Villages & CastlesVillages & Castles

5 places to visit in Emilia Romagna: little villages and hamlets

by /// August 1, 2023
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes



Ancient villages, mountain villages, small fortified towns. These are places where time seems to stand still, places where you can relax and enjoy life at a slow pace.

Forget the smartphone and start living in the moment. Every stone here has a story to tell, a story of past traditions and a close connection with nature.

There are numerous villages in Emilia-Romagna that are part of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, Borghi Bandiera Arancione and Borghi Autentici circuits.

Here are 5 recommended places to visit in Emilia-Romagna if you want to experience the typical pleasures of the Italian villages: the pleasures of the table, of the spirit and of nature.


Bertinoro - Sangiovese and Piadina on the Balcony of Romagna

Set halfway between Forlì and Cesena, Bertinoro is a hill town in Romagna that owes its fame to three main things:

the good wine from the vines that cover the surrounding rolling hills;
the view from its square, which has earned it the nickname Balcony of Romagna;
the Hospitality Festival (Festa dell’Ospitalità in Italian), dedicated to the ancient rite of welcome.

You can start your tour with a visit to the highlights such as the mediaeval Rocca, Palazzo Ordelaffi with its Clock Tower and the Colonna dell’Ospitalità, the town’s landmark, and then enjoy a spa break. Before leaving Bertinoro, don’t forget to stop in its square for an excellent piadina and a glass of Sangiovese wine while admiring the view that reaches as far as the Adriatic sea.

  • Bertinoro, City Hall | Ph. anneaux
  • Bertinoro | Ph. caba2011
  • Bertinoro, Piazza della Libertà
  • Bertinoro | Ph. flash2803

Brisighella - the Three Hills and PDO Olive Oil

The scenic mediaeval village of Brisighella lies among the green hills of the Lamone river valley, located between the cities of Imola and Faenza, on the edge of the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola regional park.

Its skyline is marked by three landmarks: the imposing Rocca Manfrediana, the Clock Tower and the Monticino Sanctuary, rising on top of the three hills surrounding the village.

Don’t miss the Via degli Asini (the donkeys alley), an elevated and covered road that is illuminated by picturesque arched windows.The alley owes its peculiar name to the fact that this part of the village was once inhabited by carters, the so-called birocciai, who transported chalk from the above quarries on donkeys’ backs.

From Via degli Asini you can climb up towards the Rocca and then take the scenic road lined with cypress trees connecting the Rocca to the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower).

At the end of the walk, there is nothing left to do but indulge in the pleasures of the table. Fresh handmade pasta, artichokes and forgotten fruits, good wine and the ever-present Olio di Brisighella PDO olive oil. Just taste it in the simplest way by pouring it on some fresh bread to send your taste buds to heaven.

  • Brisighella | Ph. Velvet Escape
  • Brisighella, Fortress

Castelvetro di Modena - Lambrusco Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

Castelvetro di Modena is a small, picturesque hilltop village located in the heart of Emilia-Romagna, between Modena and Bologna. The view from its central square Piazza Roma, also known as ‘Piazza della Dama’ for its typical chequered paving, is priceless. As you approach the vantage point you will see the surrounding hills covered in vineyards where lambrusco grapes are grown.

A tour of Castelvetro di Modena would not be complete without savouring its traditional and world-famous balsamic vinegar. We therefore recommend:

a visit to the city’s acetaia (vinegar cellar) or one of the local vinegar cellars, to see for yourself how Modena’s black gold is produced;
a Lambrusco tasting at one of the local wineries where you can savour the local delicacies and wash them down with a glass of the iconic sparkling red wine.

Among the villages in Emilia-Romagna worth visiting, we also recommend the nearby Castle of Levizzano Rangone and its Matildic Tower, which is particularly impressive at sunset.

  • Castelvetro di Modena (MO), Bird's Eye View | Ph. Francesco Ferrandini Studio, CCBYNCSA 3.0
  • Castelvetro di Modena | Ph. Loris Tagliazucchi
  • Castelvetro di Modena | Ph. Loris Tagliazucchi

Votigno di Canossa - a Corner of Tibet in Emilia-Romagna

Votigno di Canossa is a small village nestled in the Reggio Emilia Apennines, considered one of the best-preserved mediaeval villages in Italy.

Votigno is located just 1.2 miles from the Castello di Canossa castle, the symbol of Matilda of Tuscany’s reign, which became famous above all for the story of the humiliation of Emperor Henry IV. Fortified and protected by the hills, this village had a defensive role, evidence of which can still be seen today in the mediaeval watchtower as well as in the stone vault that opens up in the heart of the village. This was used in the past to control all the people and goods entering the castle.

Yet, the most peculiar thing about Votigno is the House of Tibet, founded in March 1990 under the auspices of the Dalai Lama. It currently hosts the Tibet Museum, a Tibetan temple and many places for meditation, surrounded by green hills. The perfect place to regenerate mind and soul!

  • Votigno di Canossa | Ph. @elisa__rizzardi
  • Votigno di Canossa | Ph. @elisa__rizzardi
  • Votigno di Canossa | Ph. @elisa__rizzardi
  • Canossa's Cliff | Ph. Martina Santamaria @pimpmytripit

Brugnello - the Jewel of the Trebbia Valley

If you are looking for places to visit in Emilia-Romagna, we finally recommend the little-known village of Brugnello in the Upper Trebbia Valley that Hemingway defined as “the most beautiful valley in the world”.

The Trebbia Valley, not far from Piacenza and on the border with Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont regions, is a breathtaking green area and Brugnello is one of its most evocative villages thanks to its panoramic position overlooking the bends of the river.

Perched on a rocky spur, Brugnello is a lovely hamlet made of ancient stone houses, partly carved into the rock, and a mediaeval church. Here, amidst balconies and flower beds, wooden doors and shutters, you can try to find your inner balance while losing yourself in the surrounding natural area, then conclude the experience with a visit to nearby Bobbio.

  • Brugnello, View of the Trebbia River
  • Brugnello | Ph. @davideenrico
  • Brugnello | Ph. @davideenrico
  • Bobbio, Ponte Gobbo Bridge | Ph. TheCrowdedPlanet


Elisa Mazzini

Social Media Manager for @inEmiliaRomagna and full-time mom.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *