Italy is a trove of charming villages, steeped in history and surrounded by gorgeous landscapes. I’ve seen a fair share of them but I found one village in particular absolutely endearing. That village is Brisighella. Nestled in the foothills of the Apennines in the region of Emilia-Romagna, Brisighella is as charming as they come. It’s a small place, tightly packed with pastel-coloured houses, quaint alleys and several imposing churches. Its setting, cradled by verdant hills and overlooked by a castle, clock tower and monastery, is nothing short of dreamy. Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Brisighella certainly lives up to its billing, making it, in my book, one of the loveliest places to visit in Emilia-Romagna. Despite its small size, there are various things to do in Brisighella that would make your visit absolutely worthwhile.
Things to do in Brisighella
Brisighella can trace its history back to the Stone Ages. In the 13th century, it became a military post due to its strategic location. Not much later, the Manfredi family from nearby Faenza took over the post and built the Rocca Manfrediana fortress. One of the most defining features of Brisighella (map) is its unique backdrop of three hills topped by historic monuments. The furthest away is the 18th century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monticino. Directly overlooking the village are the iconic Rocca Manfrediana fortress (14th century) and the clock tower (19th century).
Here are six things to do in Brisighella:
1. Explore the village
Brisighella can easily be covered on foot. Via Fossa is the main street, lined by houses, shops, restaurants and cafés. From here, various roads and alleys lead to Via Naldi, higher up in the village. At Piazza Carduci, the village’s main square, pop into Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Michele (Church of St. Michael) to view its 15th century artwork.
2. Step back in time in Via degli Asini
At Via Naldi, you’ll find a staircase that leads into the row of houses. Take this staircase to discover one of the most unique spots in Brisighella: Via degli Asini or “Donkey’s Road” (or Via del Borgo), an arched stone walkway that was used for military purposes in medieval times, and later to transport gypsum from nearby caves with donkeys.
Other points of interest to look out for in the village include Fontana Vecchia and the 16th century Chiesa dell’Osservanza with its beautiful paintings.
3. Enjoy the best views of Brisighella
At the main staircase to Via degli Asini, continue further along Via della Torre. The steps lead up the hill to the Clock Tower. At the base, another path turns eastwards towards the Rocca Manfrediana. I recommend climbing up the hill to the Clock Tower as it offers, arguably, the best view of Brisighella. Along the way, you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of vineyards, gardens and the Brisighella rooftops. This short hike is listed on my list of top things to do in Emilia-Romagna.
4. Enjoy olive oil and wine tastings
One of the best things to do in Brisighella is stock up on its high-quality olive oil. Some of the local stores offer olive oil tastings. In addition, check at the tourism office for wine tasting tours which include a stroll around the vineyards combined with a food/wine tasting. Grab a bottle or two of one of the local wines!
5. Indulge in delicious local food
Brisighella boasts numerous top-notch restaurants, some of which are located in caves dug out centuries ago. This is a great opportunity for visitors to enjoy the local cuisine and wines, as well as the rustic setting. One restaurant I can recommend is Ristorante La Grotta. Other restaurants in Brisighella to check out include La Lanterna, L’Infinito and Cantina del Bonsignore.
6. Hike in the hills
There are numerous hiking paths that start in the village and continue around the hills. For nature lovers, I recommend hiking in the nearby Parco del Carnè and Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola. Hiking tours start in the village and continue to the regional park where visitors can enjoy the rolling landscapes, visit the Rocca Manfrediana and Monticino Sanctuary, see various caves such as Grotta Tanaccia and Cava Marana, and stop for a delicious lunch. Then treat yourself to the healing waters of the Terme di Brisighella (spa).
Read more about Brisighella on the tourist office website and the Emilia-Romagna Tourism website.
Where to stay in Brisighella
Brisighella can be visited as a day trip but I recommend staying a night or two to enjoy the local ambiance and natural surroundings. There are numerous hotels, B&Bs and agriturismos (farmstays) in Brisighella. I stayed at Modus Vivendi Room e Relax, a small hotel in the village centre, with spa and parking facilities. Another hotel I checked out in the village was the lovely Albergo La Rocca. Search for accommodations in Brisighella.
How to get to Brisighella
Brisighella is located in the region of Emilia-Romagna, roughly halfway between Florence and Ravenna (map). In fact, one scenic way to get there is to take Dante’s Train from Florence to Faenza (Brisighella is the second last stop). If you’re touring Emilia-Romagna, Brisighella can be reached by train or road (a 20-minute drive) from Faenza. Brisighella is one of the places I recommend visiting on an Emilia-Romagna road trip or Art Cities tour.