Set between Lombardy and Tuscany, and stretching from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean, Emilia-Romagna is the heartland of northern Italy. It is really two former Papal States, joined together after Unification: Emilia to the east and the Romagna to the west. The castles and fortresses of the families who ruled remain, preserved in towns with restored medieval centers.
The region's landscape is a varied one, and the area has grown wheat since Roman times.
Today its industry and agribusinesses are among Italy's most advanced, and Emilia-Romagna remains one of the richest regions in Italy, with some of Italy’s most successful small-scale, specialist industrial enterprises. Bologna, the region's capital, is one of Italy's largest cities and has one of the most beautifully preserved city centers in the country with some of its finest food, and a relaxed character. Modena and Parma are wealthy provincial towns that hold some of its finest architecture.
Ferrara is one of the most important Renaissance centers in Italy, and Ravenna preserves the finest set of Byzantine mosaics in the world in its churches and mausoleums. The north of Emilia-Romagna is ideal for birdwatchers, rich with marshland and lagoons. The coastal south is a highly developed ribbon of settlement, although Rimini, at its southern end, provides a spark of interest, with its wild seaside strip concealing a surprisingly historic town center. Lombardy, Italy's richest and most developed region, often seems to have more in common with its northern European neighbors than with the rest of Italy. Given its history, this is hardly surprising: it takes its name from invading Lombards, and was ruled for almost two centuries by the French and Austrians. Lombardy has profited by being a commercial crossroads, too. Not surprising, too, is that Northern Europe takes Milan more seriously than Rome, and the region's businesses and banks wield political as well as economic power. Upper reaches of Lombardy's valleys are largely unspoiled, its towns and cities retain their medieval cores, and the lakes are surrounded by stunning scenery and lush vegetation. Milan dominates the plains of the southern part of Lombardy. The towns here – Pavia, Cremona, Mantua –flourished during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and retain their historical character today, albeit encircled by suburbs. The north of Lombardy is quite different, with the lakes, low mountains and fewer historic towns – though Bergamo and Brescia are notable exceptions. Lake Como has long been popular with tourists.Emilia is a wealthy area whose tone is well-mannered, well-dressed and comfortable. The region excels in many ways, not least in the regional cuisine.