Advice on travel in Italy - specifically, Emilia Romagna Road

Hi all -- we're going to Italy for our 20th anniversary in September (sans kids!) and plan to travel west to east along the Emilia Romagna Road before turning off and going to Venice. We plan to stay 2-3 days each in Piacenza, Modena, and Bologna. If anyone has accommodation recommendations, or even neighborhood recommendations, please let me know. We're looking for less touristy areas to stay and medium-end (not budget but nothing fancy) accommodations. Open to airbnb, bnb, small hotels, or agriturisma. We'll be renting a car. Would also love suggestions on any must-visit restaurants in the region, especially hole-in-the-wall and mom-and-pop type places. Thanks in advance!

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Just popping in to say that Mantua is a really special town that you shouldn't miss as you make your way!

This isn't a post about travel per se, but if you like to read mysteries, Donna Leon has a fantastic very cerebral detective series set in Venice. She's lived there for ages and apparently uses real Venetian dialect. I haven't been to Venice in years but the books capture the beauty and challenges of the city. Everyone I know I've suggested the books to loves them, and it's kind of cool to read one right before you go. 

Bologna has some of the best food I've ever had. It's been about 10 years since we were there, but I remember Osteria al 15 as a particularly amazing meal. No English was spoken, but it didn't matter, they just put us at a table and brought out plates of incredible food for us to try. And of course, you cannot miss the gelato. My personal favorite was Venchi, but it was all amazing. Enjoy!