The Ravioli Railroad

Dubbed the Food Valley of Italy, the region of Emilia-Romagna lies just north of Tuscany. Two millennia ago, Romans laid out the Via Emilia connecting cities from Piacenza, southeast of Milan, to Rimini, on the Adriatic Sea. Most will recognize regional city names in their own kitchens: Modena of balsamic vinegar fame, Parma of Parmesan cheese, and of course Bologna. Of the more than 300 PDO and PGI products* in Italy, Emilia-Romagna has more than any other region with 44.

Today, the cobblestone road of the Romans is asphalt, and frequent high-speed and local trains now follow the route, creating the perfect DIY train trip for foodies and history buffs. Fly into Milan or Bologna and get on the rails.


Listed by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy, Parma is a bouquet of glorious Romanesque buildings, including the fresco-filled 12 th -century cathedral and the towering pink-marble baptistery full of frescos. Attend a classical concert at the 19th-century opera house, Teatro Regio. Inside the redoubtable brick Palazzo della Pilotta is the impressive National Gallery and an archaeology museum.

What to sample in town? Tortelli d’erbetta (pasta stuffed with herbs and ricotta) or cappelletti, little stuffed pasta hats in broth. For a snack (or an in-room DIY charcuterie board), visit Salumeria Garibaldi to buy Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, some of the uncooked, unsmoked, dry-cured ham prosciutto di Parma (aged 14-36 months), and culatello di Zibello, an even rarer cured ham made only with the rear muscle of the haunch.

The brilliant, white, 12 th -century Romanesque cathedral — and its bell tower with a view— stand at the center of the city. A block away, locals shop and tourists ogle at the historic Mercato Albinelli showcasing the local produce, cheese, wines, and meats, but also offering quick meals and simple snacks. The Enzo Ferrari Museum will thrill car enthusiasts (as will the factory and another more F1-focused museum outside the city), and opera fans should visit Pavarotti’s Home Museum.

The Spilamberto Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Museum is a must, providing good
guidance for when you are ready to buy the real deal – not the cheaper variety blended with red wine vinegar. A pure 100ml (3.34 oz.) bottle starts at €60 and can be carried on a plane. Hire a car or a guide to drive to where the flatlands suddenly fold up into hills worthy of Tuscany. This is where the vineyards begin. Opera 02 is an estate winery and boutique hotel with a gourmet bistro and outdoor terrace where you can sip their dry lambrusco while admiring the
hills and vineyards. They also produce small batches of balsamic vinegar.

Home to Europe’s oldest university, Bologna is a UNESCO City of Music and the City of Porticos: the streets are lined with sheltered walks, including the entire 2-mile pilgrimage to the hilltop San Luca Basilica. Visit the expansive Basilica of San Petronio with its large sundial and staggering…

By Kevin Revolinski

This is only an excerpt. To read the full article, subscribe to Porthole Cruise and Travel


This is an excerpt from the latest issue of Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine. To continue reading, click above for a digital or print subscription.

Now in its 25th year, Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine is published bi-monthly and available worldwide through digital subscription. It offers the latest news in cruise and travel, with in-depth features on voyages, new ships, the best destinations, readers' picks, onboard cuisine, entertainment, and more!