Emilia Romagna is the birthplace of Italy's finest foods (think Parma ham, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) – so if you love authentic delicacies, don't miss these festivals
The list of culinary delights that hail from Italy's Emilia Romagna region reads like a foodie’s fantasy shopping list: prosciutto di Parma ham; Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fossa cheeses; balsamic vinegar of Modena; Sangiovese and Lambrusco wines... Are you dribbling yet?
All through the year, food and wine festivals in the Emilia Romagna region celebrate the best of the ingredients on their doorstep. From the aromas and ancient surroundings of the White Truffle Fair to the music, games and tastings of the Olive and Autumn Products Fair, there's a foodie festival to suit every taste. Here are our favourites...
Ageing Parma ham (Shutterstock)
1. Parma Ham Festival Where:
Parma, Langhirano and all the towns of Parma ham production area When:
Veggies, look away now. If you want to sample over 1,000 different types of cured ham, this is the festival for you! Festival del Proscuitto di Parma
attracts over 100,000 visitors to the city of Parma to feast on its most famous export.
As if street stalls and special menus weren't enough, the ham factories tend to have an 'open door' policy throughout the festival – so you can see the curing process up-close and witness the quality for yourself. 10 million Parma hams are produced each year by the 164 companies of the Parma Ham Consortium, and they're still made in the same way that they were 2,000 years ago, using only two ingredients: the prized Italian pig leg and a pinch of sea salt.
2. Taste of Salt Where:
Cervia (Ravenna) When:
Got a taste for savoury, salty snacks? Salt is a key part of Cervia's tradition and economy – the 'white gold' produced here is one of the best in the world. Every September, the city hosts the Taste of Salt festival: the humble crystal is the star of exhibitions, restaurant menus, and street markets. Truffles, Italy (Shutterstock)
3. White Truffle National Trade Fair Where:
Sant'Agata Feltria (Rimini) When:
The White Truffle Fair of Sant’Agata Feltria (or 'Truffle City') is sniffed out by discerning gastros from all over the world – could there be a finer place to sample the delicacy? Alongside the numerous gourmet truffle-laden delights (and other, more humble, local products such as mushrooms and chestnuts) there are also cultural exhibits, art performances and plenty of entertainment – all in the name of the wrinkly treasure.
4. Valtidone Wine Fest Where:
Several villages in Val Tidone (Piacenza) When:
The west valley of Piacenza, traversed by the river Po and protected by flourishing vegetation with imposing castles and fortifications towering above, is the setting of Valtidone Wine Fest. This boozy knees-up takes place in four villages of historical interest (Borgonovo, Ziano, Nibbiano and Pianello) every Sunday in September – the month of the harvest.
5. Mortadella Bò Where:
Bologna’s autumn season is even more tasty with Mortadella Bò
, a celebration of mortadella – a sausagey cold-cut meat, a favourite in picnics all over the world. The festival includes cooking lessons, demonstrations, guided tastings, and even a photo exhibition. Balsamic vinegar barrels (Shutterstock)
6. Showcase Motors and Balsamic Vinegars Where:
Spilamberto (Modena) When:
Every year in Spilamberto, during the first weekend of October, the streets of Spilamberto are filled with the aromas of boiling grape juice. It smells better than it sounds: the juices are cooked in traditional pots on large fires, before ageing in wooden barrels – believe it or not, the whole process for a high-quality vinegar takes no fewer than 25 years.
Visit the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, hone your tastebuds to recognise the good stuff, and pick up a bottle at the Sunday market – be sure to look for the Guild of Traditional Balsamic approval mark.
7. Sagra del Formaggio di Fossa Where:
Talamello, hills around Rimini When:
Pit-matured cheese might not sound like a delicacy, but once you've treated your tastebuds to its creamy-yet-tangy flavour, you'll understand the fuss. The cheeses are buried sandstone pits in August, and recovered in late autumn – so the little town of Talamello throws a party to celebrate.
Catch the Sagra del Formaggio di Fossa “Ambra di Talamello” (food fair of pit cheese) on the second and third weekends in November, to sample the freshly-unearthed cheeses, together with a series of other products from the region. Granite millstone crushing olives (Shutterstock)
8. Olive Tree and Olive Oil Festival Where:
The olive trees of Brisighella have been tickling tastebuds for millenia: as far back as Roman times, the olives and their oils were prized – and the high quality lives on.
At the festival you'll find music, dancing, and street stalls with oils, olives, and a plethora of other foodie treats.
9. Il Pesce fa Festa – Festival of Fish Where:
Cesenatico (Forlì-Cesena) When:
Fresh fish, hot from the grill, washed down with a glass of local wine – what's not to love? From fishermen to hungry tourists, Cesenatico's annual fish festival attracts an eclectic crowd of seafood lovers – you can gorge on street market food and open-air cooking stalls.
10. Cicciolo D'Oro – Golden Crackling Festival Where:
Campagnola Emilia (Reggio Emilia) When:
This festival is dedicated to the guiltiest of meaty pleasures: crackling. Cooked in large pots in the town square of Campagnola Emilia, the salty, crunchy treat is the perfect accompaniment to locally-produced wine – and if crackling isn't your thing, there'll be plenty of other porky products on offer too. Main image: Al fresco eating in Italy (Shutterstock)