Emilia Romagna and the Marches
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Emilia Romagna

The Marches

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North of Apulia and south of the Veneto, the central part of Italy's eastern seaboard is a summertime mecca for northern Europeans, particularly the thousands of Germans who flock to its miles and miles of sandy beaches. Indeed, if you are looking for an extremely well organized resort area where hundreds of decent if simple hotels offer full board at rock bottom prices, the coast of Emilia Romagna is the place for you. Just about any outdoor activity you can think of is readily available, and the fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down. So numerous are the night clubs and discotheques that in Rimini, the pulsating hub of all these vacation thrills, there is even a bus that circles all evening dropping revelers off at one establishment after another.


Of course, there are other faces to this region. It starts in the north, where huge fishing nets and tiny fishermen's huts dot the broad silent wetlands of the Po River Delta. To the south and west are the rich farmlands of Emilia Romagna, once the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. If you're coming straight from the picturesque valleys of Tuscany, this seemingly endless flat terrain may appear uninteresting at first. And yet how appealing is each steeple and belltower as it rises out of the horizon; how personable is each town and city. Bologna, Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Urbino should be on every visitor's itinerary.

If the local people don't charm you with their eccentric, fun-loving personalities, they'll get you with their music and their food. Nowhere do Italians eat more heartily, and nowhere do they love to dance as much. Venture out into the countryside on a Saturday night and you're bound to hear the strains of a polka or mazurka, played on a local invention: the accordion. Until the nineteenth century, Emilia and Romagna were separate Papal states. They were unified in 1946. Today, as one writer says, if you want to know which region you're in, pull up to any house and ask for a drink. If they give you water you're in Emilia; if it's wine you know you're in Romagna. Parts of both belonged for centuries to Constantinople, which left its Byzantine mark, notably on the magnificent basilicas of Ravenna. Today the region is colored by its politics, which are as red as its ragù, and just as uniquely Italian.

Farther south, sharing a common border with the miniscule republic of San Marino, is the even less familiar region of the Marches. Here the flatlands give way to vast green valleys ringed by snowy ridges. The slopes and summits are dotted with quaint hilltowns, formidable castles and revered shrines, many of which offer breathtaking views all the way to the shores of the Adriatic. The Marches have no reason to envy their more famous neighbors; if anything, they can boast of all the same glories, fewer tourists, less crowded restaurants and much lighter traffic, all of which add up to a host of good reasons to discover this little known part of Italy.

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[Regions of Italy]