In Italy they say all roads lead to Rome. However, my roads in Italy lead to the old villages that are so numerous. At least I always look for the most beautiful villages in Italy when I travel through the country.
The Italian villages lie on the peaks of the mountains, on the plain and by the sea. Historic medieval villages, well preserved and in excellent condition.
Brizigella and Dozza in Emilia-Romagna, some of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Italy loves its historic villages, which have become a tourist attraction in their own right. This is traditional domestic tourism, but international travellers will also find Italian villages.
The Italians go to their villages on weekends, on Sundays for lunch or a glass of bianco, and they really enjoy the atmosphere in their villages, I borghi piu belli.
I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia
Castel’Arquato, also one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The most beautiful villages of Italy, i borghi piu Belli d’Italia, are on the list of the local association, the Association of Italian Small Cities.
The aim is to preserve and maintain villages with a remarkable heritage. All the cities on the list have a high quality architectural heritage and most also have a phenomenal geographical location.
The list of Borghi piu Belli d’Italia is my treasure chest, and I always let myself be guided by it when I travel in Italy.
The list of the most beautiful villages in Italy includes almost 300 towns and villages in all regions of the country. 13 of them are located in Emilia-Romagna, the region where this article is written about.
A list of the most beautiful villages of Italy can be found on the site I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia. Because most of the old villages are built around the castle, the Italian word Borg also means village.
But there’s another list, the orange flag.
Italian program with orange flag
Castell’Arquato, a village on both the Borg Pew Belly and Orange Flag lists.
The orange flag of the Touring Club Italiano also mentions the villages. To be on the list, a town or village must have an important historical, cultural and ecological heritage and offer tourists a high-quality welcome.
The Tourist Club evaluates villages from a traveller’s perspective and looks at issues such as signage, traffic, accommodation, restaurants, renewable resources and waste management.
More than 2,000 cities applied for the Bandiere Arancioni (Orange Flag), of which about 250 were received, including the four villages of Emilia-Romagna we visited.
The complete list can be found on the website of the Italian tourist club Bandiere Arancioni.
This is the Italian Emilia-Romagna on the map Emilia-Romagna is a province in northern Italy that stretches across the Po Valley, almost from Milan and Genoa to the Adriatic coast.
A map of Emilia-Romagna. The beautiful hilly places we visited are indicated on the map.
The northern part of Emilia-Romagna is a vast plain with huge grain and sunflower fields. In these regions they supply Italy with food.
The old Roman road Via Emilia crosses the plain. The Romans wanted a direct route from the west to the Adriatic Sea in the east.
Today, however, there is a new road – the A1 three-lane motorway, which runs along the Roman road. Two railway lines will follow, one for regional trains and one for high-speed trains. All this makes it very easy to get to places in Emilia-Romagna.
However, traffic lines do not dominate the lowlands. These are fields and a long series of interesting cities.
Cities of Emilia-Romagna
When the Romans built the Via Emilia, towns were built along it. The cities stretch from west to east: Piacenza, Fidenza, Parma, Reggio nelle Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Faenza, Ravenna and Rimini
They all specialized in what they could do. Parma is famous for prosciutto and Parmigiano, Modena for Ferrari and Maseratis, Faenza for ceramics and Ravenna for mosaic. And Bologna and Modena were given great architecture and became gastronomic cities.
Bologna, the most important city and capital of Emilia Romagna
I have a separate job in the capital of Emilia Romagna, Bologna. To find out more about Bologna, take a look in Bologna: Arcades, history and Mediterranean colours.
Villages of Emilia-Romagna
Castles and small villages in the hills of the Apennines.
Emilia-Romagna, however, is not limited to the plains and cities. Since the reign of the noble families, the province has had a large number of castles, palaces and fortresses.
Most of these castles and fortresses are located in the hills south of the plain, in an area close to Italy’s largest mountain range, the Apennines. The whole of Emilia-Romagna is not flat, the south is hilly.
Because the Apennines seemed more beautiful than the plain, we left the highway and drove in the direction of beautiful hilly villages.
We left the plain behind us and took the winding road to the Apennines.
And the first village in the east was Castel’Arquato.
The most beautiful villages of Italy: Castel Arquato
I’m looking for the most beautiful villages in Italy: Castel’Arquato
The hill town of Castel’Arquato is on the list of Borg Piu Belli and also receives the Italian orange flag (Bandiera Arancione).
Castel’Arquato is not a small village, it’s a lively town. The lower town on the river and the upper town on the top of the hill. All my pictures are from the upper town, where the style of the building is very uniform, there are no new buildings.
Everything is medieval, even the huge Rocca Castle of 1343, accessible via a drawbridge. The main square on top of the hill is called Piazza Alta.
Castel’Arquato in the hills of Piacenza:
Pictures of Castel’Arquato, Italy
Click on the small pictures to open them all in the slideshow.
The most beautiful villages of Italy: Vigolene
Fortified town of Vigoleno
The next village is Vigoleno. To get there from Castel’Arquato you have to go up and down some hills and the road is very picturesque.
On the hill of Vigoleno you can see a fortified castle and only a few quiet cafes around the square. It’s nice enough, but not the old town. To get there you have to go through the castle gate, behind which all the beauty opens up.
It’s a borgo-Italian lingerie, literally a city in a castle.
Vigoleno is on the Borg piu belli list and also received the orange flag.
Vigoleno on the pictures
Like every Italian city in Vigoleno it has its own piazza. It is a small castle square with a small fountain.
In Vigoleno you can’t get lost, all streets start at the piazza and end with a defensive wall.
Vigoleno is on the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Thermal Baths of Salsomaggiore, Italy
Further east, on the hills of Parma, lies the spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme. It is a valley town in the middle of green hills, dotted with castles and palaces, but only 35 km from Parma. The region is called the land of castles, and there are more than a hundred castles, many of which have been destroyed and others are still in use.
As this part of Italy is a thermal area, there are many thermal centres in and around Salsomaggiore. The SPA centres receive fresh and healing water from underground wells between 800 and 1200 m deep. The water level is very salty, the temperature is 16 C.
Some spas are located in Tabiano Terme, a small village on the hills.
The old health resort of Berzieri, which you can see on my pictures, is a breathtaking attraction in the Salomaggiore. An enchanting place, indoors and outdoors, where the baths and treatments must be fantastic.
We only spent time with the swimming pool of our hotel, which was just as beautiful as the whole hotel. Because Salsomaggiore has been a tourist town for centuries, there are fantastic old hotels with beautiful gardens.
Salsomaggiore Term Apennine Resort
What else were we doing in Salsomaggiore Terme? We made a noose in the hills to find some of those hundreds of castles, and that’s exactly what we found. Samples of the Pienza Hills are included in my photos.
Rocca di Fontanelato, Italy
In the plain of Parma, the town of Fontanelato literally grew up to surround the castle. The Rocca Castle is located in the center and the streets of the city radiate light in all directions.
Rocca’s style is different from that of the small hilltop castles. It is solid, thick-walled and stands in a deep green trench. The castle dates from the 15th century. It has an exceptionally well preserved interior and many beautiful rooms with fantastic decorations.
The Rocca di Fontanelato is really worth a visit, and the city itself is like a postcard.
Fontanelato on the pictures
Fontanelato surprised us because he wasn’t on the list of beautiful villages. However, it has an orange flag.
Rocka and the moat
Fontanelato was the last of the group of historic cities in the region of Parma. There are other sights on the other side of Bologna. To find out more about Bologna, read my article in Bologna : Arcades, history and Mediterranean colours.
The first of the cities in the east of Emilia-Romagna is the castle of San Pietro Terme.
Castel San Pietro Term
A road to Castel San Pietro Terme in Emilia-Romagna.
The castle of San Pietro Terme, located on the Roman road just after Bologna, is worth a short stop. The city is much smaller than Bologna, but looks a bit like Bologna. Both cities are in the plain, but almost on the Apennines, and they have colourful houses and arcades. As the name suggests, Castel San Pietro Terme is a spa and a base for outdoor activities.
To reach other towns in the hills, you can now move into the hills or continue to Imola and turn off there. Imola is also a city to drive through, because the center is very beautiful.
However, I recommend the mountain roads, although you will probably get lost a few times before you reach Dozza and Brisighella in the east. The roads of the Apennines are winding, but everything looks so fantastic.
Castle of San Pietro Terme, Emilia-Romagna…
The most beautiful villages of Italy: Dosa
Dozza, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Then we have two more cities on the list of Borg piu Belli d’Italia: Dozza and Brizigella in the Apennines.
The medieval town on the hill of Dozza has vineyards on all sides, whose products can be tasted in the town’s wine cellars or in the imposing castle of Rocca, which is located on the top of the hill. Dozza is not only known for its fine wines, but also for its murals.
Surprise! Surprise! A historic hill town where paintings cover most of the houses, gates and portals. All surfaces are full of paint. The works of art are made in different colours and styles, but they all fit together so well. These paintings make the medieval alleys shine. But who made them?
Paintings on the walls of Dozza in the photo gallery
The murals of Dozza are the result of the Muro Dipinto event that takes place every two years in Dozza. In the context of this event, famous Italian and foreign artists work together to decorate the medieval facades of Dozza.
Dozza is a work of art!
In Dozza even the flowers look like paintings.
The next village, Brisigella, is further on in the Apennines, where there are more forests and olive trees. Maybe the first thing you’ll see when you arrive is the Monticino Monastery, this one:
The Monastery of Monticino, Brizigella…
Or, if you arrive via another road, you can first see La Rocca, the castle on top of the hill, or La Torre, the tower. These are the three buildings on the hill that Brisigella owns. The town itself lies between them, at the bottom of the valley.
The most beautiful villages of Italy: Brisigella
Brizigella, a beautiful Italian village.
Brizigella is known for this super long mansion, which actually has several houses in a row. Because the castle is on top of the hill just above, the house almost resembles the defensive wall, which it actually was.
And inside the defensive wall, there was a secret way up. In a place where you can see arches on the wall of the house, there is a hidden passage along the entire length of the house. It’s the Via dell’Azini, the donkey road. So donkeys were walking down the vaulted street of the building!
These pictures show the trail of a donkey:
Brizigella on the pictures
This 12th century village. In the 18th century it earned its place on the list of the most beautiful villages and was also awarded the orange flag.
One more look at the secret path before we have to leave this fantastic place. We have seen so many villages and we will finish our visit in Faenza.
View through a 12th century arch. For centuries.
End of Faenza visit
Another town, situated in the plain, is famous for its ceramics.
For more than 500 years Faenza has been producing world-famous ceramics in blue, white and yellow.
Faenza is not one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, but has a beautiful central square with beautiful old buildings. And in Faenza there is a ceramics museum.
Ceramics from Faenza, a product of Emilia-Romagna.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these villages. These villages mean so much to me that all you have to do is talk about them. I hope to see you one day in the Italian village!
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