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The most charming towns of the Italian region Romagna

I always say that the best thing about having an Italian girlfriend is the food. Well, I will not retract, you know how I enjoy eating, but it’s also great because during the last years, the fact of going to see her family it was also synonymous of being able to continue exploring step by step the wonderful country that is Italy.

When we met and she told me that she was from Forlì, I didn’t know much more than what I had seen playing Assassin’s Creed II, where her hometown appears. And when she told me she was Romagnola I knew even less where she was from. Romagna is an ancient Italian region that lies largely in the current region of Emilia-Romagna, and leaving aside the cities of Rimini and Ravenna, it’s hardly known. With great pride, romagnolos will explain you all about their awesome piadina, but this region is much more than that.

Traveling that much there, I have had the opportunity to see a little bit everywhere, and I can say, that although their cities are quite good —I have a pending post about it—, there are a few quaint villages that got me crazy.

I do not know if these names are going to ring a bell to you, but check them out because there is not even one of them that is not worth it.

 

 

    Sant’Agata Feltria

Sant’Agata Feltria is a so small town up on a hill. As you go up through narrow streets, you will think that it is not that amazing, until you reach the top, where the icon of the city, called Rocca Fregoso is located. This is a fortress whose first phase dates from the twelfth century and stands out imposingly from the town and the mountain with a rectangular and robust structure. It was inhabited by the Fregoso family several centuries, later by Franciscan monks, and later totally abandoned. Nowadays, it is used as a museum.

You can also see the couple of churches that are around the old town and the theater Angelo Mariani. In the outskirts, just 5 km away from the town you will find Borgo di Petrella Guidi: an even smaller and also charming medieval village.

 
Eugenia tells me also that if you are fortunate enough to be there during Christmas, you will enjoy it twice as they make a great Christmas market that gives a special color to the town.

 

    Pennabilli

It’s really hard for me to choose one of all these villages as my favorite, but if I had to, I think this would be Pennabilli!

 

Like Budapest, Pennabilli is the union of two small towns called Penna and Billi, which grew up around the mountain that separated them until got together.

In the center of the village, you have the main square with the Duomo di Pennabilli and many of the streets that finish there. The whole village is very flat and just stands out, right in the middle, the mount with the Castello dei Billi, from where you will have fantastic views of all the streets and roofs of the town, as well as the nature that surrounds it.


 

Going up to the castle, you will also find a small Tibetan temple. This is because a native monk of Pennabilli of the eighteenth century befriended the Dalai Lama at the time, and this allowed him to buy land and build a monastery in Lhasa. Since then a special bond has been created between Tibet and Pennabilli, and that is why the current Dalai Lama has visited this small town twice already in the last decades.

 

    San Leo

This one is certainly the most impressive. Especially if you arrive by car and you like photography, you are going to stop three hundred times on the way that gets you there, you will see!

With no village or mountain in its vicinity, in the middle of nowhere rises a high mountain, cut in large part from its sides by cliffs. There are two flat levels, the first at half height, where there is the big part of the town, and the second and above all, where there is the great fortress of the city.

In the center, you can also get lost in its narrow streets and see the Duomo di San Leo and the parish of Santa Maria Assunta.

San Leo and its impressive fort is also a great place to watch the sunset in the mountains of the horizon and to walk after when it’s dark through the fortress and the village due to its discreet but beautiful lighting.

 

    Brisighella

Brisighella, which is already in the province of Ravenna, is situated on a hill defined again by three cliffs. Above all, stands the Rocca Manfrediana fortress, the clock tower —which was built in 1290— and the Sanctuary of Monticino.

The medieval village is very beautiful also because it’s between old defensive walls and some large stairs carved on the same rocks.

Do not forget to pass through the Via degli Asini, the most magical of the town. This is an old covered street that as you go through it, it will transport you centuries ago.

 

    Bertinoro

This beautiful little village is a few kilometers away from where I usually stay when I’m in Italy: Forlì. Unfortunately, I do not have photos because I run out of battery when we went there but I will take a few shots when we go back and add them later. The one shown below is taken from the city hall page!

Like the rest, it is a medieval village on the top of a hill. Right in the middle, there is the rectangular square of the town that is surrounded by emblematic buildings such as the cathedral and the Palazzo Ordelaffi, which is today the city hall.

Do not miss the Balcone della Romagna, which offers spectacular views of this beautiful region. And on days when the sky is so clear, you can see the Adriatic sea from Ravenna to Rimini.

 

    Santarcangelo di Romagna

And we get to the largest town of all the ones I am talking about, and it has only 20,000 inhabitants. So you can get the idea of how small and quiet the rest can be!

This village, a few kilometers away from the Adriatic coast, is known as the birthplace of Pope Clement XIV and the poet Tonino Guerra.

The new part does not have much to offer, but the old town again is quite magical. As in the others, you will find a fortress, called Rocca Malatestiana, where on the outside of the fortress you can read verses of Tonino as you walk. And if you want to read more, you’ll also find a museum of the well-known Italian poet and several beautiful churches to visit.

The big symbol of the city, which we could not visit when we went because it was closed, are the caves. These hide cavities, wells, tunnels and galleries and constitute a kind of underground city. We have it pending!


 

As a different thing to visit, you will also find a button museum. Yes, yes, it’s as it sounds. It is a free museum containing a compilation of hundreds of buttons of all ages —the first from the fifteenth century!— and of all kinds.

 

    Where to sleep?

As you will guess, every time I go to Romagna I’m hosted by Eugenia’s family, but here I leave a few ideas of where to stay during your trip.

If you prefer to stay in bigger cities:

    ➡ I would recommend you to stay in Ravenna, since it’s way cheaper than Rimini. In Ravenna you will find B&B Corte Callegari, where for 60 EUR / night you will have a double room, with private bathroom, Wi-Fi, breakfast every morning and has a 9.8 rate on Booking!
    ➡ If you prefer to stay in Rimini, you may want to check Hotel Aurea where you will have also a double room, with private bathroom, Wi-Fi and breakfast every morning, but paying 100 EUR / night.

In case you prefer to stay in one of the little towns we just spoke about, I would recommend staying either in San Leo or Pennabilli, since are my favorites and actually the cheaper ones. Check these two places:

    ➡ Right in the very center of San Leo, you will find L’Androne B&B, where for 60 EUR / night you will have an apartment with all its amenities and breakfast included every morning also. This one has a 9.9 rate on Booking!
    ➡ In the outskirts of Pennabilli, there is Albergo Lago Verde where for 54 EUR / night you will have a double room, with private bathroom, Wi-Fi but without breakfast.

 
And that’s it.

In order to finish this post: we all know that Italy is so beautiful and that it has amazing and incredible cities and villages, but if you go to Emilia-Romagna do not just do the common combo of Bologna-Ravenna-Rimini.

Give these villages a chance, that they are so small, easy to visit and so close to each other that in a couple of days you will have seen them all!

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