Vineyards of the Colli Piacentini, looking north toward the Alps.
The region of Emilia-Romagna sits like a garter high on the thigh of the Italian boot. As you stand on the slopes of the Apennines looking north across the plains of the Po valley, the snow-capped Alps stand like false teeth on the horizon. Were you to turn and hike across the top of the hills, you'd be in the yuppie playgrounds of Tuscany and Umbria. Instead, you're in the land of picture postcards: renaissance art cities strung like pearls along the ancient Via Emilia (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio, Modena, Bologna, Ravenna). For art enthusiasts, heaven.
For racing enthusiasts, Formula One heaven as well. Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducacti are all headquartered here, the pride of Italy's high-performance motor industry. The San Marino Grand Prix is held in the Romagna resort of Rimini.
Vineyards, of course. They grow a bewildering number of grape varieties, most unknown outside of Italy, made in styles ranging from slightly fizzy to full-bodied, from dry to sweet. Much of what growers can grow and wine makers can vinify is defined by legislation and tradition. And, as often happens, the best producers simply make what they like, defying the rules.
And not a few castles. The castello at Rivalta, built by the same architect who would go on to design Moscow's Kremlin, is the family home of the Contessa Zanardi Landi. The motorcycle in the courtyard belongs to her son, who's obviously following the local tradition of defying tradition: it's a Kawasaki.