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A Beautiful Visit to Emilia-Romagna

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May 15th, 2015, 04:42 AM
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A Beautiful Visit to Emilia-Romagna

Just returned from a marvelous first trip (but not last, for sure!!) to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. After having been to Italy at least 15-20 timesy, I sheepishly admit this was my first venture into this area and I LOVED IT !!! Will be returning for more, no doubt.

First of all, thank you to all the lovely Fodorites who helped me with questions, suggestions, and ideas in the planning stages of my trip several months ago, especially to Sandralist and bvlenci and all the others.

Rather than give a day-by-day trip report I will divide this report into specific lists of the very best places we stayed, foods we ate, tours we took, etc. I will be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.

So we here begin!!
The weather for all our 11 days was just glorious. Even though there was some rain predicted in the forecast, we saw ZERO rain and it was a lovely surprise. Of course we DID bring rain gear and umbrellas with us so maybe that was the reason for no rain whatsoever? wink.......

B&B's / APARTMENTS

BOLOGNA - in Bologna we spent five nights in THE most lovely apartment belonging to the Bologna nel Cuore B&B of Ms. Maria Ketty :

B&B Bologna Nel Cuore
Via C.Battisti 29, 40123 Bologna
Tel / Fax : +39 051 269442
Cell : +39 329 2193354
www.bolognanelcuore.it

There are two separate apartments that belong to Maria, in a lovely elegant multi-storied building, as well as another apartment she uses as her B&B with rooms and breakfast provided. We chose to stay in one of the apartments. It was spotless, and I mean spotless, comfortable, roomy, elegant, and just perfect in every way. I cannot recommend highly enough. There was a bedroom with an alcove with very large closet, place for luggage and a safe in the wall, a lovely kitchen with everything you needed to make yourself a meal, a living room, entry hall and a fabulous bathroom with rain shower and washing machine plus drying rack and iron. Flat screen TVs in living room and bedroom, large windows into a quiet courtyard for wonderful night's sleep. We received keys for the apartment, front door, etc. and were on our own, with our hostess available for anything we needed with either a phone call, e-mail, or a walk up the stairs to the flight of her B&B.

BRISIGHELLA

Agriturismo PEDROSOLA
Via S. Cassiano 95
48013 Brisighella (RA)
tel. 054686195 - cell 3292661084
www.pedrosola.it

Just outside of Brisighella, this was a lovely agriturismo run by Patrizia who was just a powerhouse of energy and information. We had a room with one large double bed and a single, an en-suite and a very large green area which was lovely to sit around, have a sunset dinner and just listen to the quiet. Breakfast here was included and it was homemade bread and a cake, honeys and jams produced from their bees and fruit trees, organic butter, coffee/tea, This is a totally green and environmentally-sound place and it is lovely that there are people who want to take such good care of our earth for the future.

CASTELVETRO DI MODENA

Aldina Pane e Burro
Via dei Mille, 26, Castelvetro di Modena MO, Italy
Phone:+39 339 767 1454

This is a true bed and breakfast in the sense that there are only three rooms, and only one has an en-suite. I was not aware of this when booking and while we took the OTHER two rooms and so had a shared bathroom between us, this was not terrible. But it was not comfortable as this bathroom was not en-suite and we had to leave our rooms to get to it. Since there were other guests in the en-suite bedroom it was not a very good situation for us. The place is new and run by a very young couple who, while sweet enough and as helpful as they can be, have a lot to learn about running such a place. They do not live there but communication with them was easy with phone calls and whatsapps. Breakfast here was also included and was a bit more substantial but not anything to write home about. Good thing this is not an important aspect for us.

Next up : FOOD
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May 15th, 2015, 07:36 AM
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More! More! for food will wonderful.
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May 15th, 2015, 09:24 AM
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So pleased that you had a great trip. I can't wait to read all about it!
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May 15th, 2015, 01:01 PM
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I'm very glad to hear you had such a wonderful time in these beautiful and fascinating (and delicious) yet seldom visited parts of Italy. It has indeed been a lovely spring, with loads of flowers. Glad to hear the good report of the apartment in Bologna. Brisighella is a lot of fun, with an overload of good restaurants, and can easily be reached without a car for those interested in an interesting, scenic day trip (and there are accommodations near the train station as well, some with beautiful views).

I am especially fond, too, of the Modena hills, in and around Castelvetro di Modena. Lucky you if you were within the time frame for cherry blossoms.
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May 15th, 2015, 11:49 PM
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RESTAURANTS AND FOODS

Our first restaurant meal in Bologna was at

VICOLO COLOMBINO, a small place highly recommended on many tourist sites, etc. and we were not disappointed. Since we wanted to try so many things already on our first evening we decided to take several plates and share them all. We started with a lovely plate of different salumis (prosciutto crudo, mortadella, something new to us called ciccioli, etc.) and parmeggiano cheese, a bottle of very good red Lambrusco wine, the lasagna which was touted as being really special and it WAS, a plate of the tortellini in brodo - all very nice indeed!! And then there was an amazing panna cotta!! It was a lovely evening with good friendly service and good food.

Our next meal was bought at the QUADRILATERO market and cooked in our lovely kitchen of the apartment. It was loads of fun and came out delicious, if I do say so myself!! We bought fresh tortelli stuffed with pumpkin, which I made into a dish with butter and fresh asparagus (but no sage-did not find any fresh), fresh lettuce, tomatoes to make into a salad, and spinach which was lovely and made into spinaci al burro. Mozzarella was eaten with fichi al carmellata (a sort of fig compote). Strawberries that looked divine but were disappointing. Some of our fixin’s were bought at La Baita which would become our “home” store and others at the fresh vendors along the streets there.

GAMBERINI (near our apartment and recommended by our hostess) aperitivo became our actual dinner on the third night, since we had yet to try one and it was so lovely and filling. It was really really nice - both of us had an Aperol spritz. The little snacks that they gave were wonderful and we could go back and fill up the plates as many times as we wanted so that basically it became our dinner!! Everything was delicious and the people watching as the day ended (although on a street that was being torn up for renovations) was still fun.

Next up - MORE food in Brisighella and surrounds
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May 15th, 2015, 11:58 PM
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Sandra-I was indeed "wowed" by all the beautiful flowers we saw all over during our trip. It was a lovely and unexpected surprise. We did indeed see the cherry blossoms but were unfortunately too early for the actual cherries which would have really made us even happier campers. Next time......
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May 16th, 2015, 01:06 AM
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on for the ride, glad you enjoyed the place
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May 16th, 2015, 03:28 AM
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Alas, you can't have your cherry blossoms and eat them too. Glad you got a chance to shop at the markets in Bologna and make your own meal. It is the best food of all in Bologna.
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May 16th, 2015, 05:24 AM
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Yes, I would have liked the cherries instead. Oh well....

Here's more :

TRATTORIA GIACOMELA
It took quite an effort to get there along some very winding roads and several mistakes because it wasn't exactly clear how to arrive and in the end when we got there it did not look like a restaurant at all. There were older gentleman sitting on plastic chairs and tables set up outside, playing cards and talking. My friend, being the adventuresome sort, decided that we should go in and she asked if this was actually the restaurant. Yes, said the young woman who was there, and showed us in to another room which was set up with about 10 tables and nobody was there!! (no it was not early - after 8 PM). We decided to stay for dinner and were handed our menus from which we chose two pasta dishes (ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and tagliatelle al ragu) and a pork chops with potatoes and grilled radicchio, a salad and we shared everything along with a little bit of very good white wine and water. The "required" panna cotta finished the meal which was deemed excellent although to me it looked more like a crème caramele. I had an espresso and a large grappa and we ended up still being the only people in the restaurant!! We left at 10 pm with a very fair bill of 38 euros for a lovely meal. The driving back on these roads with little light - actually no light whatsoever - on the streets was quite interesting but since it was only a few kilometers away from the agriturismo there were no problems whatsoever.

TRATTORIA S. EUFEMIA

My friend wanted something without meat or cheese. So the chef prepared her a special first course of luscious pasta cooked JUST right – al dente – in butter and with fresh also al dente vegetables, in small pieces – zucchini, carrots, radicchio, etc. She was just in heaven. The chef even came out to ask her how it was. That was a real treat and he was VERY cool. I chose a bresaola with rocket and parmigiano for my first and it was very good. Then we ordered some chops for second and tagliatelle al ragu which was divine. I had a very good panna cotta for desert but the cantucci were disappointing.


CASTELVETRO DI MODENA area

AGRITURISMO CAVALIERI
Our B&B hostess had recommended dinner at a place called Cavalieri Agriturismo and the woman at the tourist office called to make our reservations at 8 p.m. It was possibly the best dinner we had in our entire vacation so far. It was magnificent, it was delicious, the amounts that were given were unheard of and I was really struggling to eat all of what was put before us. It was a set dinner with a set price and set courses and it was just absolutely delicious.

And it included the following : a wine which we could choose and I chose the Gasparossa Lambrusco which was awful, we gingerly asked if we could switch to the Rose and it was not a problem, just that this was almost as bad. Too bad. But from hereon in all was well : a small starter of bruschetta with vegetables and some small meatballs, then THREE first courses – a risotto with vegetables and butter, a spinach pasta tortelli stuffed with ricotta and a short pasta called gramisci with ragu!! THEN, gnocco (fried and puffed rectangular shaped dough which is very very typical of this area) with prosciutto and salamis, and a green salad. And then a warm homemade apple cake with freshly made (that morning) strawberry jam on the side to die for!!. The meal ended with coffee if you wanted and a slew of homemade digestive liquors to taste as you like. The whole meal was made by a mother/daughter team in the kitchen and as servers. And the Sommelier was the father and son, or son-in-law maybe. It WAS a wonderful meal (22 Euros a piece)!!!

AGRITURISMO OPERA 02

Our “swan-song” dinner was at Opera 02 agriturismo, a place I had scoped out for a possible stay for us during our time here but was prohibitively expensive. But dinner – that is another story. We checked the menu online and it looked both tasty and relatively fine pricewise. So we booked for 8 PM, something that was not a given seeing as many agriturismos are not open for dinner Sunday night. So we were happy.

The ride on this road was truly scary, especially after dinner in the dark.

The place is truly magnificent and elegant and the views are to die for. The restaurant is beautiful and inviting and the food was very very good. They started us out with am amuse bouche from the chef of a vol-a-vole (sp?) with some tuna and ricotta spread inside, very yummy. I had a glass of their own red wine which was delicious and we started with a risotto with balsamico in a parmigiano cream sauce and tortelli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, one of our best firsts!! Then outstanding lamb chops with artichokes which I dare say were stupendous and a really good choice, gnocco with prosciutto and it was good but was not my best choice. For dessert, the zuppe Inglese which was nice and a ricotta cheesecake with Vignola cherries. Very good, but not as good as mine!!! The desert wine was not great and I passed on the coffee. We were very happy campers hitting the sack that night!!


Next up - SANDWICHES / "MEDICINAL" GELATO !!
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May 16th, 2015, 01:18 PM
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Is it possible that the short "gramsci" pasta with ragu you ate was gramigna alla salsiccia?

http://www.modenasapori.it/images/pr...-salsiccia.jpg

The Gasparossa Lambrusco is "the" local wine. If you passed any vinyards on your way in and out of Castelvetro, the grapes were destined for that. I don't mind it, but it is better in summer, chilled, and if you are in the habit of asking for dry wines, it's better to go for the less-dry versions when it comes to a lambrusco. But you may not care for it, period. I prefer lambrusco from other regions, and a lot of people in E-R drink Tuscan wine.

I have never eaten at Opera 02 but I can imagine how alarmed you were by the road. Lucky you had nice spring weather. Those roads are even more alarming in rainstorms (or snow).

There are only a couple of desserts in Emilia Romagna that I like, mainly because there comes a point in a meal when I cannot eat any more combos of eggs, dairy, fat and carbs. There are a couple of dry cakes and some fruit desserts that are nice, but I prefer to finish a meal in E-R with a digestivo.
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May 16th, 2015, 01:24 PM
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We were on a "quest" to find the best gelato on this trip. "Unfortunately" we hit it on the very first day in Bologna and after that we were just spoiled because nothing we tried came close.

This was at Sorbetteria at Via Castiglione where we had our first amazing gelato. This gelato would be our very best of the trip as was also the apartment that we stayed and so we were going to be completely spoiled later on with the rest of our gelato and places we stayed. We chose ricotta cream flavor with honey caramelized figs, giuaduca and nocciola.

On the day we trekked down from the Madonna di San Luca church (the next day), we stumbled across another branch of this same Sorbetteria on Via Saragozza and so we again had another fantasy gelato.

Our hostess suggested we also try one on Via Cavour, forget its name now, but we just did not get around to it. ANOTHER reason to come back !!

There were other gelatos that we enjoyed, some quite good, others not really but again, nothing compared to Sorbetteria. One was in the small town of Imola, just something we passed by in the car and stopped. It was quite interesting and we tried licorice with hazelnut and a vanilla chocolate and pistachio.

We had sandwiches and paninis several times during our stay and none were anything to write home about. I was disappointed as I had made a good list of recommended places to try - maybe it was an off day, maybe we chose the wrong kinds. In any case, yet another thing to "correct" on the next visit.

Next up - PLACES AND ATTRACTIONS WE ENJOYED MOST
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May 16th, 2015, 01:28 PM
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YES Sandra - thank you for the correction of gramigna alla salsiccia. I was not sure I remembered the name correctly.

We had a lovely bottle of Lambrusco at Vicolo Colombina, so I wrongly thought that we would like them all. We did not. I have learned. We did indeed have other wines that were very good as well, such as the white sparkling wine at Trattoria Giacomela and of course my beloved Aperol spritz.

Yes, meals are so large and appetizing but we end up getting full so quickly. We took to ordering smaller plates and sharing so that we could also sometimes share a dessert or even have a dessert each depending on how full we were. As for the digestivo, we were indeed looking forward to that but we unfortunately did not taste any we really liked.
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May 16th, 2015, 01:54 PM
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You might enjoy keeping this for your files if you buy wine in the states for summer drinking:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/di...back.html?_r=0

A lot of digestivi in the hills of Modena are home-made, so that can be fun. Taste aside, I think they are almost a necessity after some of those rich Modenese meals.

One more note about panini: It's really a Milanese invention as far as I know. It most places in Italy, you mainly find it in the train stations, but not in the towns. Emilia Romagna doesn't make any decent bread to support a sandwich. Most natives there eat sliced meats with fatty fried breads or soft biscuits on the side, not as a sandwich, and eat cheeses alone. There is is the burrito-like flat bread called piadina in the Romagna part of E-R, and that often contains rolled up meats or soft cheeses -- but I don't much care for it.

But all in all, trying to eat and drink your way through the Emilia-Romagna is the task of a lifetime, and no doubt an impossible one. Amazingly, had you gone to Ferrara, you would have eaten almost completely different food, and that goes double had you stayed on the coast or wandered west of Parma to Piacenza. But sounds like you'll be back...
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May 16th, 2015, 02:01 PM
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First of all, it was my mistake to write "panini", I MEANT piadina. And we indeed did not find it tasty at all. Yes we did enjoy tasting the homemade digestivos, but unfortunately did not enjoy them. And not only DID I go to Ferrara, I also went to Parma, Modena and Ravenna. That will be coming up in further posts !!
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May 16th, 2015, 03:06 PM
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Ah, that makes more sense. I've noticed that the areas of Italy with the best pasta generally have the least interesting bread, or no bread at all. How many carbs can you eat? I don't know the history of piadina. It pretty much disappears west of Bologna. It reminds of Armenian flat bread (but not as tasty) but I suspect it is something that jumped the Adriatic at some point, and stayed in the diet of poor coastal living people.

Looking forward to hearing about the other places you visited...
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May 17th, 2015, 12:26 AM
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I just have this sudden image of the Count Panino inventing the panino while gambling and not wanting to get up from the table to eat
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May 17th, 2015, 04:50 AM
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So our original thought was that when in Bologna - for four full days - we would spend 2 days in Bologna proper and the other two would be destined for short train rides to two other cities close by. As it turned out we loved Bologna so much we could not really part with it after only two days and the one and only train trip we took was to Ferrara.

FERRARA
This was on a Sunday and the train ride was short and uneventful. It was a healthy walk from the train station to the center of the city but it was worthwhile. I found the city to be very nice, a bit cloudy and grey (and now I understood what some people meant when they described the city during my planning stages) but with beautiful Renaissance buildings and a very lovely pedestrian only street. We made our way through the streets and the piazza and we happened upon some very interesting and unique events - one was what looked like various schools with youngsters vying in a competition of flag throwing. Some of the children were very very young and they did a pretty good job. We watched them for a while and then found Via Masini. This entire street was completely lined with colorful umbrellas hung up with string. It was fun and unusual. And we wondered what it was for.......

We walked around some more and by 11 I was ready for my cappuccino. We both had cappuccino and we shared the cantucci mandorle that we bought at a bakery. They were excellent, while the typical Ferrara bread that we bought was quite a disappointment. After sitting a spell we walked through the very large square where there was a huge antique market as well as books, jewelry and various other objects for sale. Try as hard as we might, I did not find anything that I would have liked to purchase that was not hundreds of Euros!! We entered the cathedral which was very big and had a short rest there while mass was going on. There was also a type of fair/market going on inside downstairs and there were some very beautiful arts and crafts on display made by artists who themselves were the ones selling them. We did some more walking around the city and being Sunday many things were closed although some stores were open and that was a big surprise.

We found a small place to have a sandwich for lunch which was absolutely delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it and then we made our way to another land mark called Diamante. Unfotunately that was closed as well so we decided since we had a couple of hours still before our train back to go back to the large square and we ended up finding so many more things to see in the market. By 4 o'clock we started our way back to the train station and we were back in Bologna Centrale before 6 p.m. It was an enjoyable day - by no means our favorite though.

MODENA
Modena is a beautiful city, and it reminded be of a small sister to Bologna - it looks very similar with the porticos, the beautiful piazzas, the tree-lined streets and the wonderful stores. We parked just outside the ZTL and had no trouble putting a ticket into the window of the car for 3 hours. We made our way towards what seemed very easily to be the center of the town and ended up in the Piazza Grande where we found the tourist office. We got some information which eventually turned out to be not so correct but no matter and found ourselves in front of a very very large church. It was grandiose and very beautiful and unique. We had been told that it was closed and would not open again until 3:30 so we walked all around the streets and found a lovely synagogue - very large as well and of course closed. We took lots of pictures, enjoyed the walk, found a medicinal gelato which was good but not great and then decided that we would have a rest in one of the bars until 3:30 when the church should have opened. But as we were passing by I saw what looked like a side door that was open and sure enough we were able to go in at 1:30 and it was an absolutely amazing and unique beautiful church and we took lots and lots of pictures and enjoyed it. We then decided to sit at the Bar Orologio near the square and we had an Aperol soda and a strawberry shake and we each had some nibbles with it. We people watched and talked and relaxed and enjoyed and by 3 o'clock we had walked back to the car, picking up some pizza for dinner on the way, and then started our way back to our bed and breakfast, picking up some pizza for dinner on the way back (which was quite bad).
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May 17th, 2015, 04:51 AM
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Addition to above - we visited Modena during our stay in Castelvetro.
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May 17th, 2015, 08:42 AM
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PARMA
From Castelvetro we took a day and drove into the city of Parma. It is about an hour away on the highway and again we had no trouble getting there, and even parking in the correct underground parking lot, without actually knowing it till we got out and saw we were right THERE at the piazza we wanted to be. We basically went to visit the very well-known Teatro Farnese which is in the Palazzo della Pilotta. We had a bit of trouble actually finding it but it was our own fault and so we went inside. This old old theater was originally built in the 1600s but was severely damaged in bombings during WWII. It was reconstructed using the same materials as well as some original wood and paintings, around the 1960s. It's interior is all wood and very beautiful and impressive.

We then walked around the historical center of Parma which is quite pretty and includes some nice fountains and of course typical massive architecture. While on route to visit the cathedral, we were approached by three clowns who were looking for donations for a local children’s hospital. It was fun talking with them. We went into the cathedral and even heard some of the mass singing since it was Sunday. Lovely. This church, as all the others we had seen before, was also very very impressive.

From there we drove to Torrechiara Castle, one of the more noted of castles in this area, which has very many. It is very impressive from the outside and quite large. And when you walk into the rooms, they are all colored in frecoes from top to bottom with differing images and scenes. Some of the rooms have what they call grotesques which are some strange combinations of man and animal and some weird and frightening faces. It was fun and the views from there were also very impressive.


AND MY VERY FAVORITE = RAVENNA !!!!!
After our visit to Ravenna, taken during our days in Brisighella, I cannot imagine ANYONE not visiting this lovely city with its once-in-a-lifetime mosaics!! I had seen pictures and read about this city before but I still was not prepared to be so totally blown away by what we saw there. It took a while to figure out exactly where the center was and where to park the car but we managed pretty well and actually were at the best possible spot!! We had to put a ticket on the car which gave us a little over 2 hours parking time and we walked through the old gates of the city towards the tourist information office. It of course was closed or so we thought, until we saw a sign that said they had moved to a different location so we walked to that location. When we got there we got the information about the combined ticket that we could purchase for 5 of the museums and churches that had the mosaics in them. We visited 3 of the places in the time that we had before our parking tickets time was used up and one was nicer and more amazing than the other. Many many many pictures were made!! On the way back to exchange the parking ticket, I had my best ever espresso this time around in Italy at an absolutely beautiful little caffe there!! When it was time to go back to the car we exchanged the parking ticket for a new one with another 2 hours time and then since it was lunch time went for our medicinal gelato. This time we tried strawberry and a crema and the mascarpone and cherry. All were very good - nothing compares to what we had in Bologna though. We then went back into the old city, saw the last 2 places with the mosaics. Of course they were the most amazing and most unique of all of them. Before leaving the city, we walked into an amazing mosaics store where we could not stop oohing and aahing, it was indeed beautiful.

A QUICK VISIT TO CESENATICO
Going back to the car and deciding what to do next, we thought it would be a good idea to try going to Cesetanico which is a small town not far from the coast. Along the way we saw lots of “ladies of the night”, even though it was not night, selling “their wares” on the side of the highway, very sad. It was a bit cold and gloomy but we still decided it was worthwhile. The city has a cool canal that we saw with a floating boat museum and after walking up and down it we went back to the car.
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May 17th, 2015, 01:13 PM
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DOZZA

Dozza is a sleepy little village where we stopped on our way from Bologna to Brisighella. It is on the way and it was a truly interesting and unique spot. The houses are all painted with beautiful and diverse murals on the outside walls. It made for a very fun and funny attraction and I highly recommend a visit. It was midday and so nothing was open. But it did not matter. We came for this and the beautiful views from the area and it did not disappoint.
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