While sleek, fast cars like Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini are all exported from the Emilia Romagna motor valley in Italy, we came seeking more satiating exports like Prosciutto di Parma Ham, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and traditional balsamic vinegar among other things.
Our five-day tour of the region had us tasting our way through Italy with stops at Unesco World Heritage Sites, art cities and wineries along the way.
We flew into Bologna - our first leg of the trip. The Hotel Commercianti, an Art Hotel located in the center of the city, was home base.
The Art Hotels are family owned. There are four properties within the city, some of which date back more than 100 years. The Hotel Commercianti is located in the shadow of Basilica di San Petronio and is within walking distance to many area attractions. This enchanting medieval hotel offers elegant rooms with wooden beams and even frescos in some suites.
One we had settled in, we set off for an evening walking tour. We ventured to the city center where we set our sights on the breathtaking Basillica San Peronio – a 400-year-old church. While the church is technically still a work in progress, Basillica San Peronio boasts a beautiful façade and awe-inspiring frescos – a must see for visitors to Bologna. The church hosts the world’s biggest sundial, built in 1655. It is not an object, but a meridian line created with a precise hole in the roof which allows light to move along the floor.
Il Salotto di Penelpe was the first stop on our second day in Bologna where we enjoyed a cooking class. Owners Barbara and Valeria graciously welcomed us to their cooking school which can accommodate up to 8 students comfortably. Here we were taught the art of making pasta, gnocci and Bolognese sauce. Once we finished cooking we reaped the rewards of our hard work as we all sat together and enjoyed the wonderful meal we had crafted by hand.
By afternoon we were off to our next stop – gelato making at Carpigiana. This world-renowned school hosts more than 2,500 students each year; however, groups who are interested may schedule a two-hour class and tasting.
For dinner we made our way to Cantina Bentivioglio – a restaurant, wine bar and jazz club which opens daily for dinner. Be sure to enjoy their award-winning tortellini and sparkling white wine!
Upon waking, we set off for the hills near Ravenna where the farm owners of Azienda Agrituristica La Sabbiona taught us to make piadina, a thin Italian flatbread traditional to the region. Book a room for an overnight stay and take advantage of the onsite winery where guests can fill a 5-liter jug with wine for just one euro.
Next, we drove to Brisighella, a beautiful medieval city. We stopped at Terra di Brisighella for a tasting of the region’s famous olive oil produced with olives grown in the region. Groups are invited to make reservations for a tasting of olive oils and charcuterie. Guests may also visit the mill to view production.
As the day came to an end we made our way to The Palace Hotel, a stunning seaside resort in Cervia, where we would be spending the night. The resort overlooks the Adriactic Sea and boasts a beautiful swimming pool and terrace, a spa, beach access, and more.
Day 4 took us to Ravenna where there were once more than 200 churches. While there we took a walking tour of some of the main attractions including Basilica of San Vitale, the mosaics of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Basilica of San Francesco (Dante’s tomb) and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. After completing our tour, we made one last stop at KOKO Mosaico – a mosaic gallery and art school. While most attendees come to study for a full week, KOKO Mosaico also offers 2-3 hour classes for those interested. I could not resist purchasing a small mosaicin the pattern found in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Stunning.
For lunch we found ourselves sitting inside a fifteenth-century building in the heart of Ravenna. At Ca ‘de Ven menus are offered in English. This is the perfect spot if you are looking for some place to the take the whole family or a large group.
In Italy, history and charm abound and the fishing port of Censenatico is a prime example. Censenatico dates back to 1302 and its port canal was the direct creation of Leonardo da Vinci. Walk off your lunch as you take in the view or stop at the shops along the water.
La Buca welcomed us for dinner after a wonderful day spent in and around Ravenna. The kitchen at La Buca is surrounded by windows so guests can watch as expert chefs prepare your meal. The restaurant is one of four owned by Stefano Barolini and fresh seafood is their specialty.
While food was our main focus our trip would not be complete without a stop at the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena. Learn about Enzo Ferrari’s passion for racing and the start of Ferrari and tour the show room featuring beautiful Ferraris.
After admiring luxury vehicles, we ventured to Modena Cathedral – a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most important symbols of romantic art in all of Europe. The cathedral was built in 1099 and is the burial site of Saint Geminianus.
Upon leaving Modena Cathedral, we found a traditional Modenese menu at Ristorante Da Danilo where we stopped for lunch. The restaurant offers a buffet of local dishes like tortellini di ricotta and spinach, gnocco firtto with salumi and zupa inglese dessert and Lambrusco.
Soon after lunch we drove to the Villa di Corlo winery, managed by Antonio Jacobazzi who makes both wine and traditional balsamic vinegar. The vinegar is kept in wooden barrels where it ferments. To be considered traditional Modena balsamic vinegar, it must ferment for no less than 12 years. The longer the vinegar ferments, the sweeter it gets. Guests can visit the private home by booking a trip in advance. Wine tastings as well as vinegar tastings are offered.
After a fantastic five-day food tour, we spent our last night at the absolutely beautiful Opera 02 – an upscale hotel, restaurant and winery. The owner, Erico Montnari, started his business 30 years ago when he began producing vinegar. Today his main business is wine making. Our stay at Opera 02 was the perfect end to a perfect trip.
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