A year ago my family and I were living in Montpellier, France, and we took a road trip to Bologna during our Easter break. On the 12th of April we made a day trip to Ravenna, which is an hour east near the Adriatic coast.
We toured several of the city's famous 5th and 6th century Christian sites, including the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, and the Basilica of San Vitale. Our kids loved the mosaics, especially the ones in the Mausoleum, which was both lovely and ever so slightly spooky.
Because food is my primary passion, my favorite memory from the day is that of our long lunch at the Antica Trattoria al Gallo 1909. This restaurant is a short walk outside the pedestrian center of the city, not far from the Porta Adriana. We were the only tourists there for lunch on that Wednesday.
The owners and staff of this place were very welcoming and the decor was amazing. The walls and shelves were covered with portraits, lamps, clocks, and figurines, mainly nymphs with bow and arrow, deer, and hunting dogs. Each table seemed to have its own suite of these items.
The food was excellent. I had lightly cured anchovies for my first course and braised pork shank ("stinco" in Italian) with tangy hop shoots (bruscandoli) for my second course, and for the third: the tagliatelle and ragù that my kids couldn't finish. I ordered squacquerone (a very soft and fresh cow's milk cheese) with prunes cooked in a very dark, slightly toasted and bitter caramel sauce. I hadn't been so full or so satisfied by a meal in a long time. Ruth had sea bass and asparagus risotto, which were both very good. It was peak asparagus and strawberry season in Emilia-Romagna, and we ate a lot of each during the trip.
We had equally delicious meals in Bologna, Ferrara, and Modena, but in my opinion the Antica Trattoria al Gallo 1909 had more charm than the other restaurants we visited.
One of my other favorite things about Ravenna was seeing bikes and middle-aged people riding bikes, all over the city. Ferrara was even more bike-friendly. These Italian cities aren't in the same league as Amsterdam or Copenhagen yet, but are less car-centric than Northern Colorado cities of the same size (like Fort Collins or Greeley).
I can't wait to get back to Emilia-Romagna some day soon.