Visit This Underrated Destination For A More Authentic Italian Vacation

Whether it's Rome, Florence, or the Amalfi Coast, Italy is a sought-after destination for plenty of travelers. The biggest downfall is that it can be difficult to take an Italian vacation without massive herds of crowds, and without feeling like you're getting more of a curated experience than an authentic one. If you want to do like the locals do, there's one particular region that should be at the top of your Italian bucket list. 

Emilia-Romagna in north-central Italy is filled with history, charming small towns that are just as beautiful as Florence, rolling hills, and plenty of good eats. It's closely located to major Italian hotspots, so a visit here is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Best of all, if you know where to go, you can enjoy the experience even in peak-summer months nearly crowd-free. Whether it's sampling local delicacies, enjoying the region's beaches, or simply living the slow, peaceful Italian lifestyle, Emilia-Romagna is a region you don't want to miss for a truly authentic Italian vacation.

A food lover's paradise

Many people come to Italy with high dining expectations. While it's nearly impossible to be disappointed with the cuisine of Italy as a whole, Emilia-Romagna is known as Italy's "Food Valley," and as soon as you enter the region, you'll quickly understand why. The region is home to many specialties, but the real standout is Parmigiano Reggiano. You can get an up-close-and-personal experience by taking a tour of the factory right in Modena, a small city that has some seriously exceptional eats. On a Parmigiano Reggiano tour, you'll learn all about the intense process in which Italy's most famous cheese is made.

Modena is also home to the world-famous Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura's restaurant that was featured in the Netflix series Chef's Table. Getting a reservation is quite difficult, and if you're lucky enough to snag one, you'll pay a pretty penny to eat here. Instead, try Franceschetta58, another Massimo Bottura restaurant in Modena that's more casual but still with those famously innovative flavors of his cooking style.

Emilia-Romagna is also home to balsamic vinegar. For a proper understanding, head to a balsamic vinegar farm, like Acetaio Villa San Donnino, and try some different varieties of real Italian balsamic vinegar. It might sound strange, but a common dish is gelato topped with balsamic vinegar. Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it!

Easy day trips

If you can't base yourself entirely in Emilia-Romagna, don't worry. A quick jaunt over to Bologna, Modena, Parma, or even Rimini is possible from many other major Italian regions.

If you want to spend the day in Bologna, one of Emilia-Romagna's most famous towns, there are high-speed trains from nearby Florence, in Tuscany, that can sometimes take less than an hour. When you make plans for Bologna, make sure to get a Bologna Welcome Card to best experience all the city has to offer.

Rimini is a great point in Emilia-Romagna in which to base yourself if you plan to head to San Marino, which is a landlocked country within Italy with breathtaking views. If you want to spend time in Rimini, make sure to take advantage of the city's famed beaches. 

Sticking with the food theme, if you want to do a proper tour of the region's best eats, a visit to Parma should certainly be included. Parma is a must-visit Italian destination for cheese lovers and is also well-known for its prosciutto. Luckily, the town can easily be reached from Milan on a high-speed train in around an hour and 30 minutes.

Wherever you end up in Emilia-Romagna, a few things are for certain. You'll be treated with unspoiled views and quaint Italian towns, and you'll certainly never go hungry.