How often one hears a place enthusiastically recommended for being “non-touristy”. My own local city in southern Spain, Malaga is often described in theses terms (by me, among many others), but until my recent visit to Reggio Emilia I hadn’t fully appreciated what “non-touristy” means. If I mention that during my four days in the city I only saw three cameras produced in anger (including my own) and that I only heard English spoken on two occasions, you begin to get the picture. But “non-touristy” is an accolade for several reasons, and all of them cliches that Reggio lived up to more than any supposedly “non-touristy” city I had previously encountered. For example, everything, but everything, from hotel rooms, to dining, to shopping was at least 20% cheaper than say, in the neighbouring – and allegedly more glamourous – city of Parma, and up to 50% cheaper than the regional capital of Bologna. And in addition to not ripping you off, most of the people are genuine, and sincerely welcoming. Moreover, there’s all the culture one would expect in a medium-sized Italian city – art (ancient and modern), churches, museums and three (yes three) thriving theatres. And as for the quality of the all’aperto atmosphere, especially in the leafy Piazza Fontanesi, of a spring evening, it was the equal of anything I have experienced.
Finally, I should also point out that Reggio Emilia’s hams and sausages are every bit as delicious as those produced in the aforementioned Parma, and as for its balsamic vinegar, it makes that brewed in nearby Modena seem thin and bland by comparison.
Reggio Emilia is famous though for two things: Being the birthplace of the national Italian flag – the Tricolore, and being a center of Lambrusco wine production, the less said about the latter, the better…well, nowhere’s perfect!