A visit to a village is an experience that transports the traveller to a place full of local identity, ancient knowledge and conviviality, in which time seems to flow more slowly than elsewhere. In a village, everything is within arm’s length, from art to history, to the possibility of getting to know the locals.
When it comes to villages in Emilia-Romagna, the region certainly does not disappoint. From the hills to the sea, the area is dotted with towns with ancient traditions, a wealth of knowledge that is just waiting to be discovered. So, where should you start?
An ideal starting point is to check out the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy, created by the Borghi più belli d’Italia Association, which lists “borghi” [villages] that have been selected for their great artistic, cultural and historical heritage. There are 14 of these certified villages in Emilia-Romagna, each with its own specific identity, but all of which are united for their beauty and charm. Heading north, the first village we encounter in Romagna is Montegridolfo, on the border with the Marche region, a small town surrounded by olive trees, grape vines and laurel trees, the ideal place to escape from your everyday routine.
This area was once the domain of the castles of the Malatesta and Montefeltro Lords, which includes 4 other villages certified by the Borghi più belli d’Italia Association: Montefiore Conca, with its square fortress dominating the hills; San Giovanni in Marignano, the “granary of the Malatestas”; San Leo, with its impressive fortress overlooking the Valmarecchia valley; and Verucchio, cradle of the Etruscan Villanovan culture. The northernmost village of Romagna is Brisighella, often remembered for its picturesque, medieval Via degli Asini, and home of Brisighella PDO Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Located halfway between Emilia and Romagna, Dozza is a small open-air gallery that is home to the Muro Dipinto [Painted Wall] Biennial Exhibition and the Enoteca Regionale dell’Emilia-Romagna, an association to promote and improve wine production in the region. The journey through the villages of Emilia continues with Fiumalbo, surrounded by Frignano Park and a few steps from Monte Cimone and Gualtieri, where you can visit sites connected to the painter Antonio Ligabue.
The remaining 5 villages, located between Parma and Piacenza, are part of the group of Castles of the Duchy, which once ruled over the area until the Unification of Italy. These include Castell’Arquato and the imposing hill-top fortification of Rocca Viscontea; Bobbio and its legendary Devil’s Bridge; Compiano, with its castle; Montechiarugolo with its mighty castle on the slopes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines; and, finally, Vigoleno, a village with a perfectly preserved medieval town centre.
Another way of exploring the villages of Emilia-Romagna is to visit “borghi” that have received Touring Club Italiano’s Orange Flag Award, awarded to small towns that are distinguished by the quality of the hospitality they offer. Villages from this network include Fontanellato and Busseto in the province of Parma; Castelvetro di Modena, Fanano and Sestola in the Modena area; Pieve di Cento in the Bologna area; Bagno di Romagna, Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole, Longiano, Monteleone, Portico di Romagna, San Benedetto in Alpe and Premilcuore in the Forlì area; and, finally, Montefiore Conca and Pennabilli in the province of Rimini.
Another very interesting itinerary is to take a tour of the Authentic Villages of Emilia-Romagna, a group of small towns that aim towards sustainable local development and the enhancement of their own local identity. There are 6 such villages in Emilia-Romagna: Berceto on the Via Francigena; Savignano sul Panaro surrounded by vineyards, Bertinoro, the city of wine; Modigliana near the border with Tuscany; Predappio, suspended between the Middle Ages and Rationalist architecture, and the Union of Municipalities of Romagna Forlivese, consisting of 15 villages.
We end this overview of the villages of Emilia-Romagna by moving towards the Riviera. Here we encounter the seaside villages, a group of fascinating small towns that are dotted one after the other along the Adriatic coast, which are full of traditions related to fishing and sailing.