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Plan your visit to Reggio Emilia

Immerse yourself in the food and history of northern Italy.

Plan your visit to Reggio Emilia
Image published via Wikipedia
Piazza San Prospero seen from the patron saint's basilica – Reggio Emilia, Italy

Situated in Northern Italy, in the Po Valley – about a one-hour drive from Bologna – the town of Reggio Emilia has an ancient history.

In the 11th century, Reggio Emilia was at the heart of the vast territory controlled by Matilda of Tuscany – la Gran Contessa – a powerful feudal ruler and one of the few medieval women to be remembered for her military accomplishments. The castle of Canossa, in the Apennines south of Reggio, was Matilda’s main power-base.

Across the subsequent centuries, Reggio Emilia is a town that has continued to play an important role in the political and cultural life of this part of the world. More recently, it has been referred to as the Tricolour town, because it was here that the future Italian flag was adopted for the first time in 1797.

What to do

The best time to visit this region is during the spring, but at any time of year there’s plenty to explore.

Some of the key highlights that you might want to include in your itinerary are:

  • The Sala del Tricolore (Tricolour Hall) and its Museum, which goes over the historical events with Napoleonic memorabilia and relics of the Risorgimento.
  • Piazza Grande – surrounded by the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Town Hall
  • Piazza San Prospero, where you’ll find the traditional market. The piazza is dominated by the Basilica dedicated to the town’s patron saint.
  • Piazza Fontanesi, a sort of open sitting room surrounded by trees.
  • The Basilica della Madonna della Ghiara – a vestige of the Emilian Baroque. It contains precious masterworks such as Guercino’s Crucifixion, as well as a cycle of frescoes illustrating the female figures of the Old Testament.
  • The Museum Palace, which stand out for its art, archaeological and naturalistic collections.
  • The Galleria Parmeggiani, especially for its 19th-century collections.
  • The neoclassical and stately Teatro Municipale.
  • Piazza Martiri del 7 Luglio, with its notable fountain.
  • Spazio Gerra with its installations of contemporary art.
  • Palazzo Magnani which specializes in exhibitions of photography and modern art.

What to eat

This is a region that is passionate about its food – some of the local specialities that you’ll encounter include:

  • Cappelletti or caplètt – the stuffed pasta that resembles little hats
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Local seasonings
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Spend some time in the town bakeries, where you’ll be choosing between delicacies such as:

  • Erbazzone – a savory spinach pie
  • Chizze – fried pastry filled with cheese
  • Spongata – a traditional rice cake
  • Biscione – a sweet biscuit generally served at Christmas

Where to stay

  • Luxury: Hotel Europa – Close to the historic town centre, this hotel is also an easy walk from the train station.
  • Mid-range: Mercure Reggio Emilia Centro Astoria – A reliable brand, the Mercure is a great base from which to explore this fascinating region.
  • Budget: Hotel Ariosto – Perfectly located in the historic centre of Reggio Emilio, so all the main sights are on your doorstep.

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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