It is hard to say farewell to Romagna. It’s simply impossible. One could only bid it temporarily goodbye and know that the longing feeling will just be lingering around the corner, especially when one feels far from home. Because – for those who already know it or those who will soon do so by travelling along its path of glasses, tables and landscapes – Romagna is the new home that you didn’t know you had. This year, seven young influencers, gastronomes, sommeliers and travel bloggers discovered the soul of this magnificent land by traveling along the Via Aemilia and to the region’s inland, to find a place that they could call home, where they can always go back to whenever they start missing it.
Thanks to Martina Maggiordomo (@unpizzicodisalerosso), Stefano Quaglierini (@italian_wines), Federica Piersimoni (@federchicca), Adriano Amoretti (@cantinasocial), Valeria Mundo (@sogni_in_valigia), Eleonora Rubaltelli (@eleonora_rubaltelli) and Anais Cancino (@wineteller).
all the places to visit along this itinerary
Welcoming us is the wind that breathes among the willows, brings the clouds closer and shakes off the usual stereotypes about this land: we see a Romagna that smells of autumn and home.
We set off from Faenza to a place just outside the city, along the Via Aemilia, where storks and flamingos keep watch over the peaceful plain and the lush nature: Villa Abbondanzi. This will be the starting and finishing point of a 3-day journey to the soul of Romagna, between villages, fortresses, tables and glasses of wine.
We move to the center of Faenza, famous for the work of its master potters, where our first meal awaits us. For lunch, we dine at Osteria La Baita, a spectacular home and wine bar, where guests can find the delightful and gentle scent of traditional Romagna cuisine.
This is where we meet two of Romagna’s great wines (and they’re not the only ones, mind you), two masterpieces made by hundreds of local producers, each imprinting them with a unique nuance: we are talking about Romagna Sangiovese DOC and Romagna Albana DOCG. Let’s raise our glasses and toast to the beginning of this journey and friendship, moving along local recipes and tales on the land, its wines and traditions. There is still room for a glass of Romagna Albana DOCG Passito, and we’re on the road again, along Via Aemilia.
Castel San Pietro Terme
We travel along the Via Aemilia, towards the invisible border that divides the region in two (a border that subsists and persists even in terms of language: the hyphen in “Emilia-Romagna” is not a fad, but it embodies centuries of history, culture, traditions and identity, all enclosed in a punctuation mark).
Castel San Pietro Terme is a small and splendid town, famous for its thermal baths with sulphurous and salsobromoiodic waters. But where we must dive into is the landscape, the vineyards that trace graceful geometries on a large part of the hill upon which Umberto Cesari winery stands, located a few kilometers from town.
We spend a slow and easy afternoon, getting to know the wines of Imola. Not only Romagna Sangiovese DOC, but also Romagna Albana DOCG and Romagna Spumante DOC. By the time we set off, the sky looks like a crumpled tinfoil: the setting sun peaks through the cracks, marking the last day of pleasant weather. Dozza awaits us.
Night has already fallen when we arrive in Dozza. It’s not surprising that this is one of the “borghi più belli d’Italia”: thanks to the Biennale del Muro Dipinto, an event promoted by the Fondazione Dozza Città d’Arte, the entire town has been transformed into an open-air art gallery. The walls are the canvas and the only feasible way around is the road that one chooses to walk along.
We are expected for dinner at La Scuderia. This is an unmissable restaurant, where the rustic soul of Romagna peacefully combines with a contemporary yet informal elegance. A gentle sense of calm spreads among the tables: although tired, we comfortably enjoy fresh pasta dishes and glasses of Romagna Albana DOCG and Romagna Sangiovese DOC, with the joyous sound of our conversation ringing under the high vaults of La Scuderia.
And on the way back, one thing is clear: Romagna has welcomed us into its gentle cradle; we are home. It may be drizzling outside, but everything’s alright.
It was raining when we called it a night and it was still raining when we woke up in the morning. And it wouldn’t be stopping for the day. After breakfast we head to Forlimpopoli, a peaceful town along the Via Aemilia, squeezed between Forlì and Cesena.
This name may sound familiar: some may be reminded of the Marquis of Forlimpopoli, one of the characters in Goldoni's “La locandiera”, while most will associate it with Pellegrino Artusi. There’s no wrong answer, but the latter is closer to the right answer because the Italian businessman, gastronome and writer from Forlimpopoli will be the star of this morning.
Casa Artusi is located inside the former convent of the Servi di Maria. A cooking school, museum, restaurant and headquarters of the Associazione delle Mariette: a large center dedicated to the most famous native of Forlimpopoli, the one who, with the attitude of a merchant, the spirit of a gastronome and the eye of an anthropologist, travelled and mapped the Italian peninsula and its inhabitants starting from what their tables had to offer.
After a guided tour to know more about Pellegrino Artusi and his famous “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene”, it is time to roll up our sleeves: the Mariette will now reveal the secrets of fresh pasta. With our hands still covered in flour, we seat for lunch at the restaurant of Casa Artusi. The table will not only be laid with great wines and delectable traditional Romagna dishes, but the pasta we made earlier will also be served.
Definitely an unforgettable experience in one of the temples of Italian cuisine.
Valle del Bidente
It’s the first time we wander away from Via Aemilia. In the afternoon we move towards the Apennines, taking the Valle del Bidente. Droplets of rain slowly slide on our windows: it is a winding road that does not let us proceed quickly. But this gives us plenty of time to be in awe of our surroundings: the view of Romagna that we see is an unexpected one.
Lush hills rise above the mist that has enveloped the valley, woods that alternate with small and sleepy towns leave room to vast and neatly spread vineyards. We are expected at Poderi dal Nespoli, and the rain keeps on falling.
After visiting the cellar and the vineyards, we take a seat for a tasting at “La vela”, a large structure made with wood, glass and steel that allows visitors to admire the wooded and hilly panorama all around. And there are more surprises in store: aside from the exceptional Romagna Sangiovese DOC and Romagna Albana DOCG that we have already encountered, we are presented with a wine made from a remarkably interesting local vineyard: the famoso. And then, we’re on the road again.
Bertinoro is known both as “The city of hospitality” and “The balcony of Romagna”. The former name can be explained by the history behind the evocative Colonna dell’Ospitalità (but we’re not telling any more: hearing the story while sipping a glass of Romagna Sangiovese DOC at “Casa del Vino” is a whole new experience), while the latter is easily revealed by the view offered when looking out from the railing of Piazza della Libertà.
Ca’ de Bè is located right here, in the main city square. Its name means “House of Wine” and was given to it by two legendary men, Alteo Dolcini and Max David, in the late 1960s.
The name perfectly fits every inch of the rock walls and dark wood tables: at Ca’ de Bè we can just be comfortable and leave all fatigue at the door, just like we would at home. We move like long-time friends between plates of cappelletti, strozzapreti and beef fillets. We profusely talk while enjoying the great wines of this land, appreciating every glass with such familiarity, but without taking anything for granted.
This is Romagna’s great beauty: effusing a sense of home, every moment, everywhere.
On our last day, the sky that hovers over Ravenna’s timeless beauty has not allowed for any drop of rain. Are words enough to speak of the wonderful masterpiece that is this city?
Among the hands of saints, thirsty doves, city walls, geometric patterns and very deep skies, we visit the great mosaics at the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the Basilica of San Vitale. We end our tour at the tomb of Dante Alighieri, who passed away exactly 700 years ago.
Just around the corner, in via Corrado Ricci, is the last leg of our journey. Ca’ de Vèn welcomes visitors and tourists just like how the great monuments of this city do: leaving them speechless, with their mouths agape and their heads raised towards the ceiling. This is where we consume our last lunch, a feast of traditional dishes and the best Romagna Sangiovese DOC or Romagna Albana DOCG.
But Ca’ de Vèn is not only about refined “home” cooking, frescoed vaults or solid wood furnishings that embrace and envelop guests while preserving wines and gastronomic products. Cà de Vèn is a living piece of history located in the center of Ravenna, it is the first home in Romagna for those who arrive or return to this land, and the last for those who, like us, are ready to leave but not to bid it “farewell”.