Emilia-Romagna: Great food, stunning architecture – and some

Emilia-Romagna is the broad region that borders Liguria, Lombardy and Tuscany in the north-west of Italy and cuts over to the Adriatic coast between the Veneto and Le Marche. This agricultural heartland marks Italy's transition from the chilly Alps of the north to the warmth of the Mediterranean south, and you can see this in the rich and varied cuisine and landscapes. The fertile plains of the river Po – known as the Pianura Padana – make up the northern half of the region, while the forest-covered Apennine mountains cover most of the south. Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy's most prosperous areas and home to some of the country's most appealing cities, including Bologna, Parma, Modena and Ferrara. Even Italians from other regions admit that Emilia-Romagna has the best food, especially its ham and cheese – more lyrically known as prosciutto di Parma and parmigiano reggiano.

Salad of Parma ham, figs, tomatoes, dates and basil

This salad is simple and light, comprising ripe, sweet, summer dates pinned down with the slightly salty flavour of the Parma ham. Heritage tomatoes are not difficult to find these days and the basil here I have seemed to grow very easily this year in my garden at home. You don't have to use either these tomatoes or the basil – but do make sure the ingredients are ripe.

Emilia Romagna: they keep a welcome in these hillsides

She was born in Britain, but her roots are Italian. That's why top chef Angela Hartnett likes to regularly visit her grandmother's village in northern Italy. It's also home to some great food. Interview by Andy Lynes

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