2/4/2020 Editor’s note: Since this article was written in 2013, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Emilia-Romagna three times and staying at Torre Fantini a second time in 2016. Our impressions of the area remain unchanged and we look forward to future visits. The article has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication.
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 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 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.
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 (fresh pasta). 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.
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 bed and breakfast has 5 bedrooms, a small common sitting area and a breakfast room next to the tower. 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.
A walk around the grounds and a bit of relaxation at the gorgeous pool provided panoramic views — what a setting!
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.
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.
For the evening, our guide Alessandra had arranged a meeting 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. They 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.
Palazzo Fantini is listed by Grandi Giardini Italiani (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 grainery, 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.
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 evening continued as we moved to the residence to the living area for conversation, then the warm and spacious kitchen for dinner. Beatrice was a generous host; we enjoyed her conversation and appreciated her interest in our upcoming Alberghi Diffusi project in Emilia-Romagna officially starting the next day.
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 (no longer open). 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.
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 begin the Alberghi Diffusi phase of our trip exploring more of hidden Emilia-Romagna. But our short stay at Torre Fantini has put Tredozio on our list of places to return someday.
For more information: Palazzo Fantini and Torre Fantini
looks like an amazing timeframe there, love the gardens and beautiful architecture in the area
I never get tired of being seeing the architecture of different places — old and new!
Well… I guess I’ll have to accept that you were actually in Italy – my dream destination. I want to learn how to make spaghetti carbonara in Italy – and then sit down and eat it!!
Patti – I really hop that you get to your dream destination very soon & get to make that pasta dish. Send me a postcard! 🙂
The location of the swimming pool is beautiful. Love the views and photos!
The pool was in a perfect location. Beautiful view and so peaceful!
Amazing place! Never heard about Tredozio, but I would add it to my travel wish list.
I was happy to learn about Tredozio and the other small villages of the area. There are many more out there for me to explore, too.
I’ve been in the area but never to Tredozio: Looks worth the the extra kilometres.
Next time you’re up there, take a detour and spend a ltitle time. I think you’d especially like the gardens and checking out that Michelin chef’s restaurant.
What a fabulous trip, Cathy! Amazing views – love the striped buildings and the gardens – delicious food from Mafalda and a Michelin chef, and wonderful accommodations, what more could one ask for, eh?
I really didn’t know what to expect that first day in Emilia-Romagna, It was full of wonderful surprises.
It’s funny. I was talking to my son about Italy the other day. He’s there for the first time, and loves it. I said to him that I’ve utterly loved everywhere I’ve been in Italy, and it’s true. I adore it, and it sounds as if your visit was idyllic.**Sigh**
I have a really that I’d adore most other places in Italy, too. I’m looking forward to a chance to find out for sure. 😉
Just the mention of Bologna’s train station brought back memories of our wonderful stay in that town – I could go back in a nano-second. If the rest of your trip was as lovely as this, it must have been spectacular!
I’ve heard that Bologna really is a wonderful city. I’d definitely like to go back and spend some time in the town — and eat some of the fab food I’ve heard so much about.
It is always inspiring to be shown a lesser known side of a well known country. Italy has lots of little villages in which to lose ourselves. What a lovely opportunity.
I feel very fortunate that I got to see some of those wonderful small villages. Hope to see more throughout the country. Each region has its own characteristics, as do the villages.
Such a pretty province, Emilia Romagna is. I’ve never been in Tredozio either. Looks like you saw lots and had fun 🙂
Lovely to see the area is appreciated – as we were sure it would be. We have just opened a learning venue in Tredozio and we provide Italian language lessons linked to cookery courses, pottery classes and exploration of the National Park and surrounding villages.
That swimming pool looks heavenly, especially with the soaring temperatures we continue to have! One thing I’ve definitely learned after 4 years of living in Italy is that the little towns truly are the gems of Italy. So glad you got to experience some of your own!
It would have been so nice to spend more time at that pool — especially considering we had it to ourselves with that amazing view.
So many beautiful places, so much good food to eat, so little time to do it … might as well start now! I’ve not familiar with Italy, but when I see photos of people making fresh pasta with locals (with years, nay, generations of experience) somewhere in a tiny Italian village, I’m hungry, and not just for the freshly made food. I think I just miss cooking with a bunch of people, making a mess of it, and scarfing down the goods later in the evening. 🙂 Thanks for your post, Catherine!
You said it — so little time to do all of the things we want to do! I’ve got a post coming up about my experience making pasta — yes, me! Stay tuned!
Pingback: Part of the Family in Portico di Romagna » Traveling with Sweeney
This looks like heaven! How wonderful to see all that food being made
I got a real appreciation for people who can not only cook, but make wonderful things like pasta from scratch.
The whole thing looks positively idyllic, Cathy! Wonderful atmosphere from what I see in your interesting photo series. Love the setting of that swimming pool and the striped building.
The striped building was interesting because not only did it look cool, but it actually meant something — identified farm buildings from the rest of the house. The whole trip was amazing — much more to come!
Pingback: The Four Seasons, Milan Style » Traveling with Sweeney
I am so looking forward to visiting this region of Italy. Great story.
Pingback: Alessandra Catania Sings in Portico » Traveling with Sweeney
Pingback: Bertinoro: The Balcony of Romagna » Traveling with Sweeney
Pingback: At Home in Verucchio » Traveling with Sweeney
Pingback: Travel Emilia Romagna | [ParlamiditER #123] Stare a Verucchio è come stare a casa
Eating fresh made pasta in Italy sounds amazing. I much the smaller towns and villages in Italy to the big cities.
Pingback: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Emilia-Romagna - Traveling with Sweeney
Pingback: An Italian Dream at Villa La Collina - Traveling with Sweeney