Portico di Romagna, Italy, written about in Dante’s Divine Comedy, unchanged in time.
Visual Stories by Barbara Nelson
In the ancient mountain range of Apennine, the spine of central Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, one finds all the beauty, rich culture and lifestyle of Italy in the small villages and the people whose families have lived there for centuries.Â
The mountain range, built up by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has now settled into rolling hills covered by iconic villages, ancient monasteries, forests, vineyards and olive trees.Â
Â Famous for Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, truffles and more, but take your choice of any of the local cheeses, wines, Â or other foods and you will not be disappointed. Music and craftspeople are found everywhere.Â Untouched by the large tourist buses asÂ seen in Tuscany, this is the region to experience central Italy.
Off the old highway connecting Florence and Ravenna, is Â Protico di Romagna.Â A population of 400 people, it is a complete community.Â Written about in Dante’s Divine Comedy, this village has changed little since that time (except for modern amenities and free WiFi).Â From the curving main street (if stretched out would be about two city blocks) are winding, flower filled narrow streets leading down to the river where most families tend to their small gardens.Â
Family owned Â hotel Al Vecchio Convento and Albergo Ristorante (three houses on the main street) offer wonderful hospitality and the best food anywhere (declaredÂ 5 star restaurant by the guests).Â
The food is all from local gardens, delivered fresh each morning, or nearby farmers and wineries, fish from the nearby Adriatic.Â
Nearby hills yield the most desired (and expensive) truffles.Â Â Specially trained dogs lead their trainers to where they are growing, and might Â appear in the evening’s dinner.
Â The current generation of Marisa Raggi and Gianni CameliÂ (the head chef) together with their two sons (Massimilano and Matteo) and daughter in-laws (Ulla and Camilla), run every aspect of the hotel and restaurant (plus the language school and cooking school established a few years ago).Â
As in earlier times, the village has a butcher, a couple bars (i.e. wine and espresso), a general store for most daily needs, a barber, bakery. a small bank and post office.Â Â
Â The local band, of all ages, comes together for religious celebrations and other special events. Â The local school has a good music director – but then, this is Italy.
Nearby are good hiking trails,Â a waterfall and river for swimming, and even a tennis court.Â Biking is the favorite sport in this region.Â Â
Just a few killometers away local crafts people work at their crafts.Â Â Foscolla makes cellos, bass and violins and flutes .Â
Â Piero Tassinari, a blacksmith, creates statues and accessories in his shop.
Every person in the village is unique.Â Here are just a fewÂ I photographed.