If for some strange reason I was forced to eat only five different cuisines for the rest of my life, Italian food would be right at the top of that list. It may be hard to believe, considering I’ve turned into a bit of a foodie, but there was a time during my teenage years where my list of preferred foods consisted of only pizza, lasagna, pasta, ribs and cheesecake. Basically, 75% of what I liked was Italian food prepared Canadian style. Salad? Forget about it! Rice? Yuck!
It is funny how your taste buds evolve as you get older. These days I couldn’t fathom visiting a country and not diving deep into its local cuisine. Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to revisit Italy for the second time, this time travelling to the region of Emilia-Romagna. I couldn’t help but chuckle at how my teenage self would be dancing on the ceiling with excitement over the anticipation of eating freshly prepared pasta. Even though my palate has expanded, my excitement for Italian food hasn’t waned a bit.
Two years ago Audrey and I visited Italy for the first time and we couldn’t believe how much better Italian food is in Italy compared to anywhere else in the world. The Italian food I was having at home was like cardboard compared to what I ate in Italy. Now that I mention it, pasta literally does come out of a cardboard box more often than not when served in Canada. In Italy, though, it is all about fresh ingredients, time-tested recipes and big meals shared with friends and family. Wolfing down your food isn’t an option and thank heavens for that. We tried hard to find a bad cappuccino, a lackluster plate of pasta, an inferior risotto; we failed. The food is just that good.
Now come join us as we give you an overview of our time in Emilia-Romagna including our travel and dining experiences.
Bologna Old Town at Night
Although we only had half a day in Bologna, the city really left an impression upon me. Our first activity was to visit Torre Prendiparte. Once a defense tower and prison built in the 12th century, it is now a B&B full of antiques and palpable history. As we climbed up the rickety old steps I kept reminding myself that it was worth it for the views. Although I didn’t feel nearly as nervous as when we did the hot air balloon ride in Costa Brava, it still was quite the climb. Upon reaching the top my jaw almost dropped. Although I’ve visited many impressive cities in terms of architecture and sheer scale, Bologna has one of the most impressive combinations of medieval towers, ancient buildings and impressive churches I’ve ever seen. After having an aperitivo and dinner we walked around the Old Town and I kept telling Audrey that we’d have to come back and revisit.
Italian Cooking at Casa Artusi
Audrey and I both know we’re good at devouring Italian pasta, but how would we fare trying to make it from scratch? Using the excuse that I’d be the photographer/videographer Audrey was the only one who got her hands sticky in the flour and eggs. As she was making pasta from scratch with the help of an instructor, I spent some time wandering around Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli. Pellegrino Artusi, the father of modern Italian cookery penned La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene known as The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well. If you can believe not a single publisher was interested in publishing his book at the time, but today it’s a classic in almost every Italian household!
Wine and Vinegar Tours
After lunch we visited the Drei Donà estate located in between the towns of Forlì, Castrocaro and Predappio in the ancient Romagna hills. After a tour of the premises we sat down to sample the wine and nibble on a few bites. What often impresses me about vineyards in Europe is that they have so much history and are typically family run dating back generations.
We also had the opportunity to visit Acetaia Di Giorgio in Modena. This traditional balsamic vinegar producer prepares its products using traditional methods. When it was time to sample some, I couldn’t believe how rich and flavorful it was. I’ve never had balsamic vinegar that even compares to what they produce.
Enzo Ferrari Museum
Any kid growing up in the 80’s and 90’s remembers seeing iconic Ferraris in at least one of their favorite flicks. For me, it was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Having a chance to tour the collection of vehicles in the museum really gave me a greater appreciation of the style, sophistication and pure muscle of these cars. The engines impressed me the most and I enjoyed that the museum showcased both racing and ‘everyday’ cars. The building itself is built like a Ferrari engine and I think even those with no appreciation or interest in cars would still be impressed by a visit to this museum.
Parmigiano Reggiano Dairy
A visit to Hombre – a Parmigiano Reggiano dairy farm and Panini Private Collection – is a must for anybody stopping in or around Modena. Starting off as just a side-project for Umberto Panini in the 80’s, the Parmigiano-Reggiano farm soon turned into a full-time business. The storage facility, where they keep the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese while it ages, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; there are wheels upon wheels of cheese as far as the eye can see. We were fortunate enough to sample some, and unlike the kind you find in Canada, this was served thick and tasted infinitely better.
Emilia-Romagna Photo Essay
Well that is wrap from Emilia-Romagna! Have you visited this beautiful region of Italy before? What food or travel related activity would you most enjoy trying from our itinerary? Do you have a favorite Italian food? Please let me know in the comments section below:
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, all thoughts remain my own.