Along with Florida’s Highway One, Australia’s Coastal Drive and California’s Big Sur, Italy can boast of its own dream route, a Route 66 completely “Made in Italy” and amongst the world’s best 20 itineraries for a road trip. English tabloid newspaper The Sun included the Via Emilia amongst its own best 20 of the world’s roads: this is an important recognition for the country, that this tract of land dotted with urban centers is valuable for its heritage just as much as from the point-of-view of tourism.
Between ancient towns and enchanting villages, sandwiches stuffed with Parma ham and a plate of pasta dusted with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, winds one of the most iconic ancient roads in Italy. In 187 BC the 240 kilometer route, built by the Roman consul Marco Emilio Lepido, began to develop, connecting, in a straight line, Rimini and Piacenza. Along the route we find towns and villages of varying sizes and note, united by the distance that separates them. 25 kilometers on average between one and the next, a distance of historical significance, being the mean daily distance a marching army could travel.
Setting off on a journey we begin to discover characteristic villages, famous and less well known, that populate and stamp their identity on the Via Emilia: whether by car, motorcycle, bicycle or even on-foot, the important thing is to enjoy one of the most evocative and historic roads in the world.
With our backpacks on and a desire to get going, Forlì is the first city to welcome us.
Our trip just has to begin from the Tiberius Bridge in Rimini from which the Via Emilio rises. We get up early today and head-off dead straight in a north-westerly direction: passing by Cesena, we reach our first stop: Forlì.
The city has around 117 thousand inhabitants and was probably founded at the same time as the Via Emilia. Back in 188 BC the Romans established a tiny settlement, which has expanded over the centuries to become today’s flourishing capital of the province of Emilia. It’s bizarre though that beautiful Forlì, jewel in Emilia’s crown, proud of its traditional food and wine, should have been the first city in Italy to welcome the “controversial” Hawaiian pizza, the one garnished with pineapple and ham, into its pizzerias and bars. The purists turn up their noses but the contrasting choice actually underscores the whimsical character of the place, always able to surprise and at the same time embrace and reassure with established specialties such as thistles in parmesan with truffles, creamed rice with parmesan, and the unusual and delicious scampi with ham.
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