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Emilia-Romagna is a region in the central north of Italy. Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy's highest quality of life indices and advanced social services. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist centre, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, containing Romanesque and Renaissance cities (such as Modena, Parma and Ferrara), being a centre for food and automobile production (home of automotive companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati) and having popular coastal resorts such as Cervia, Cesenatico, Rimini and Riccione.
The region of Emilia-Romagna consists of nine provinces and covers an area of 22,446 km2 (8,666 sq. mi.), ranking sixth in Italy. Nearly half of the region (48%) consists of plains while 27% is hilly and 25% mountainous. The region's section of the Apennines is marked by areas of flisch, badland erosion (calanques) and caves. The mountains stretch for more than 300 kilometres from the north to the south-east, with only three peaks above 2,000 metres - Monte Cimone (2,165 metres), Monte Cusna (2,121 metres) and Alpe di Succiso (2,017 metres).
The plain was formed by the gradual retreat of the sea from the Po basin and by the detritus deposited by the rivers. Almost entirely marshland in ancient times, its history is characterised by the hard work of its people to reclaim and reshape the land in order to achieve a better standard of living.
The geology varies, with lagoons and saline areas in the north and many thermal springs throughout the rest of the region as a result of groundwater rising towards the surface at different periods of history. All the rivers rise locally in the Apennines except for the Po, which has its source in the Alps in Piedmont. The northern border of Emilia-Romagna follows the path of the river for 263 kilometres.
Vegetation in the region may be divided into belts: the common oak belt which is now covered (apart from the mesóla forest) with fruit orchards and fields of wheat and sugar beet, the pubescent and Adriatic oak belts on the lower slopes up to 900 metres, the beech belt between 1,000 and 1,500 metres and the final mountain heath belt.
Trenitalia provides the most of train services in the region and beyond, while a regional company FER (Ferrovie Emilia Romagna) provides train services over some secondary lines.
Bologna is a major train station with Eurostar, as is Rimini.
If you can, rent a car and take any of the many roads that branch off the Autostrada and head south into the Alpennine Mountains where you will find hot spring spas, ancient castles protecting mountain passes (don't miss Castello Torrechiara, near Parma).
Many of the larger cities like Parma, Bologna, Forlì, for example, have bus service into the countryside.
The region is famed for its culinary delights, especially the fine gold coloured egg pastas like Tortellini and Tagliatelle and the green Lasagne Verdi all from Bologna. Gramigna is another Bologna pasta, then there are Garganelli from Imola, Cappelletti and Passatelli from Reggio Emilia and Anolini from Piacenza. Ricotta and greens filled Tortelli are served throughout both Emilia and Romagna.
Bologna is also famous for its Ragù known in English as Bolognese sauce (which is *never* served on Spaghetti) and for fragrant Mortadella (centuries old and noble Italian ancestor of the unpleasant present day Oscar Meyer).
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is made in a large part of Emilia starting with Bologna itself and ranging North and West through to Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma. "Parmigiano Reggiano" was originally made only with the superior quality milk obtained from the red coated cows of Reggio Emilia, called Razza Reggiana in Italian. Parmigiano Reggiano is at its best when it has been aged for between 24 and 30 months. The cheese made with the milk of the red cows ages even longer and is excellent at 36 months.
The region also produces cured hams including, besides the famous Prosciutto di Parma, other excellent products like Prosciutto di Modena and Culatello di Zibello. Piacenza is famed for its coppa, salame and pancetta, Modena for its Zampone and Cotecchino. Cured pork products like Lardo, Guanciale, Salame and Pancetta made from the ancient Mora Romagnola breed of pig are the pride of Romagna..
The original Balsamic vinegar Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is produced only in this region, in the neighbouring towns of Modena and Reggio Emilia. It is made exclusively of cooked down pressed grape juice and has to be aged for a minimum 12 years in wooden barrels before being bottled. The word "tradizionale" is essential on the label. The Balsamic Vinegar which is not Tradizionale is made only of the very cheap ingredients of vinegar and sugar.
There are three broad wine areas: Emilia, Bologna and Romagna.
In Emilia (everywhere west and north of Bologna from Modena to Piacenza) the favourite wine to drink with all the rich local specialities is Lambrusco: tart, dry and worlds away from the sickly export version. Also appreciated is Piacenza's red Gutturnio, a blend of Bonarda and Barbera grapes. Whites in Emilia include cool Sauvignons and sparkling wines made from the aromatic Malvasia grape. Both make fine "food wines" ie wines to go with food.
Bologna's local grape Pignoletto makes a very fine white, traditionally always sparkling but now made in a still version by many of local wine estates. It can be drunk as an aperitif or throughout a meal. Bologna also has prize wining red wines made using Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a lightly sparkling Barbera. There is also a long history of wine making using Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Italian Riesling, but as in the rest of the region, dry whites are made from the Trebbiano and the Albana grapes, though this last is most used to make the region's famous dessert wines.
Much of the best of this region's wine comes from Romagna (everywhere south and east of Bologna), where the whole area makes superb Sangiovese di Romagna. These wines make for fine drinking at bargain prices, considering the grape is the same as the that used for Chianti but sells at a fraction of the price. Many top producers ( from Imola, Forli, Faenza and Ravenna, to name but a few of the wine areas) have for years been winning top prizes both nationally and internationally for their excellent Sangiovese di Romagna wines.
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