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!