A place in Italy you must not miss: Romagna
You often see me posting and talking about Emilia Romagna and in particular about Bellaria Igea Marina near Rimini!
Here is the reason why: I am in love with this region and its people!
Read on and you will probably fall in love with them too!
But be warned: seriously food porn photos and fun photos, might cause you to want to book in an instant! 😎 😎
A place in Italy you must not miss: Romagna
If for your holidays this year you are thinking of making your way to Italy and in particular to the Adriatic coast, you should definitely make your way to Romagna.
Everyone in Italy knows that Romagna is a place where people eat well, hospitality is great and fun is guaranteed – so it is time the rest of world realises this too!
Romagna is truly a magical place thanks to its beautiful, colourful, welcoming and always cheerful people.
Romagna beaches have a tradition that makes them the best equipped, perhaps, throughout Italy. A holiday in Romagna revolves around lounging under beach umbrellas, admiring the calm Adriatic Sea, while sipping on plenty of cocktails, enjoying games of beach volley on the lovely golden sand and evening barbecues with plenty of amazing food and wine. In short, continuous fun.
I truly discovered the land of Romagna back in 2014 when I took part in the blog tour Loving Romagna organized by a cozy family hotel in Bellaria Igea Marina, Hotel Eliseo.
And I have been going back there ever since, sometimes few times in the same year!
Bellaria Igea Marina in Romagna
In Bellaria Igea Marina you can breathe the typical Romagna hospitality: the hotels, the restaurants, the beach rental places. Everywhere you go people will smile and talk to you like they have known you all their life!
If you are in need of a dose of warmth, optimism & feel good factor, I can assure you, Romagna is the place to go!
But you should know that in addition to the beautiful clean and safe sea, the golden sandy beaches, the buzzing evening events and the varied food offer, there is also a lot of history and culture.
You can read about Bellaria Igea Marina in the first post I wrote about it back in 2014 click here!
The Saracen Tower of Bellaria Igea Marina
The territory of Romagna, along the Adriatic Riviera, was the scene of numerous events in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and there is no lack of artistic and architectural testimonies spread all over the Coast and the hinterland.
Towns like Santarcangelo di Romagna (the birthplace of Sangiovese wine), San Leo (the beautiful medieval hamlet), Cesenatico (with its lovely Canal Port), Cervia (with its salt flats), Rimini (with its Roman remains), Ravenna (with its wonderful mosaics), Ferrara (with its Castle and walls) will leave you with a yearning to go back for more!
There was a time when the Papal State extended to the Adriatic, but this area was also often the stage for pirate raids by the Turks. Here, between the 16th and 17th centuries, numerous towers were erected along the coast, in order to prevent attacks by sea and defend the hinterland.
Among these, the Saracen Tower of Bellaria Igea Marina, a 17th century building during that time stood tall on the beach dunes, and housed a garrison of five soldiers and a commander. A small fortress, complete with weapons, and a bell that was rung in case of danger, so that citizens could go and seek shelter inside. Of the many defensive towers built along the Adriatic coast, the one of Bellaria Igea Marina is the only one left with its original features.
Once the danger of invasions passed, the Tower changed its function and became a place of quarantine for those arriving from the sea and suspected of being contagious of the plague. It was also a way to monitor smugglers.
In modern times it became the headquarters of the Guardia di Finanza, the Finance Police.
Today the Saracen Tower has become a very interesting tourist attraction: it can be visited and it also houses a maritime-themed museum, the Shell Museum, which displays an interesting collection of shells, mollusks, crustaceans and skeletons of marine organisms from all over the world.
In the garden surrounding the tower you can see the bikes of the fishmongers (the fishermen’s wives) who were waiting at the port for their husbands to return and then left by bicycle to take the fish to the hamlets and inland houses, bartering it with eggs, fruit and vegetables.
This is a lovely and interesting visit for those who are passionate about the underwater world as well as an opportunity to visit the seventeenth-century tower.
The museum is open only in the summer months, even during evening hours, from June to September.
Admission is free.
The Museums of Bellaria Igea Marina
Bellaria Igea Marina hosts also another three museums:
The Museum of Tourism and Traditions “Qualcosa di Noi” in via Ferrarin, 20, Bellaria.
La Casa Rossa of the poet Alfredo Panzini, the writer’s summer residence in Via Pisino, 1, Bellaria.
The Museo Radio d’Epoca, located in Piazzale Gramsci, 5, Bellaria
The port of Bellaria
Another very interesting piece of history is the Teresina boat. which you can admire along the Portocanale.
It is a bragozzo, a typical Venetian boat, about ten meters long, built in Murano in 1948 – yesss…in Venice – it was built in a squero, the typical boatyard where masters of the ax handed down the art from father to son. The Teresina was used for a long time as a fishing boat, then as a clam catcher in the 1980s and inactive since the 1990s.
The painted drawings on the bow are very peculiar: a dove and a musician angel.
The restoration of Teresina, one of the last and most beautiful examples of this type of boat, lasted 5 years and was carried out by the Boats on the Adriatic of Bellaria Igea Marina, which in recent years has already recovered other beautiful “grandmothers of the sea”.
In 2003, when the restoration was completed, the Association donated the boat to the Municipality of Bellaria Igea Marina, the Teresina has thus become a heritage of the City. In 2018 the historic bragozzo Teresina, heritage and symbol of the city, celebrated its 70th anniversary with many other ladies of the sea.
Events not to be missed in Bellaria Igea Marina
Some very interesting historic and cultural events that take place in Bellaria Igea marina during the year:
The Bellaria Film Festival. It is the first Italian Festival dedicated to independent cinema and takes place in May.
The Children’s Festival in June, with a full calendar of meetings, surprises, workshops and shows all dedicated to children.
The Children’s Pink Night in July is the Summer New Year, a unique night to live with your children.
The Sbarco dei Saraceni a historical commemoration in period costumes with a parade of boats.
The Piadina Festival in September 3 days of delights and tasty tastings of the queen of the Romagna table.
The sand nativity scenes, suggestive interpretation of the nativity. The long-awaited appointment takes place over the Christmas period.
Nature in Bellaria Igea Marina
But Bellaria Igea Marina is the right place also to spend a day surrounded by nature!
You can spend an afternoon at the Parco del Gelso: you can take a nice bike ride through this park, which is quite big and beautiful, with a lovely pond where ducks happily wallow around.
This Park was born, just like Igea Marina, which takes its name from the daughter of Asclepioce, hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology, in the early twentieth century at the behest of Vittorio Belli who had in mind a village surrounded by greenery.
What remains today after urbanization is this marvelous park, an ideal destination for joggers.
For those who like to walk or take a bike ride I also recommend taking the Paths of the Uso River. It is a pedestrian cycle track that winds for about 6 km and runs along the river Uso, from the canal port of Bellaria, going through Villa Torlonia and ending in San Mauro Pascoli, allowing you to get from the sea to the countryside in total safety.
The Food of Romagna
And last but not least, the real reason why you should make sure to visit Romagna at least once in your life time: its Food!
I cannot even start to explain how good and varied the food in Romagna is!
Romagna cuisine, authentic and genuine, reflects the open and convivial character of its inhabitants; its dishes range from land to sea and its recipes are rooted in tradition, telling us a story about the richness of the Adriatic as well as the flavors of the hinterland. A land of welcome and ingenuity, where many chefs have begun their careers in the small family local hotels, alongside sfogline and arzdore from which they learned the cooking techniques and tradition, and then went off to develop a creative cuisine of innovation.
But let’s proceed with order through the symbolic dishes of Romagna, from appetizers to the desserts, passing through the world famous piadina.
Your meal cannot start unless you have a nice plate of cold cuts, and above all some salami of Mora romagnola. The Mora romagnola is a pig with a dark coat and an elongated face that, saved from extinction, has returned to being reared in different areas of Romagna and whose meats are used to make sausages and cured meats that have nothing to envy to those from Emilia. And as well as ham and salami, try the lard – it is impossible to resist to the smell of lard, seasoned with sweet Cervia salt and herbs, which melts on contact with the hot piadina.
Of course you have to try the above with the Piadina! Thinner towards Rimini, thicker towards Cesena; with lard or oil; prepared with baking soda or without: to accompany the dishes instead of bread or a real queen of the meal, piadina cannot be missing on the tables of Romagna.
Vegetarian or with meats and cheeses, prepared at home or by one of the many kiosks of the Romagna, every excuse is good for eating a piadina or maybe a cassone (a piadina closed in a half-moon and stuffed before being cooked). My favourite? Squaquerone and Rucola!
Now let’s move to the first course!! Here you are spoilt for choice!
As with piadina, every family in Romagna has its own recipe for making cappelletti: there are those who only will accept them with a filling of cheeses – parmesan, ricotta, raveggiolo, but also fossa cheese and squacquerone – and those who will add cheese to meat.
What nobody can ignore is that the dough, made of eggs and flour, must be as thin as a veil and that the final shape – obtained by folding the discs of dough filled first in half to form a half moon and then joining the two ends around the index finger – is that of a small hat, hence the name Cappelletti, small hats. The cappelletti, moreover, must be prepared strictly in meat broth, possibly of capon, or, exceptionally, in pasticcio (timballo) with bechamel and ragù, but NEVER eaten on their own, dry.
Then there are the famous Passatelli. A simple dough made of breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, a hint of nutmeg and lemon, a pinch of salt. You don’t need anything else to make one of the best soups in the Romagna tradition. Once they were prepared exclusively in meat broth, today they are also offered dry with vegetable sauces, meat or fish.
And then the Strozzapreti or priest stranglers. This fresh homemade pasta reflects the rebellious and anarchic character of Romagna, while the ingredients of the pastry – only water, salt and flour, without the addition of eggs – reveal the difficulties in which many families lived.
Today times have changed, but the strozzapreti with shrimp sauce or with sausage are still present in all Romagna restaurants!
For main course you must try the famous Galletto alla cacciatora, cockerel in tomato sauce. For the dish to be very good, the cockerel must be free-range. Browned in lard and chopped aromas it is then cooked with ripe tomatoes, giving off an intense and irresistible aroma.
And being on the Adriatic, you cannot miss to try the grilled fish in Romagna Style. What makes the grilled fish unique here is the breading of grated bread, oil and parsley with which the Adriatic catch – blue fish, sole, turbot – is seasoned before being put on the grill. Bread protects the fish and gives it a unique flavor.
Now for my passion: cakes!
Let’s begin with Ciambella (do not be deceived, it is not a doughnut). Once, for Easter, the bakers opened their shops to the arzdore who went there to bake the cake, a celebration for the most important breakfast of the year. Today this sweet, simple and rather rustic cake is served at the end of a traditional meal or in village festivals accompanied by Albana or Cagnina wines. And at Hotel Eliseo, Nonna Violante prepares it every morning for her guests!
And the famous Zuppa Inglese, which translates into English soup. Although the name is almost misleading, the Zuppa Inglese remains one of the most typical and widespread desserts in Romagna. The ingredients? Custard and chocolate, alchermes and ladyfingers, but to be really traditional, you must replace the ladyfingers with slices of ciambella.
Best time to visit
The period from April to September is the best one to visit Bellaria and Igea Marina and enjoy the best of the summer, the beaches and the attractions of the two locations. In winter and Christmas a part of the accommodation facilities remains open for those who want to spend the autumn going to festivals and events or to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Riviera. These two locations are frequented throughout the year also by those who take part in the events of the Rimini Fair and the European Congress Center in Bellaria.
Where to Stay
Both with names of winds, family run for over 3 generation, both born from the hard work of two local families, but at the same time two completely different hotels.
Hotel Eliseo, run by the now world famous cook Nonna Violante, her daughter Maria Bernardetta and her grand-daughters Maria Regina and Anna Rosa, is a typical hotel for families with children or for those who want to spend their time relaxing. Here whole generations of families have spent their holidays, year after year, coming not just from Italy but France and Germany too. This is where la Dolce Vita is still alive and kicking, where the Romagna warmth is at its best! And this is the place you must come if you want to learn to cook real Romagna food: Nonna Violante offers cooking lessons teaching you to make pasta and piadina! And now they also offer a Cocktail class, thanks to their talented barman Tony!
Hotel Elios, run by Riccardo, Bernadetta’s husband, and their son Gabriele is more a hotel for people who want an active holiday! It is the only hotel in town with a raised terrace overlooking the Adriatic Sea, where you can admire the sunset while sipping on one of their famous cocktails. They have their own private beach and they offer lots of sport or food and wine activities! They open also during some of the winter period for those wanting to take part in Sigep and other Rimini fairs.
Ok….I hope I managed to transmit you the love I have for these people and their land!
And that if you decide to go in Romagna for your next holiday, you will fall in love with it like I did!
The Romagna Riviera: a place where hospitality, hospitality and cheerfulness never fail.
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