MUSIC lover that I am, I have to confess I had never come across the ocarina, let alone heard one being played. But I was in the right place at the right time for my education in the instrument to both start and be completed - in Budrio near Bologna, in Italy, where it was invented by 17-year-old Giuseppe Donati in the 19th century.

Every two years, the town becomes a place of pilgrimage for ocarina exponents from all over the world, who descend on its streets and venues for the Ocarina Festival, bringing the region alive with concerts and musical entertainment. An instrument dating to Neolithic times, the vessel flute was transformed by Donati from a toy, which only played a few notes, into a more comprehensive instrument.

At the heart of Budrio is a small museum, whose size belies its importance. Comprehensive displays include photographs, records, scores and documents along with examples made by Donati and early20th century pieces made by Cesare Vicinelli, regarded as the Stradivarius of the ocarina.

My introduction to the versatility of the ocarina was at a concert in the elegant 18th-century mansion, Accademia dei Notturni. The Ocarina-Seven from Japan combine instruments of various sizes, from piccolo to double bass, to create an orchestral effect, with a mesmerising harmonious depth. The Mollinella Ocarina Group, from just up the road, gave a thrilling renditions of Rossini's William Tell and contrasting Jesus Christ Superstar. Before the musical feast we enjoyed a culinary one in the ancient cellars of Taverna Tamburini below, offering a wide selection of typical dishes of the region, including tortellini, lasagne and the famous hand-made tagliatelle smothered with ragù bolognese. On the subject of which, do not ask for spaghetti bolognaise here. It is an American confection. Broad tagliatelle, made purely of flour and egg, holds the sauce better and is incomparable.

The evening was one of many highlights of trip to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy as a guest of Bologna Welcome.

The visit started in the charming town of Pieve di Cento, otherwise known as the little Bologna for its long porticoes and pastel colours. Located in the middle of a geographical triangle formed by the region’s better-known cities of Bologna, Modena and Ferrara, the town has much to offer. It is surrounded by imposing city gates dating from the 14th century, with each road leading along arcades to the lively town square, dominated by the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

The peace of this community of 7,000 souls was rudely interrupted by an earthquake in May 2012. Tremors caused the dramatic collapse of the church cupola, with showering debris threatening paintings by renowned Baroque artists like Guercino, Guido Reni and Lavinia Fontana. Experts have done marvels restoring it and it reopened for worship last year.

The Music Museum and Teatro Alice Zeppilli, inaugurated by Guiseppe Verdi in 1856, are in the municipal building of Pieve Cento, Palazzo Comunale. Above the theatre is a shrine to Alice Zeppilli herself, a contemporary of Caruso who sang leading roles in opera houses around the world, before coming to spend her twilight years here. The crafts of guitar and lute making are still taught in a nearby workshop.

Magi900 Museo d’ Arte, in a converted grain silo, boasts over 4,000 works of art amassed by the the industrialist Giulio Bargelline. It is one of the largest collections of contemporary and modern art in Italy. It includes masterpieces by noted Italian artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Alberto Burri, Fortunato Depero, to name but a few. My favourites were the works of metaphysical artist Giorgio di Chirico – terracotta moulds of his figures transformed bold brass renderings. What contemporary art museum would be worth its salt without a Damien Hirst? Indeed, one is spotted. Yes, one of his spotty ones.

We lunched at Villa San Donino. Fried bread and Prosciutto di Parma were washed down with Pignoletto (a step up from proscecco) and fresh and fruity Trebbiano. Exquisite offerings included gnocchi, made from pumpkin and flower, with ricotta and pear, followed by slow cooked pork, (85C for five hours) and beef with black pepper and juniper and laurels (70 degrees for 15 hours). All rounded off with mouth-watering mascarpone and honey.

Another restaurant to recommend is Locanda Pincelli in Molinella. Spaghetti with Jerusalem artichoke roasted with turmeric, black tea, lemon peel mousse and tortellini in meat broth are just some of its specialities.

If you are a foodie then world’s biggest and most varied Italian farmers’ market at FICO Eataly World is just the ticket. Over 9,000sq m packed with every conceivable food from the region.

The Peasant and Farming Culture Museum at Villa Smeraldi gives an insight into the agricultural life of the region, explaining how the tapestry of the countryside was shaped by landowners and sharecroppers.

I stayed in the countryside at Agriturismo La Dondinam, comprising old stables with ancient furniture typical of the countryside, where each room is named after the last horse that lived there.

My visit was completed with a brief visit to Bologna, the seventh largest city in Italy famed for covered porticoes. With a flight to catch, there was just enough time to take in the expansive Piazza Maggiore, dominated by the imposing Basilica San Petronio, followed by a quick wander through the colourful market of the Quadrilotero quarter and a peek at the precariously leaning tower of Garisenda next to the Asinelli, the tallest of the city's towers The city has more than 50 museums to explore. It was a speed date with Bologna itself, but I was smitten and will be back for more.


• Agriturismo La Dondina,, room €55 (breakfast included)

• Bologna Welcome, (Piazza Maggiore 1/e – Bologna)


Museo dell’Ocarina (Via Garibaldi, 35 – Budrio) 

The Museum is located in Via Garibaldi 35, it can be visited from the October 1 to June 10, every Sunday from 15:30 to 18:30, the third Sunday of the month from 10:30 to 12:30 and from 15:30 to 18:30. Info: 051 69 28 306 – 051 69 28 279

              Free entrance – Educational visits and guided tours by appointment

Museo d’Arte MAGI ‘900 (Via Rusticana, 1 - Pieve di Cento)  

Permanent collection + Current exhibitions 

€15 Full 
€10 Reduced (visitors over 65, visitors under 18, students with card, teachers with card, Musei Metropolitani Card holders, Bologna Welcome Card EASY and PLUS holders)
€7 Reduced: group ticket (min. 10 persons.)

Permanent collection

€10 Full

€7 Reduced (visitors over 65, visitors under 18, students with card, teachers with card, Musei Metropolitani Card holders, Bologna Welcome Card EASY and PLUS holders)

€5 Ridotto gruppi (min. 10 persons.)

FICO Eataly World (Via Paolo Canali, 8 – Bologna) 
The world’s largest food park (100.000 sqm). Free entrance.

Museo della Civiltà Contadina (The Peasant and Farming Culture Museum)
(Via Sammarina, 35 – Bentivoglio) 
Entrance notes
Full (18-60 years old) € 4,00
Reduction (14-18 years old, seniors over 60,  Bologna Welcome Card holders) € 2,00 
Free (children under the age of 14, disabled visitors and their assistants, Musei Metropolitani Card owners

Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Opera House) (Largo Respighi, 1 – Bologna)

Ticket: €8,00


Ristorante Villa San Donino (Via Centese, 278 – Argelato) 

Ristorante Locanda Pincelli (Via Selva, 52 – Molinella)

Ristorante Locanda Smeraldi (Via S. Marina – Bentivoglio) 

Ristorante Taverna Tamburini (Via Armiggia, 42 – Bagnarola di Budrio)

Osteria del Cappello (Via de’ Fusari, 9 – Bologna)