Inspired by the travel guide book of the same title, our tour Italy: The Places in Between focuses on cities in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions — cities that are almost always passed over as tourists head from Florence to Venice. There’s a plethora of worthy sights around here, and we’re very glad to bring you this unique program — our eighth unique itinerary and 24th tour overall in this enticing country!
One of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy, our first of two bases is Bologna — a very handsome city (and a pity that its name conjures up the less-than-appealing American food product). Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna lives on its red-brick towers and stately colonnades and is almost universally considered to be Italy’s gourmet capital. The sidewalks in the city center are covered in intricately decorated porticos — some 25 miles of them all together. The feeling of a university city permeates the air, and Bologna feels full of Italians in a way that many other places, thronged with tourists, do not.
Modena vies as Italy’s wealthiest city and can boast the UNESCO World Heritage sites of its 12th-century cathedral, and tower, and adjacent main piazza evoking a glorious past. It’s famous for local products: Maserati, Ferrari, opera star Luciano Pavarotti — and not least of all it’s also home to the true traditional Balsamic vinegar, which is little understood and often badly misused! We’ll learn what makes this product so special — some of it aged up to 40 years — and taste various types at one of the area’s artisinal producers.
One of the greatest cities of the Mediterranean from the fifth to the eighth centuries, Ravenna has brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments, and spectacular Byzantine-period mosaics. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with these sumptuous mosaics. The mosaics have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and they quite handily rival what you’ll find in Istanbul.
The stately historic center of Parma shows its prosperity, along with its well-dressed residents and immaculate piazze. The residents of Parma are generally considered to be the most elegant people of Italy. Bursting with gustatory delights, Parma draws visitors for its sublime cured ham, prosciutto crudo di Parma. The pale-yellow Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced here is the original — and best — of a class known in America as “Parmesan.” The city has also been a mecca for opera lovers. Giuseppe Verdi was from here, and his operas echoed through the Teatro Regio, the opera house that we’ll visit and which is today jam-packed during the season.
Founded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., the enchanting city of Verona is dotted with very attractive palazzi, elegant squares, and medieval gems. Architectural remnants of the Roman era are also a real draw, most notably the famous Arena, which is home to a world-renowned summertime opera festival. It is perhaps the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world — and the most famous after the Colosseum in Rome. Dubbed the “City of Love,” romance is most definitely in the air in fair Verona. The city’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to think so anyway. Verona sits on the Adige River which comes tumbling down from the Italian Alps, and indeed just outside the city is hilly terrain and the location of some excellent vineyards, one of which we’ll have the pleasure of visiting to taste their wines.