A single tour guide slowly strolls past us, unfathomably waving a flag in the air to direct her three faithful followers into the purple flower framed cafe. The Brisighella Olive Oil tasting we attended turned out to be a private and palatable treat just for two. And, at the castle, one of three structures towering on the trio of hills around Brisighella, the guide paused his lunch break and accompanied us, the only visitors, around the well preserved 13th-century building.
How, in the radiant heat of the June sunshine was this postcard-perfect, Instagram-friendly, insert-all-the-travel-cliches-because-its-true, Italian village practically deserted?
Firstly, I’ll state the obvious: this medieval village is a photographers dream. Mainly thanks to the beautiful setting of mountains and vineyards that fan out from the village, and of course the multicoloured buildings and towers. But secondly, due to the lack of crowds to swan into your selfie. Other than weekends in peak-summer months, I was told Brisighella has somehow still managed to stay under the radar.
Here, at the Tosco-Romagna mountains which separate two of the countries most picturesque regions, you can delve into a romantic day trip or check-in for an escape to a slower pace of life. Brisighella, as is much of Emilia Romagna, is celebrated as a slow travel destination, and if you wanted to live the Italian countryside dream for a long weekend, I can’t think of many better destinations to do so.
Things to do in Brisighella
Brisighella might not boast a never-ending list of must-see attractions, but it’s for these reasons the smaller destinations in Italy capture my soul. Those lazy days sipping espressos in painting-flaking walled cafes, the joy of hearing a rich Barossa wine tumble into a fine wine glass, the mouth-orgasms that Italian cuisine leaves lingering on our tastebuds: Italy is a country to salivate over slowly, not a quick one-night stand.
That said, Brisighella still has plenty to keep those who venture her way entertained, and these are some of the top things to do in Brisighella proper.
La Rocca (The Castle)
The three hills that highlight the edges of the village each have their own structure dating back to a different century.
On the rock you’ll find the 14th-century castle, well preserved and now offering an interactive insight into its history. As you walk into different rooms, booming voices will echo from speakers and make you jump like your under attack (just me?) . You can take a guided tour around the property or discover it yourself. I think so of the most impressive views of Brisigehlla are from the turrets here.
La Torre (The Tower)
The clocktower is the most modern of the three structures, having been built in the 19th-century.
If you walk up from the village by foot following the dusty winding staircase, this will be your first arrival point. It’s certainly a lot larger up close than it looks from the village and again, it provides some stunning vantage points.
Il Monticino (The Monticino)
The furthest in the distance is the 18th-century religious sanctuary, the Monticino, but your walking efforts will be rewarded if you can visit inside.
The building has been constructed over the centuries, but a church was in this spot before the current 18th-century structure that resides here now while the facade has been rebuilt again since, the ornate frescoes inside date back to 1854.
Via degli Assini (Donkey’s Street)
Known as the Donkey’s Street, this old wooden beamed walkway is easy to miss, sitting just to the right of the staircase to the clocktower.
On the level up from the street, this 14th-century defensive walkway would have had horses in stables underneath, while households had their homes behind the arched windows. Nowadays, families still live here, though the defensive purpose is no longer required, and the stables have long gone in favour of cafes.
Award-winning olive oils
The small but well-stocked farmers cooperative in the heart of Brisighella is the perfect place to sample its prized product, Brisighello Olive Oil. These premium bottles, ideal accompaniments to pasta and salads, come in a variety of greens and clearer oils. Some have a peppery taste, others a more delicate finish, but all are equally delicious.
Enjoy a sampling of a handful of the regions most excellent, and although bread will be offered, I learnt during my Spain food tour that sampling straight from the skin, and also smelling your skin to neutralise your senses, is the best way to do so. In this small store you can easily stock up on other regional food treats, and with Emilia Romagna likely being the best food destination in Italy, there is plenty to choose from.
Piazzetta del Monte and the surrounding cute streets
The colourful streets of Brisighella are, in my opinion, reason enough to visit. Not only is everything adorable, from the counter-top cafes to the colourful collections of flowers in plant pots, but as I’ve said above the streets are so quiet you really can soak up and photograph that dreamy Italian village vibe.
The village is small, with streets fanning out from the main piazza where you can follow in my footsteps by eating way too much gelato before lunch!