The Holy Trinity of Italy’s gourmet capitals (Parma, Modena, and Bologna), stunning mosaics, iconic sports cars, pristine mountain peaks, and trendy seaside resort towns

Emilia-Romagna is the perfect blend of Italy past and present. Its long history of political and economic prosperity has left the region with a treasure trove of artistic and architectural masterpieces—Ravenna’s Byzantine mosaics, the Medieval hilltop castles surrounding Parma and Piacenza, the Renaissance towns of Modena and Ferrara, the elegant city of Bologna, home to the oldest university in Europe—but it is also birthplace to some of the most recognized symbols of modern Italy. Federico Fellini and Luciano Pavarotti were born in this lush region encompassing the Po River Valley, Apennine mountains, and Adriatic coastline, as were the classic Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati automobiles.

Perhaps more than for its culture, more than for its countryside, even more than for its cars, Emilia-Romagna is known for its rich cuisine. It is here that a number of the world’s most beloved dishes (oven-baked lasagna, stuffed tortellini and ravioli, long ribbons of tagliatelle, slow-cooked ragù) were created, and most prestigious gourmet products (Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico di Modena) are produced.

What to pair with these larger-than-life foods? Emilia-Romagna’s excellent local wines, of course, as historic and modern as the region itself.

Sangiovese and Trebbiano are among the most-planted grapes in Italy, and Emilia-Romagna is no exception. Both prestigious DOC monovarietals and experimental blends are made with the bold ruby-red and fruity white grapes.

In the Colli Bolognesi hills surrounding Bologna in the center of the region, the sparkling white Pignoletto was the second DOCG white wine recognized in Emilia-Romagna in 2010, though it has been grown on these hillsides since the 1st century BC. The region’s first DOCG white wine, Albana, is also produced here and to the south-east in Romagna, and was a favorite at noble banquets in the Middle Ages.

Around Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Modena further north, the sparkling red Lambrusco is a favorite Italian bubbly, produced in a variety of levels of effervescence, and the Colli di Parma territory is known for its still reds, including intense Barbera and fruity Bonarda. At the north-western tip of the region, the Colli Piacentini wine zone is where the sparkling red Gutturnio (from the Latin word gutturnum, the Roman ceremonial goblet) and the aromatic white Malvasia are made.