Tasty Travel Tales From A Foodie’s Tour of Emilia-Romagna

As a prolific food blogger and editor, Cynthia David (@cynthiadavid) has trekked the globe in search of the perfect bite. This time, her adventures have landed her in Italian food paradise – Emilia-Romagna.

Cynthia David, celebrated food writer and world traveler, recently took on the sprawling, picturesque region that’s celebrated as the birthplace of modern Italian cuisine. Read on for Cynthia’s sparkling account of her travels, from the sophisticated streets of Modena and Bologna to rolling hills of the Emilia countryside.

Vineyards

Along Via Emilia, the ancient Roman road that runs from Rimini on the Adriatic coast to Piacenza on the River Po, Italians are keeping their ancient food traditions alive.

Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, is famous for its leaning towers and deliciously indulgent cuisine. We enjoyed mortadella and pasta fresca (fresh pasta) in the form of homemade tortellini, which we wrapped around our fingers during a cooking class at the Cultura Italiana Bologna Cucina. Stuffed with a dab of savoury pork, the rings of pasta are cooked briefly and served in chicken broth as a light first course. This tasty dish is easy to replicate at home with pasta secca (dried pasta).

Pasta

In elegant Modena, we climbed to the attic of the Acetaia di Giorgio, the Barbieri family villa where Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP ages in wooden barrels. After harvesting their grapes in the fall, the Barbieris gently press, cook and ferment the must to fill their barrels. Every year, as the fresh juice ages and evaporates, a little from the largest barrel is transferred to the next-sized barrel, and down the line to the diminutive 15-litre barrel where the first of the dark, syrupy elixir is extracted after 12 years.

Giorgio Barbieri began studying the centuries-old method as a hobby. Now he and his wife Giovanna, both former teachers, sell their 12 and 25-year-old Balsamico around the world. To savour its complex flavours, Giovanna recommends sprinkling a few drops over aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a green salad or even a bowl of strawberries.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegard

Just outside the city, Hombre dairy farm founder Umberto Panini began making organic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with a handful of cows in the early 1980s. Nothing is wasted here: the whey is fermented to start the next day’s batch, and the cream that rises from the evening milk is churned into butter. Locals use the leftover rind to flavour hearty soups.

At chef Massimo Spigaroli’s Michelin-starred restaurant on the banks of the Po River, Italy’s celebrated cured meats are on full display. Lunch starts with a board of tissue-thin Culatello di Zibello DOP, Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Coppa Piacentina DOP and Pancetta Piacentina DOP from dark, cool basement cellars dating back to the Middle Ages.

Prosciutto

To ensure every meal is a celebration, Emilia’s rich fare is paired with local wines, from sparkling red Lambrusco DOC to white Pignoletto DOC. They are produced by passionate winemakers like Giovanna Luzzano, who gave up her Milan law practice to make fine wines on her family’s estate outside Piacenza.

Thanks to this amazing group of people, dedicated to keeping the traditions of Emilia-Romagna alive in an increasingly automated world, authentic Italian food and wines are available all over the world.

Check out a visual recap of Cynthia’s Emilia-Romagna experience on Made In Italy’s official Facebook page. “Like” us for tips, tricks and insider insight on authentic Italian cuisine!

Buon appetito!

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