Visit central Italy’s Emilia Romagna region to explore two distinctive cities, Bologna and Parma, set among rolling hills and open plains.

Bologna offers leaning towers, a huge medieval church and lots of art.

Its two 12th-century leaning towers are called Torre degli Asinelli and Toree della Garisenda. The taller tower, Asinelli, stands more than 334 feet. Climbing the 500 steps to the top offers views of colorful rooftops and the hills of Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore features one of the largest medieval churches in Italy, the Basilica di San Petronio, with 22 art-filled chapels and decorative stained-glass windows. The fourth chapel on the left is the Bolognini Chapel and is adorned with frescos representing heaven and hell.

Also located on the Piazza Maggiore is the PalazzoComunale, Bologna’s town hall. The town hall is home to the Communal Collection of Fine Arts, which includes paintings from the 14th to 19th centuries and to the (Giorgio) Morandi Museum. The museum is devoted to Morandi’s work of transforming the ordinary into works of art and houses more than 250 works, according to, the city’s Web site, which has an English language option.

Don’t leave Bologna without eating some traditional Bolognese food, whether its tagliatelle, tortellini, piadina — a pizza bread with fillings — or mortadella, a salted pork.

The city of Parma is known for its architecture, elegant lifestyle and its Parma ham and Parmesan cheese.

Visit the Arturo Toscanini birthplace and museum to learn about the man considered by many to be the greatest orchestral conductor of the first half of the 20th century. His childhood home has been turned into a museum with a library of all the recorded works he conducted.

The city’s Duomo, or cathedral, is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture. Its dome fresco, Correggio’s "Assumption of the Virgin," is a masterpiece. The mosaic fragments with fish and geometric shapes in the floor date from the fifth and sixth centuries and came from the city’s ancient basilica.

Behind the Duomo is the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Three rooms of the historic pharmacy within the St. John monastery have been refurbished and opened to visitors. On display is an array of apothecary jars from various time periods. You also can visit the abbey and school within the complex.

In the evening, take in a concert at the Teatro Regio. The theater is famous for its relationship with Giuseppe Verdi’s works and was commissioned by Maria Luigia, duchess of Parma and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

(Compiled from travel Web sites)

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