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10 Days in Emilia-Romagna : Thinking of 3 Days Bologna and Then??

10 Days in Emilia-Romagna : Thinking of 3 Days Bologna and Then??

Old Dec 12th, 2014, 02:45 AM
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10 Days in Emilia-Romagna : Thinking of 3 Days Bologna and Then??

Planning a 10 day trip in the spring (May 2015) and after 3 days in Bologna want to take another week and be mostly in the outdoors, i.e. nature paths, countryside, national parks, etc. But do not want to "miss" other special places where I have never been such as Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara, etc. Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or experience on how to plan this week and where to base? Many thanks in advance.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 04:12 AM
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I've been to all four of those cities. Ferrara is a particular favorite of mine, a city I wouldn't mind living in. It would be fun to rent bikes and join all the other Ferraresi in biking around the city. There is a beautiful ducal palace and many other historic buildings.

I highly recommend Ravenna if you think you'd like to see the extraordinary early golden mosaics in the churches. Otherwise, it's a nice small city but not as attractive as Ferrara.

Parma and Modena are both fairly large cities, which makes me wonder if they match your interests. Each has a beautiful Romanesque Duomo, if you're interested in ancient churches. Of the two, I think Parma is the more attractive. I think most people go to these cities because of their gastronomic fame, but really you'll find the same regional specialties in Bologna.

Given your interests, I would suggest spending most of your week in a more rural area. You might consider the area called "Romagna Toscana", a beautiful region that was part of Tuscany, until Mussolini detached it and made it part of Emilia Romagna, where he was born. (It's said that his main motive was to locate the source of the river Tiber in his natal region.)

Rocca San Casciano is the biggest town in the area, I think. It's about an hour and a half from Bologna, mostly on the autostrada A14.

There's a very well-known thermal spa at Castrocaro Terme, if you might be interested in that.

http://www.termedicastrocaro.it/index_eng.html

We stopped there to see the spa, but didn't use its facilities.

The full name of the town is Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole. (It used to be two independent towns.)

There is also in Castrocaro a magnificent medieval fortress with an imposing wall that surrounds its tiny village. It's the most intact medieval castle town I've seen in Italy. I can't find a good description in English, but if you click around on this page, you'll see plenty of photos:

http://www.proloco-castrocaro.it/borgo_medievale.php

This area is mostly in the foothills of the Apennines, and there are some lovely rural drives you can take. There are also numerous parks in the region. One is the National Park of the Foreste Casentinesi, which has beautiful scenery and hiking trails.

http://www.parcoforestecasentinesi.i...mepage&lang=en

We live in Le Marche, the adjoining region, and have only visited the Romagna Toscana on day trips, but I'm sure there are some great agriturismi in the area.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 04:27 AM
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Are you coming from some place else in Italy? It might be easier if you made your first stop either Parma or Ravenna by train, to knock it off the list, then picked up a car, did a rural stay, then ended up in Bologna. Or you could reverse it depending on where you are going next.

Also, It would probably be more efficient to extend your time in Bologna so you can visit Modena by train from there, and possibly Ferrara too, depending on what kind of non-urban experience of Emilia-Romanga you want to have.

There are wine-growing hill towns in Emilia-Romagna, there are wetlands, there are cherry orchards and forests with waterfalls and rock climbs, there a frescoed village castles galore and there is the beach.

I think in reality you only have about 4 days for non-urban exploration, and you should decide whether you would like to be closer to the Adriatic for wetlands, castle towns, wine towns and beach or in the more mountainous areas west of Bologna for castles, woods, cherries, wine and cheese.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 04:40 AM
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Bvlienci and I were typing at the same time, and while not to contradict anything she says, I just want to point out how different people are: I find Ferrara the least attractive and appealing socially of all the E-R cities. I find sparkly Modena quite beautiful, and would easily enjoy living not only there but in plainly handsome Ravenna as well, even without its spectacular mosaics, one of the great treasures of Europe. (You didn't mention wanting to visit Reggio-Emilia, but I like it better than Ferrara too).

One of the most fun parts of visiting the small cities of Emilia-Romagna is that much, much more than the small cities of other regions, they tend not to look or feel anything like each other, even at a glance. Bologna is red. Parma is yellow. Modena is mainly white. Ferrara can appear to be like a black-and-white foto it can get so grey there with fog. Ravenna's mosaics just dazzle like multi-colored gems, with intense blues and greens.

If you have the patience to crawl through the hilly rural roads, which are alternately scenic and not scenic, there is charm there and lots of delicious food too, and there is always a castle with a fascinating interior to visit. But it is slow going, and most of the fun of the E-R is its pint sized towns with their oversized castles and theaters, and overflow of artworks and craft and fun foods.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 04:54 AM
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One more thing -- and this time I will contradict bvlienci: If you want to eat and understand the regional specialties of Modena and Parma, you will not find them in Bologna to the same high degree of quality, not even close, not even the simplest and most obvious ones like vinegar, cheese and ham. They are noticeably much, much tastier in their cities of origin and it is a revelation to eat them in their cities of origin. In addition, there are several lesser known pastas, baked goods and sweets you will almost never find in Bologna anywhere. Bologna is pretty ungenerous as well when it comes to serving the best regional wines west of Bologna.

Most visitors to Parma or Modena are surprised anybody considers these small places "cities." Their historic centers are not larger than Ferrara's, and their citizens ride around on bicycles too. Subjectively, you get to pick your favorite once you've seen them all. But objectively, there is no reason to think Ferrara is more what you are looking for than Parma or Modena.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Thanks to you both for your thoughts and suggestions. We are either starting our trip in Bologna, or ending there. We are not coming from elsewhere in Italy. We are spending 10 days total in the Emilia Romagna area and then returning home.

It is quite clear to me that everyone has their favorite places and cities to visit. It is also quite clear to me, since both of you have made such very good points and opinions on these cities, that I will probably have to visit all or most of them......somehow. I do not like to rush through a visit in any country so I will have to figure this out.

Any other special favorites of smaller countryside villages that anyone could recommend and why?

Thanks again for so much wonderful assistance!!
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Here is another question/problem I am pondering : If I want to only base ourselves in two separate places in these 10 days, and I do want to see Bologna, Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara as well as several small countryside villages (I have read that Castelvetro and Vignola are very nice), any ideas which would be the best two bases for this trip?

We have not decided yet for how long of these 10 days, and where, we will rent a car. This is also dependent I guess on where we would be basing and what places are best to see, i.e. close enough, for each of these bases. I have no qualms in renting a car or not renting, again dependent on what the bases will be and how best it will be to travel from them. Thanks again
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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I think Sandra's opinion of Ferrara must have been conditioned by the heavy fog she encountered the day she was there. However, you're just as likely to encounter fog in Bologna, Modena, and especially Ravenna. (Parma is a bit west of the fog zone.)

None of these cities is likely to be foggy in May,though.

As far as comparing Modena and Ferrara, of course it's a matter of taste. I suggest you pull up Google Images, or Street View on Google Maps. To my eyes, Modena has more grime, more graffiti, and more automobile traffic in the historic center. Also nowhere near the number of bicyclists as Ferrara, and that's not just my opinion.

Modena has a wonderful duomo, and the Estense Library (Biblioteca Estense) has a fabulous collection of medieval manuscripts, musical manuscripts, and a 15th century Mappa Mundi, one of only two I've seen in my life. There is also a wonderful collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts. Unfortunately not a lot of this is on display at any particular time.

So, if those things appeal to you, you may love Modena, but for general charm, I myself would choose Ferrara.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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We based ourselves in Castevetro for a few days. It a very small charming walled town. From there we spent a day in Modena and visited the castle in Vignola. We also took a very beautiful drive to a chestnut festival in a very scenic town. I don't remember the name, but will find out. The festival is in October but if you're looking for scenery its a good outing.

I'll be in Bologna in a few weeks visiting some of the towns mentioned here. Will be traveling by train and will repost back.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 01:57 PM
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flwrjen, was the chestnut festival in Zocca?

flame,

Using the trains is actually the most efficient way to see the cities you name. Part of the problem is that the entire length of the A1 gets a considerable amount of traffic, and the train just goes faster -- especially when you consider that you need to find parking away from the ZTLs. The other part of the problem is that if you stay in a town like Castelvetro di Modena (which is lovely), you need to keep going back to the A1 to get anywhere. There are no interconnecting roads in the mountains.

If you only want to 2 bases, but you want to see Bologna, Ravenna, Modena, Parma and Ferrara, it is better to extend your time in Bologna and see them all, and then leave for a rural base. You could consider leaving one of those small cities for the day you pick up your car. For instance, base in Bologna and see Ravenna, Modena and Parma, but then pick up a car in Bologna and drive to Ferrara. After a day in Ferrara, drive to a rural location.

Even if you do that, you will have seen a very, very small part of the charms of Emilia-Romagna. In fact, you will have mainly seen Emilia, and not Romagna at all. You also will not have seen anything of the Po Delta, or the low-lying countryside around Parma where they make legendary salami of various sorts, or the far western reaches of the E-R beyond Parma which have many fascinating castles and form part of the old via Francigena.

The best advice I can give is to suggest you decide what kind of a rural stay you want, and then take time to really explore that, whether it is closer to the Adriatic, closer to the Modenese hills, or closer to Parma and its castle-ridden history.



Bvlienci, your theory about me is absolutely wrong -- not to mention presumptuous beyond belief. I actually really like fog and it was one of the few things I liked about Ferrara -- and I do like several things about it. I certainly dislike the huge dungeon with the terrible history that dominates the town, and the over conservative, insular culture of the place. I also think the Duomo facade is .... a mistake.

Other people don't prefer Ferrara much. I recall before going a friend of mine, a book critic, saying to me: "I expected to like Ferrara more than I did. Didn't really find much charm."

Not long ago, I was in a restaurant in Bologna, and when a young waiter heard me speak English to someone else, he asked where we were coming from. We happened to have just come from Vignola, so he enthusiastically rattled off the names of many Emilia Romagna towns and cities for us to see, and when I pointed out he hadn't mentioned Ferrara, he wrinkled his nose. "Depressing," he said. (I had seen Ferrara already, years ago.)

Is that waiter, or my friend, or I the last word on Ferrara?

No, and neither are you, nor on Modena. They aren't waiting for you to show up again and approve of them. But you are blind if you didn't see the graffiti and grubbiness and decay in Ferrara, or the Fascist leftovers. Go look on Street View yourself. There are enough people riding around on bikes in both Modena and Parma to add to their evident charms.

No one knows why people react to places the way they do and it is irritating and presumptuous to think you do. I also think it is wrong of you to try to push somebody one way or the other. And apparently you didn't anyway, so case closed.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 02:13 PM
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The chestnut festival was in Marradi and we went there when we were staying in Florence not Castelvetro. It is on the border of the provinces of Firenze and Emilia Romanga so you might want to take a look.. Googling "chestnut festival Emilia Romagna" brought up the names of several picturesque villages.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 03:17 PM
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couldn't resist adding this:

Even the residents of Ferrara complain about the graffiti in the historic center

http://www.associazioneantigraffiti....ntro-e-sporco/
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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or this on bicycling in Modena

http://www.bikereader.com/contributo...ow/modena.html

they are all rewarding places, with graffiti and bikes and so much more....
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 09:34 PM
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Well, we agree that the duomo in Ferrara is nothing to write home about.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 09:47 PM
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I don't think I was trying to push anyone in any direction. I mentioned the reasons I liked Modena. I suggested that Flame have a look at the two cities.

You really know a lot about Italy, Sandra, and it's just too bad you feel the need to attack anyone who disagrees with you.
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Old Dec 12th, 2014, 10:49 PM
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So I am getting the picture from your posts that it makes a lot of sense to NOT have a car while basing in Bologna and taking day trips to the cities I mentioned.

As to the countryside and small villages part of the trip, we will make sure of course to have a car. I am more interested in the "wine-growing hill towns in Emilia-Romagna, in the cherry orchards and forests with waterfalls and rock climbs".

I would like to be in "castle towns, wine towns" and "mountainous areas for castles, woods, cherries, wine and cheese". As written all above by sandralist. So where would you suggest?
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 04:42 AM
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Flame,

For the rural experience that you want, check out the general area of Castelvetro di Modena, VIgnola, Zocca and Savigno. Vignola is the largest of the tows if you don't want a tiny village or agriturismo. Another possibility (minus the cherries) is to base in Brisighella. But if you choose that, then be sure you have already seen Parma and Modena. From Brisighella, it is actually possible to do a comfortable day from there to Ravenna, and it is quite easy to visit the town of Marradi that flwrjen did (but no chestnuts) at that time of year. Both areas -- in the Modena hills or near Brisighella -- have scenic national forests

bvlienci,

I find it incredibly irritating to be characterized in ways that are not true, including the false statement that I "attack anyone who disagrees" with me. Not only are there are several threads running right now where people disagree with many things I posted, and I've made no comment at all, in this VERY THREAD, I responded to your post to say I wasn't even contradicting yours! Nor was I attacking you when in a subsequent post when I pointed out -- factually -- that you cannot readily get in Bologna the high quality famous food items of other towns. I don't know why you chose to make dismissive personal remarks about me here, but why do you imagine it wouldn't anger someone to read them?

I also think it is only fair to any OP to point out when some Fodorite's purely personal quirky reactions to different places are being portrayed as if they were objective realities. I've linked here to yet ANOTHER ARTICLE about the popularity of bicycle use in Modena for your edification. But most of all, you might want to re-read your own posts in this thread and ask if it is unreasonable for others to form the impression you are putting more than a penny on the scale in favor of what you like to do, and mischaracterizing the options and those who differ with your unique and limited reactions.

http://www.bolognamagazine.com/content/one-day-modena
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 04:58 AM
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Chill guys/girls. Everything put up here is IMHO, it is up to the OP to work out what he/she wants to share, question and learn.
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 05:03 AM
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Flame,

Here is one way I might do a trip like yours -- I want to hasten to add it would be fun to do it five other ways -- but just to give you an idea

Day 1 -- Bologna
Day 2 -- half day Bologna, plus big lunch, afternoon in Parma, picnic dinner
Day 3 -- Modena in the morning, plus lunch, afternoon in Bologna
Day 4 -- Ferrara
Day 5 -- rent car, visit Castelvetro in Modena, lunch in Vignola + chocolate cake, drive to Brisighella
Day 6 -- Brisighella -- rural lunch, walking
Day 7 -- Brisighella -- day trip to Ravenna
Day 8 -- Brisighella -- explore more towns
Day 9 -- Trip to the beach towns, Cesanatico, Santarcangelo
Day 10 -- back to Bologna

or if you want the Modenese hills, consider this

Day 1 Bologna
Day 2 Bologna -- Parma in afternoon
Day 3 Bologna
Day 4 Day trip to Ravenna
Day 5 Check out of hotel, put luggage in Bologna train station, day trip to Ferrara, return to pick up luggage and rental car, drive to area of Castelvetro in Modena
Day 6 -- rural exploration and hikes
Day 7 -- visit Modena
Day 8 more rural towns and hikes (maybe on the other side of A1)
Day 9 -- visit Reggio nell'Emilia or more rural towns and hikes
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Old Dec 13th, 2014, 05:06 AM
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In case it wasn't clear, in Plan 1 the first 4 days are a base in Bologna, the rest a base in Brisighella

In plan 2, first nights are all based in Bologna until car pickup and remaining nights are in the countryside
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