I just got back from a whirlwind tour of Emilia-Romagna, Italy where I spent 90% of my waking hours eating, drinking, and learning about regional foods and dishes. It was a fun trip, and according to the waistband on my jeans, it was also a delicious trip!
Today on the blog I’m going to share my favourite food experiences from that visit. The places I went to are kind of spread out across Emilia-Romagna, so this is a good itinerary for anyone planning a mini Italian road trip. The distances aren’t that long, but having a vehicle will give you the flexibility to do farm stays, enjoy dinners in countryside castles, and visit producers that are located in more rural regions. Now let’s get to it!
Travel in Emilia-Romagna
Tasting the real Parmigiano-Reggiano
Parmigiano-Reggiano; it’s been called the King of Cheeses and it is mighty good stuff! This cheese has to be aged for a minimum of 2 years, and for the name Parmigiano-Reggiano to be stencilled on the rind, it needs to have been produced in the areas of Bologna, Mantua, Modena or Parma (which is where the cheese originated). Now you know how to identify the real deal.
After eating Parmigiano-Reggiano almost every day, it was nice to finish up my trip to Emilia-Romagna with a visit to Hombre, an organic farm that produces delicious cheese! Apparently the owner spent some time travelling in Chile during his younger years and the slang stuck (hombre means man in Spanish, but it gets tossed into almost every sentence).
The best part about this visit was going into the storage room where they have rows upon rows of shelves filled with golden wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano waiting for the ageing process to be completed. Getting locked in here with thousands of wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano would be every cheese lover’s dream; that or you could just pick up some of their cheese at the gift shop on your way out.
Address: Via Corletto Sud 320, Modena
Sampling traditional balsamic vinegar
My tastebuds have been awakened! Let me tell you, the supposed balsamic vinegar I’ve been having my whole life is nothing like what I tasted in Modena.
Acetaia de Giorgio is set in the old mansion of the 14 Barbieri Brothers, and they have been making traditional balsamic vinegar inside its walls for generations.
The traditional vinegar making process is quite interesting and it basically involves transferring a little bit of vinegar from one barrel to the next and topping up the others. The vinegar is aged in these barrels for a minimum of 12 years, and the end result has been described as black gold (which in turn explains the price tag)! It is thicker, richer, and fruitier than anything I’ve picked up in a supermarket shelf. I also learned that you don’t put this on your salad; just a few drops on steak, risotto, or even gelato will do.
The mansion is open for tours; you just need to send them an email in advance and they’ll show you around and also offer you a tasting.
Address: Via Sandro Cabassi 67, Modena
Spending the night at an agriturismo
As the name suggests, an agriturismo is a stay that combines agriculture and tourism, but don’t let the first part scare you – this does not mean you’ll be put to work on a farm! Instead, an agriturismo is all about getting a glimpse at ‘living locally’ by doing a farm-style stay in rural areas. An agriturismo could be set on a fruit orchard, a working farm, a winery, or any type of land that has an agricultural component attached to it.
One thing that I really liked about the agriturismos is that they are usually quite small with only a handful of rooms, which means you can get to know your hosts, who in turn give you a little glimpse into the region. Another bonus is that most agriturismos also include meals, so you get to enjoy home-cooked dishes in a very casual setting.
This was my second time staying at an agriturismo and this time we checked into La Sabbiona, a holiday farm set on a working vineyard, with some additional land used to grow grains, fruits and olives. This meant that when we had dinner in the evening, we got to enjoy their wine as well as some delicious figs and olives straight from their farm. Also, I have to say, the family had the sweetest border collie, which made me enjoy the stay even more!
Address: Via di Oriolo 10, Faenza
Tasting Culatello di Zibello in a castle
Antica Corte Pallavicina is a 14th-century castle set on the banks of the Po River, and the main reason for our visit was to try the Culatello di Zibello. Culatello is one of the most prized salumi in Italy, and the town of Zibello, with its fog and cold winters, makes it the perfect place for ageing the meat so that the end result is sweet and fragrant.
While I didn’t get to spend the night here, I feel like I got to do the next best thing: have a meal at the castle! We ordered “Spigaroli’s carving board” which featured various cold cuts of meat, Parmigiano-Reggiano, focaccia bread, a vegetable pasta, homemade desserts, and sparkling red wine, which was a new thing for me.
Address: Strada del Palazzo Due Torri 3, Polesine Parmense
Learning to make pasta by hand
We can’t speak of Italy without mentioning pasta, and better yet a pasta making class so you can take some culinary skills back home with you!
I typically prefer to do more of the eating and less of the cooking, but the pasta making class at Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli was a lot of fun. I was drawn right in from the beginning, hearing the life story of Pellegrino Artusi, a businessman who decided to follow his two passions – Italian cooking and writing – and ended up becoming ‘the father of modern Italian cooking’.
Making pasta turned out to be surprisingly easy – who knew you only need two ingredients? We were each paired with a volunteer who taught us how to make different pasta shapes, and then at the end of it all, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of tagliatelle. You can read more about the pasta making class here.
Address: Via Andrea Costa 23-27, Forlimpopoli
And that’s a whirlwind food tour of Emilia-Romagna! I only had a handful of days there, so there’s only so much I could eat, but I hope some of these food experiences will give you a tiny glimpse at what the region has to offer all you foodies out there. For a deeper look at what we did on the trip – climbing medieval towers, touring the Enzo Ferrari Museum, and getting into the wine – check out the video below!
Have you travelled in Emilia-Romagna?
Where there any foods or culinary experiences that stood out to you?
This post was brought to you as a result of the #EuroFoodTrip campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Costa Brava & Girona Pyrenees and Emilia Romagna Tourism. As always, I retain full editorial control of everything published.