobblestones that pave Piazza del Duomo. Bakeries fill with the scent of fresh pastries that are stuffed with honey and rolled in walnuts while cafes serve herbaceous mountain bread known as pane di montagna. Your flight will land at Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, where your private transfer will greet you upon your arrival and begin your exploration of it all.

The scenic drive from the airport will bring you through the aromatic woodlands and sporadic hills that lead to the historical and delicious ambiance of Parma. Your hotel lies at the heart of the fascinating city and shimmers with an attractive classical style that is accentuated by modern luxuries. Castles dot the ascending mountains outside of the city, and the marshland along the Po Valley glows with verdant grass and rippling water. Your guide will greet you in the hotel lobby, eager to lead you on an introductory tour of Parma and escort you to the 12th-century baptistery. Pink marble accentuates the octagonal Romanesque architecture while Biblical reliefs decorate the wooden doors, which will provide you with an example of the elegant transition between Romanesque and Gothic style. The interior of the church offers an impressive collection of 13th-century religious frescoes in the Byzantine style that blanket the walls and ceiling.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, private tour

Day 2: Parma – Explore Historic Cremona and the Home of Verdi in Busseto

The next day, the morning market in Piazza della Ghiaia will fill with the fragrance of the artichokes, eggplant and other goods that fills the stands of the many produce vendors. Elements of the ancient soil drift out of the fragmented underpass of the preserved Roman arches while the yellow façade of the Teatro Regio, the Royal Theater, shines above the cobbled lane with 19th-century grandeur. The theater attracts opera lovers from around the world eager to listen to the sounds of Giuseppe Verdi, a native son of the city.

After breakfast, your guide will greet you at your hotel and take you to the town of Cremona, which is known for its historical connection to artisan violins and lutes. Medieval tower homes line the cobbled lanes that lead to the center of the city at Piazza del Comune. The pedestrianized area offers insight into how the government literally divided Church and state by constructing secular buildings on the west and ecclesiastical structures on the east of the street. In the 3rd-century BC, Romans erected an outpost on a Celtic foundation before the city fell under the reign of the duchy of Milan between the 14th and 16th centuries and fell again to the Spaniards who further impacted the culture.

The distinctive Violin Museum will offer you a history of the musical instrument with its editorials on the device’s sound, universal popularity, and craftsmanship. A separate gallery offers an exhibit of the drawings and molds used by renowned artisan Antonio Stradivari while the captivating sounds of a well-played violin concerto fill the museum, which adds an extra layer of elegance to the displays. Afterward, you will visit a modern-day violinmaker at their workshop to learn about the secret art of crafting a perfect instrument in the shadow of Stradivari before you venture to the home of Verdi.

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 3: Parma – Discover Rocca Meli Lupi Fortress and a Parmesan Factory

The morning light will wash over the Baroque features of Santissima Annunziata, a 16th-century church crowned by a dramatic dome. The scent of chestnuts and sweet berries emanate from the morning market but fade beneath the decadent aroma of fresh espresso. After breakfast, your guide will lead you away from the delightful colors of Parma to reach the quiet streets of Soragna, a charming village known for its castle and view of the surrounding lowlands. The sweet aroma of almond cake drifts out of the bakeries, followed by the savory aroma of a simmering beef broth while the narrow, cobbled lanes wind through the heart of the village.  You will pass butchers as they offer samples of their cured ham while winemakers provide views to their barrels hidden in the cellar.

You will soon reach the dramatic walls of Rocca Meli Lupi, the fortress that was erected in the 14th century. Four towers protect the corners of the stronghold with a central tower that adorns the south façade. The interior shows the original Baroque furnishings that represent the style, grace, and prestige of the former aristocracy. Nearby, the fragrant stone offers a hint of history amongst the pristine tapestries and upholstery set beneath the vaulted ceilings of reception hall, and frescoes create a lavish ambiance as the colors burst from the walls and ceiling. After you take it all in, your afternoon will continue with a private tour of a dairy that produces Parmigiano Reggiano. Here you will learn about the techniques used to craft the renowned cheese. 

The scent of copper and heated milk fills the room as cheesemakers heat the cow’s milk that is used to produce the iconic Parmigiano Reggiano. Your guide will explain how cattle must be born and raised in certain areas while they are fed local fodder in order to create the specific flavors for which parmesan is known. The methods used to raise the cattle and make Parmigiano Reggiano is safeguarded under the PDO status, which stands for the Protected Designation of Origin or Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) in Italian. In the warehouse, you will notice the wheels of cheese have brands on the rind. Your guide opens a wheel and comments on the crumbly texture, noting that the crumblier the cheese, the more expensive its price.

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 4: Parma – Visit Torrechiara Castle, Magnani-Rocca, and a Prosciutto Farm

The books and theater gallery inside the Palazzo della Pilotta fill with natural light in the morning as the works of Correggio, da Vinci, and Tiepolo adorn the walls of the National Gallery. Before you explore it all, partake in a traditional Italian breakfast of a decadent espresso accompanied by a sweet pastry. Your guide will meet you in the late morning, and you will make your way to Torrechiara. The village rises more than 260 feet above the verdant valley with defensive towers connected to the 15th-century castle.

The Parma River rushes between the base of town and the foothills of the nearby mountain. The quiet streets wind along the hillside that leads to the walls of the 15th-century castles as the woods that border the valley bloom with emerald leaves against the foreground of manicured plains. You can hear the buzzing of bees from the hive in the garden of the Abbey, where monks continue to harvest honey and make jelly in accordance with their herbalist traditions. The dramatic landscape leads to the rolling Apennine summits that glisten in the distance with snowcapped peaks.

After you wander through the halls and galleries of the historical castle, you will continue to a private farm renowned for producing incredible prosciutto. The quality and traditional production of cured meat on the farm is maintained by its protection of designation of origin (PDO) status. Your guide will greet you at the entrance and invite you into the kitchen to learn how the fabulous flavors inherent in prosciutto are created. Your guide will select the haunches, and you will stay engaged as it cooks, cools, and the meat is salted before it is left to rest in the damp, cool cellar for proper maturation.  

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 5: Bologna – Traverse the Antique Lanes and Architecture of Reggio Emilia 

The sun will wash over the pastel hues of the façades around Parma as the morning rises. The scent of freshly baked brioche will fade beneath the aroma of the fresh flour and eggs used to make pasta in the boutique restaurants around the city’s historical center. Your private transfer will greet you in the lobby after breakfast and escort you to Bologna, the capital of the Emilia Romagna region. Medieval arcades wind along the cobbled lanes and frame the elegant piazzas as the scent of simmering meat sauce lingers in the air, which emanates from the doors of celebrated local restaurants.

The student population adds a youthful energy around the campus of the University that first opened in the 11th century. As you stroll through the city, you will pass a salumeria, which dangles hardy cured meats in front of the window to entice passersby. Nearby, a traditional chocolaterie, which began producing chocolate in the late 18th century, continues to take pride in its chocolate as it cultivates the sweet treat from raw cacao seed. Nestled in one of Bologna’s most eclectically fashionable streets, you will meet your private chef at Il Salotto di Penelope culinary school.

Enter the private kitchen where the ingredients to produce a traditional Italian meal are laid out and learn how to make your favorite classic Italian entrees and desserts from scratch. While you cook, your chefs at Il Salotto di Penelope cooking school will teach you the historical knowledge of Emilia’s gastronomic roots. With your private cooks, you will indulge in your wonderful culinary creations and enjoy a glass of delicious local wine while you discuss the highlights of the day’s cooking lesson. Dig your fingers into the flour to form a mound and make an indentation resembling a volcano. Then, crack eggs into the flour’s center to begin the handmade pasta process that eventually results in fresh tortelloni.

What’s Included: accommodation, private transfer, cooking class at Il Salotto di Penelope, breakfast

Day 6: Bologna – Relish a Walking Tour of Bologna and Half-Day Tour of Ferrara

Today, the morning in Bologna will shine with the red hues of the facades and rooftops across the city. The cafes offer a fragrant welcome to the new day with the aromas of chocolate and espresso drifting through the doors, including the spiced chili coffee that is well-loved by the city. After breakfast, you will venture to Ferrara with your guide to discover the often-overlooked city that was once home to the powerful Este Family. Throughout the Renaissance, Ferrara remained dedicated to the arts and sciences underneath the eccentric dynasty that oversaw a portion of the Po Valley. The 12th-century Cathedral of Saint George has both Romanesque and Gothic design with pink and white marble.

A collection of shops has filled the Loggia of the Merchants for nearly a millennium set beneath the two colonnaded galleries. You will find the image of the Este’s power in the dramatic façade of the castle. A 14th-century revolt inspired the noble family to erect the massive fortress from brick to protect themselves from the city, and the walls and towers soar above the cobbled streets and protective moat. The dramatic exterior reminds you of a castle from a storybook as the sunlight washes through the grand windows in the ducal apartments to reveal the painted ceilings in the Golden Study.

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 7: Bologna – Enjoy the Marvels of the Past on a Half-Day Tour of Ravenna

The towers near the center of Bologna were demonstrations of opulence built by the regal families of the city to prove their prestige. Only 20 of the original 100 towers remain, and the returning sun casts a light on the more than 40-feet tall Torre Garisenda. Today you will travel to the city of Ravenna, where the images of the past and the unique charms of Italy will weave through your day. Collections of early Christian mosaic art decorate the ornate churches that date back to the 5th-century. The city once served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire, which lead to a golden age of architecture and artwork that ended around the 6th century.

A symphony of color spreads across the pastel facades that encircle the Piazza del Popolo. Images of St. Vitalis and St. Apollinaris crown the marble Venetian columns that decorate the heart of the square. The scent of freshly baked brioche drifts from the cafes in the Piazza, and you will have your first view of the mosaics of the city inside Basilica di San Vitale, which finished construction in the mid-6th century. The simple brick exterior leads to an interior that shimmers with marble and bright Byzantine mosaics. The artwork represents scenes from the Old Testament, along with images of Emperor Justinian and his wife, Theodora. The height of the ceiling will make you forget the small size of the church, and you will be captivated by the artistry.

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 8: Bologna – Balsamic Vinegar Maker and Ferrari Factory and Museum

The city of Modena is known as a center for sports cars, artistic treasures, and some of the world’s finest balsamic vinegar. The old Roman road leads to the imposing 11th-century Romanesque façade of the central cathedral. The home of celebrated tenor Luciano Pavarotti remains furnished with mementos of his public and private life. Your private driver will escort you to an 18th-century villa that focuses on producing delicious balsamic vinegar since 1911. Balsamic Vinegar in Modena is one of the goods under the jurisdiction of the protected designation of origin status. Your guide will lead you through the factory and point to the source of the caramel aroma, the wooden barrels that are over 20 years old.

During your tour, you will learn first-hand how the factory cooks fresh grapes to a syrup before they age the product in wooden barrels to improve the flavor. The result is a glossy, syrupy condiment with a velvety texture and rich flavor. Your guide will offer you samples of the variety of vinegar produced on the property, which ranges from balsamic that is aged between 12 and 50 years. The mellow flavor has hints of sweet and sour tastes with a robust aroma. True balsamic vinegar has versatility, as it can dress foods from salads to parmesan cheese or fresh fruits.

In the afternoon, the corner bars and cafes of Modena fill with the scent of espresso. You will reach the Ferrari Museum and Factory located in the town of Maranello, near Modena. Explore the museum to witness the historic extent of the gleaming, gorgeous models of the iconic car. The style and power of Ferrari have spanned more than seven decades to become a powerhouse of Italian racing and an icon of motorsport’s stunning design. The emblem, “Il Cavallino,” shows a prancing horse embodying Ferrari’s classic elegance. 

The Ferrari museum captures the history of the company, which produced the 125 S, its first car, in 1947. Videos, photographs, trophies, and sensational models act as the core collection of the exhibits. A Formula 1 simulator will let you step into the driver’s seat for a taste of the exhilarating hum of the racecar during the grand prix. Step onto the Ferrari bus for an exclusive tour inside the Fiorano track, which offers a panoramic view that showcases the characteristics of the Ferrari circuit, where competition and road cars have been tested since 1972.

What’s Included: accommodation, private tour, breakfast

Day 9: Bologna – Depart for Home

Over breakfast, you will watch as the casual bustle returns to the streets of Bologna. Take a walk through the market of Quadrilatero where vendors pride themselves on the fresh produce, specialty pasta, cured meats, and an assortment of cheeses. You can sip an espresso as you wander and balance the slightly bitter flavor with the caramelized crust of a sweet brioche. Your private transfer will greet you at your hotel when you are ready and escort you to Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

What's Included 

  • Private taste tastings of Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, and traditional balsamic vinegar in their respected protected designations of origin (PDO)
  • Admission and activities within Museo Ferrari
  • Visit artisan violin and viola makers in Cremona, including the Stradivari workshop
  • Cooking class in Bologna at Il Salotto di Penelope culinary school
  • All private transfers by luxury Mercedes vehicles in Italy, including to and from airport
  • 7 Privately guided tours
  • 9 Nights in premier accommodations with breakfast included
  • 1 Cellphone and Italian SIM card with 4G Technology for use while in Italy
  • 24/7 telephone assistance while travelers stay in Italy

Price 

For 2 people:

  • 4-star: $3,799 USD per person based on double occupancy
  • 5-star: $4,599 USD per person based on double occupancy

For 4 people:

  • 4-star: $3,399 USD per person based on double occupancy
  • 5-star: $4,199 USD per person based on double occupancy

For 6 people:

  • 4-star: $3,199 USD per person based on double occupancy
  • 5-star: $3,999 USD per person based on double occupancy

The customized package will include accommodations, airport transfers, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24x7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.