Last summer I went to Emilia-Romagna in the North of Italy with my husband and our two kids (16 and 12 years old at the time) for our family holiday. We love Italy and have travelled there widely but we’d never been to this region before. Emilia-Romagna lies between Venice and Florence and many visitors pass through the area without stopping to explore what it has to offer. Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest regions in Italy. It produces some fantastic food and has a rich cultural heritage. We really enjoyed our time in the region and we stayed in some places which I’d definitely recommend for families.
We spent the first couple of nights in Emilia-Romagna in the gorgeous city of Parma (you can read my post about what we did in Parma here). We stayed at an excellent B&B called R&B Opera 11 which I would recommend to anyone. The owners are friendly, kind and helpful and the accommodation is comfortable and stylish and in a perfect location for exploring the city and enjoying its food (parma ham and parmesan are from here) and culture.
Cost: Rooms at R&B Opera 11 cost from 70 euros per night including breakfast.
The next stage of our trip was the historic city of Bologna which is about 60 miles away from Parma. On the way there we stopped for a tour of the 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia Parmesan factory to see how the famous cheese is produced and then at the Ferrari Museum – the luxury sports cars have been manufactured in the region since 1929.
After that we were ready for lunch and so went to Opera 02 Agriturismo, which is set in rolling hills near Modena. You can find agriturismos all over Italy (you can read here about Agriturismo Valle di Chiaramonte where we stayed in Sicily) and I love them. An agriturismo is a farm which has a restaurant serving the food which they produce and many of them also offer rooms where you can stay. Opera 02 Agriturismo is the poshest agriturismo that I’ve ever seen. It feels like an exclusive boutique hotel complete with exquisite food, infinity pool and stylish, modern rooms. They produce and sell their own wine and balsamic vinegar here too and after lunch we had a tour of the balsamic vinegar cellar to learn how it’s made. We were also shown around one of the rooms (which could fit up to two adults and three kids) and I think that this would be a wonderful place to stay.
In Bologna we stayed in a great location in the historic city centre at Met’s Apartments. The apartment block is managed by Hotel Metropolitan, a gorgeous hotel which is a couple of streets away and where we had breakfast each morning. The apartment where we stayed was modern and well-equipped and had two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen and living area, air conditioning and free wifi. Bologna is known as la dotta, la grassa, la rossa which means the learned (it’s home to the oldest university in Europe), the fat (because of its amazing food), the red (because it’s traditionally been politically on the Left), and is a fascinating place to visit.
The centre of Bologna is pedestrianised so we parked in the underground car park at Piazza VIII Agosto and walked to the apartment wheeling our luggage. The walk took us about 10 minutes and was easy, although it could be tricky with very small children in tow. From the apartment we walked everywhere that we wanted to go, whether we were sightseeing, shopping, going to restaurants or going to the station to catch a train (every train in Italy seems to pass through Bologna and we went on a day trip to Florence from there by rail).
Cost: The Met’s Apartment which we stayed in cost 150 euros per night in July plus 30 euros per day for breakfast at the hotel for all four of us.
While we were staying in Bologna the Emilia-Romagna tourist board kindly arranged for us to have a guided tour of the city. Our guide Micol spoke excellent English and took us to some fascinating places including the medieval market, the oldest part of the university (which dates from 1088), the basilica, which is the fifth largest church in Europe, the seventeenth century dissection theatre, and Osteria del Sole, a drinking locale which dates from the 1400s and where patrons can take their own food. Micol also explained the purpose of Bologna’s medieval towers, 24 of which can still be seen around the city today: she called them ‘urban castles’ and said that they were used by warring families to defend themselves from others. The second tallest of the remaining towers, Torre Prendiparte, is now a B&B and is listed by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 extraordinary places to stay in 2014. We went to Torre Prendiparte to meet Matteo, the friendly owner, and to have a look around. The tower is 60 metres high and has been beautifully renovated. It sleeps up to four people and if you stay there you have the whole tower to yourselves for the night, including the roof terrace. The tower is unique and would be an amazing place to stay. Inside the tower there are lots of steep stone stairs to climb, so this wouldn’t be a good place to stay with very young children.
Cost: It costs 500 euros to rent Torre Prendiparte for one night, including breakfast.
Adriatic coast hotel
For the last week of our trip we stayed on the Adriatic Coast in a small town called Cesenatico at a very family-friendly hotel called Hotel Tiffany (you can read my review of Tiffany Hotel & Resort here, including a video showing some of the family rooms). Cesenatico centres around a charming historical port with a harbour which was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Away from the harbour there are modern hotels and miles of sandy beaches which are covered with sun loungers and sunshades during the summer months. The town (and this part of the coast in general) is a popular holiday destination for Italian families and has some excellent restaurants (our favourites were Clan Paví and Ristorante Giorgio) and a good water park – here are my reviews of the town’s Atlantica water park and of Aquafan water park further along the coast.
Inland there are some pretty villages to explore in the nearby hills, including Santarcangelo and Longiano.
Cost: Prices to stay at Hotel Tiffany per adult, per night, range from 60-125 euros for half board and 65-135 euros for full board. Children sharing a room with an adult stay free of charge if they’re under two years old, have a 60% discount if they’re 3-6 years old, a 50% discount if they’re 6-12 years old and a 20% discount if they’re 13 years old or more.
Recommended guide books
Over to you
I know that there will be many, many other family-friendly places to stay in Emilia-Romagna, as there are throughout Italy, but these are just the ones which I have visited and would recommend. If you’ve been to Emilia-Romagna, do you have any recommendations to add? If not, is it somewhere which you’d like to visit?
Disclosure: The Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board provided our accommodation when we visited their region. All opinions, text and images are my own.