Home > Gastronomic Cycling from Parma to Bologna
Italy is a food-lover’s paradise, and nowhere is this perhaps clearer than in the Emilia-Romagna region in the country’s north. Parmesan, Modena balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Bolognese sauce...you’ll really have to cycle up an appetite!
On this tour, you’ll get the opportunity to taste these specialties direct from the producers. The route follows the Via Emilia, an ancient Roman road dating back to 187 BCE, along which sprung up important cities including Parma, Modena, and Bologna, all of which you’ll be able to explore. Historical and artistic relics abound—Bologna itself is home to over 40 kilometers of medieval and Renaissance arcades.
Pedaling through the gently rolling Italian landscape, you’ll enjoy a feast for the senses: incredible views, the wind in your hair, mouthwatering aromas, and perhaps even the occasional strain of Verdi opera. There’s no doubt about it—cycling in Emilia-Romagna is an all-around treat.
For travel and cycling tips to Emilia-Romagna, visit our "Travel and cycling tips" section.
Arrive in Parma at your leisure—the cycling doesn’t start until tomorrow so you have the whole day to explore this small, but refined city.
Take a stroll through the city center and admire the countless artistic and architectural masterpieces, or enjoy a tranquil afternoon in one of the city’s sprawling parks
After breakfast and your briefing with our local representative, it’s time to pedal off from Parma. For most of today’s ride, you’ll be cycling through the serene Italian countryside. Take a pause in San Secondo, where you must visit a “caseificio”, a cheese factory where Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesan) is meticulously produced. Enjoy a tasting— Parmigiano is one of the oldest cheeses and very particular in its makeup (1 kg requires 16 liters of milk!)
If you decide to ride the long option, the town of Soragna marks the halfway point of today’s loop and is also a nice place to stop for lunch or just to rest your legs. The Parmigiano Reggiano Museum and the English garden of Meli Lupi Rocca are worth a visit if you choose to spend some time here. Otherwise, continue towards Fontanellato and its medieval San Vitale fortress—a castle dating back to the fourteenth century—before wheeling back to Parma for dinner in a typical trattoria.
Today, you will say goodbye to the city of Parma, but thankfully not to its gastronomic delights! On your way to Reggio Emilia, you’ll be cycling through the precise area where Parmigiano cheese and Parma ham are made, the latter whose delicate flavor is truly a product of the region. If you opt for the longer route option, the Prosciutto Museum in Langhirano is the perfect place to get familiar with this ham’s history—and its fragrant taste.
A moderate climb will take you up to Torrechiara castle and extraordinary views. One of the best-preserved fortifications in the region, its ornate interior as well as its perch overlooking the Parma Valley require more than a brief stop. When you’ve had your fill, get back on the bike and roll down quiet countryside roads into Reggio Emilia. The city’s hexagonal Old Town is filled with 16th and 17th-century buildings and churches, including the “miraculous” Basilica della Ghiara. Take time to explore, but remember to rest up for tomorrow’s ride!
You’ll cycle through the countryside of the Po Valley today, where you can find the Lambrusco di Santa Crocevineyards and sip its wine (a light, fruity red). It’s just the thing to keep you going until your next must-stop: Carpi, a Renaissance jewel with a rich artistic heritage and the third-largest city square in Italy.
From Carpi, it’s just 18 kilometers (11 miles) more pedaling until you wheel into Modena. The historic centre is the real star of the city, containing not one, but three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Romanesque Cathedral, its Ghirlandina Tower, and the Piazza Grande where they stand. You’ll want to park your bikes so you can gaze appropriately in awe!
Tonight, you’ll dine in a local trattoria. Be sure to try the traditional “Gnocco e Tigella”—dumplings and round bread typically served (or stuffed) with ham—best paired, of course, with a heady red.
You might spend more time eating and drinking than cycling on today’s loop ride! Set off along a bike path that follows a historic railway route to Spilamberto, where you can see authentic Balsamic Vinegar being produced at an “acetaia” factory. Unlike other vinegars which have an alcoholic base, the true Balsamic is derived directly from the juice of the grape…and it’s been this way since the Middle Ages!
Because we firmly believe in dessert, we recommend stopping in Vignola, home of the famous Barozzi cake. Enjoy a slice (or two) at the renowned Gollini patisserie before making your way to “La Rocca”, the mighty fortress from which you can admire incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
Now that you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, it’s time to wash it all down with a glass of wine. Quiet, secondary roads will take you and your bike to the town of Castelvetro, famous for its Lambrusco wine. Drink up, but remember you still have to cycle back to Modena!
Hit the bike path again as you ride out of Modena this morning and along the river Secchia through fields and vineyards. The landscape in this area is dotted with manors and Romanesque churches (as well as numerous places to taste more Balsamic vinegar.)
The first site of note is the Abbey at Nonantola, a 12th-century Romanesque masterpiece. Soak in the history, as you’ll be pedaling in the footsteps of the pilgrims who traveled to Rome in the year 1000 along the Romea Nonantolana route.
You won’t be cycling all the way to Rome, but to Bologna, nicknamed “The Fat” for its gastronomic tradition—a good sign for meals to come! Feast on tagliatelle “al ragu” (Bolognese) and the original Bologna sausage while you’re in town.
After breakfast, take the day to explore Bologna on foot! The city has one of the largest and best-preserved historic centres, filled to the brim with restaurants, taverns, theatres and shops. Past and present intertwine, especially at Piazza Maggiore, where medieval palaces loom over modern daily life. Be sure to look out for Bologna’s glorious Two Towers (no relation to The Lord of the Rings!): Asinelli (98 m) and Garisenda (48 m), the latter immortalized in Dante’s Inferno.
When your legs need a rest, sit and people-watch over a slice of mortadella (a large Bolognese sausage) and a glass of Sangiovese wine as you savour the end of your trip and the memory of all the good food you’ve eaten.
Leave Bologna at your leisure (perhaps after another helping of sausage, pasta, and wine…or all three!)
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