From Bologna to the villages of Emilia-Romagna

After a one hour train ride from the stylish bustle of cosmopolitan Milan, we arrived in Bologna, a historical and cultural center in northeast Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It is a large city with an enormous, just-opened, new railway station — a destination for international visitors as well as a connecting point for business people and local residents. But our itinerary moved us quickly out of the city by car with our travel blogger friends to begin a 9-day journey through Emilia-Romagna beyond the locations commonly found in travel guides, Mr. TWS and I were to spend our first night in the village of Tredozio on the border of Tuscany about 40 miles southeast of Bologna.

Ponte della Signora in Modigliana

Ponte della Signora in Modigliana


Along the way in Modigliana

Exiting the busy main highway out of Bologna, our drive quickly turned scenic as we took winding roads through rural areas of vineyards and olive trees. A stop in the quiet village of Modigliana gave us the chance to cross the steeply-arched Ponte della Signora (San Donato Bridge) built in the 18th century and wander the streets of this town of under 5,000 residents. We met several friendly locals who helped us to find Antichi Sapori, a great place for a lunch of “pasta fresca”. This was our first experience with the authentic homemade pasta of the region, made from scratch in the kitchen. It was the start of a long series of wonderful meals as we ate our way through Italy.




After lunch, we continued on to Tredozio, a village of about 1,300 residents within the lush Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi (Casentinesi National Park). It is an ancient town once inhabited by the Romans which later became part of the province of Florence until Benito Mussolini changed the borders of Romagna in 1923, making Tredozio part of Forli in Emilia-Romagna.

We were told that we’d be staying in an 18th century vintner’s tower for our lodgings the first night and were looking forward to such a unique experience. As we approached the driveway of Torre Fantini we were amazed with an awesome view of the Apennines and the valley below with a farmer at work in the fields.


Torre Fantini

While we took deep breaths of the exceptionally fresh air, it was easy to imagine spending several days there, instead of just one night. The property has 3 double bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a nice garden and a pool with great view over the valley. From our “Old Tower” room we had windows facing the hills from the bedroom and bath, as well as a view of a woodland from a window on another side of the room.


La Vecchia Torre bedroom at Torre Fantini

A walk around the grounds and a bit of relaxation at the gorgeous pool provided panoramic views — what a setting!

Panoramic pool at Torre Fantini

Settled in our room, we took a short 10 minute walk to the village of Tredozio where we enjoyed the feeling of a small Italian town and had an opportunity to interact with a few of the residents, who even with our language difficulties were friendly and helpful.

The town was quiet and irresistible. It captured exactly what we’d hoped from the trip, being able to experience a less-traveled, hidden part of Italy.


The village of Tredozio

Completing a circuit of the town, we snapped several photos of the 17th and 18th century buildings, as well as the 14th century church, Chiesa della Compagnia. We found that most of the shops were closed for siesta, but we did find a small restaurant open with an outdoor patio to enjoy a cold drink, the village sights and watch the locals while they strolled and conversed with friends and family.


The Church of La Compagnia

Palazzo Fantini


Palazzo Fantini courtyard

In the evening, we met with Beatrice Fontaine, the owner of Torre Fantini, in Tredozio at Palazzo Fantini, an elegant residence belonging to her family since the time it was built in 1753. Beatrice gave us a tour of the Tuscan-baroque style house and beautiful grounds. From the modest presentation from the street front, the house and gardens were surprisingly large and exceptional.

The gardens created in the 1800s had been designed not by a famous architect but they appeared to be. The gardens were bursting with roses thriving after an unusually wet month of May in the area. Beside the roses, there were various flowers and trees all positioned uniquely to create a peaceful and beautiful floral setting, making it a perfect venue for weddings, concerts and other events.

Gardens 2

The Garden


Palazzo Fantini is listed by Great Italian Gardens, an organization that promotes the heritage of gardens in Italy.

We also toured the buildings that were once used for housing horses and other animals That area as well as two large courtyards and a granary were restored to their original design. These buildings are painted an intriguing pattern of red and gold stripes (the original design) to differentiate the living quarters from the farm buildings.

Striped buildings

Striped buildings at Palazzo Fantini

The living quarters are actually four different structures that had been joined, the original building constructed in the 17th century, enhanced in the 18th century, then restored as a project by Beatrice’s father in recent years.


The Lemon House

The evening continued as we moved to the residence to the living area for conversation, then the warm and spacious kitchen/dining for dinner. Beatrice was a generous host; we enjoyed her conversation and appreciated her interest in our upcoming blog project in Emilia-Romagna officially starting the next day.


Dinner at Palazzo Fantini

The kitchen was warm and welcoming and the company and conversation made for a memorable evening, enhanced by the inclusion of Mafalda, a charming woman who has worked with the family for many years. Despite our language differences, I felt that we communicated brilliantly with our smiles, Mafalda’s smile as she served being as warm as the pasta soup was hot. We devoured the steaming pasta soup, salad, and fruit which was prepared by Pierluigi Gentilini, chef of Tredozio’s Michelin–rated Il Mulino di San Michele. We now truly anticipated that this trip to Italy was going to be the culinary delight we hoped. It was also clear that we could expect to add a few pounds before our time in Italy was finished.


Mafalda cooked for us!

A fresh start to our fresh project

After a nearly silent night and peaceful sleep, delicious homemade pastries from the village bakery and flavorful coffee in Torre Fantini’s breakfast room were a perfect way to begin the day. From Tredozio, we would be heading off through Casentinesi National Park to Portico di Romagna to continue our project exploring more of hidden Emilia-Romagna. But our short stay at Torre Fantini has put Tredozio on our list of places to return someday.


Breakfast at Torre Fantini


Take a look at EsteVillas website for details, more photos and booking information for Torre Fantini and other properties in this area.

Posted on Jan 18 2016

Written by Catherine Sweeney – Travelling with Sweeney

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Fox News Travel video

Everyone loves the food in Italy and there may be no better time to sample it than winter when the crowds are gone.

Hotel rates in cities like Venice are more $50 less in winter, according to Trivago, which tracks hotel rates around the globe. The average rate in Rome between November and January is just $137, Trivago says — significantly cheaper than Paris or London.

Another plus: You won’t bust your budget on meals, nor will haughty waiters make you feel like you don’t belong. You won’t go wrong either with a crusty baguette, salami and cheese for lunch.

Don’t be shy about sharing portions — Italian meals can have several courses with large portions starting with an appetizer, a “primo” that’s a pasta or soup, followed by a  “secondo” main course — a meat, fish or chicken dish — and desert.  Make your pasta your main dish; skip desert for a gelato shop.

Ask locals you meet — the taxi driver, the tour guide, the front desk clerk–for their suggestions. Check out websites like Home Food, EatWith or Meal Sharing, which connects locals who want to invite visitors for a typical meal.

I discovered on a recent trip, you won’t go wrong with house wines either. But whenever and wherever you go in Italy, make sure to sample local and regional specialties. I asked Italian foodie Luisa Castiglione, who travels the country overseeing her villa rental company, for some advice.

Obviously, if you are in Venice, you’ll eat seafood.  Try something you’ve never seen before—maybe cuttlefish or pan fried sardines. Venice is also famous for fried fish. We also had fun at little wine bars where we had the Venetian version of tapas—little toast with various toppings.

Want a spritz? That’s the popular red aperitif you’ll see people drinking everywhere. It’s made with white wine, seltzer and usually Aperol.  I admit I wasn’t a fan and usually stuck to wine.

If you love wine, you might want to visit the hill towns south of Turin famous for Barolo or, of course, chianti.  Go where your favorite wines are made—pinot grigio in the Trentino region, for example, chardonnay in Lombardy near Milan or Puglia in the South.  I usually don’t like lambrusco sparkling wine but loved the locally-made version outside the Renaissance town of Mantua in Grazie.  (See what I wrote about our visit.)

Expect most pizza to have a thin crust.  Modern pizza was of course invented in Naples but you’ll find all variations everywhere in Italy.  Pizza Margherita, people believe, was invented  in Naples as a tribute to Queen Margherita who loved the pie made in the colors of the Italian flag — red (the tomato), green (basil) and white (mozzarella cheese).  I think the best pizza I’ve ever had was in Naples; it would be fun to rank your pizza and gelatos during your trip.  Where did you find the best ever?


Have you tried risotto?  It’s a delicious north Italian rice dish cooked in broth until it’s creamy. It can be very rich—lots of butter.  In the fall, have Risotto alla Milanese cooked with saffron, suggests  Castiglioni.  You’ll find every variety of risotto—with seafood, vegetables, sausage.

How about pumpkin-filled ravioli? That’s a specialty in Mantua and Bologna and it was one of my favorites on a recent trip. If you like filled pastas like tortellini and ravioli, you’ll love this region.




In Tuscany, you’ll want to try Pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup) that people eat hot or at room temperature.  There’s also stewed beef with pepper and garlic that, the story goes, dates back to the 15th century when Florence’s famous cathedral was being built and the workers making the terracotta tiles used one side of the oven to stew their meat — in wine of course.

In Rome, try Artichokes Roman Style — stuffed with bread, garlic, parsley, Romano cheese and oregano.

There’s only one downside — coming home five pounds heavier. Good thing you’ll be doing so much walking on your trip.


Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver

© 2014, Eileen Ogintz, 5 Viking Green Westport CT 06880. All rights reserved.