This is piggybacking off of 006’s apology, but in my haste to document my perfect day in Cinque Terre, I failed to cover my awesome day trip the weekend before!
Two Saturdays ago, my school ran an extracurricular trip to Emilia Romagna for tours and tastings at a caseficio and an acetaia outside of Modena to explore the process of producing the region’s world-famous parmigiano reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Between the two site visits, we stopped in the city of Modena to walk around and grab some lunch.
After about an hour and a half ride outside of Florence, we started at the 4 Madonne caseficio dell’Emilia to learn about the production of parmigiano reggiano. 4 Madonne actually produces about 2% of the world’s parmigiano reggiano with just 30 employees. The only parmigiano reggiano I’d ever had was grated and prepackaged, so to learn about the entire process start to finish was pretty special. It was so incredible to see the workers manipulating the cheese at every step in the 12-38 month process, pouring all of their care and attention into the process. At the end of the tour, we tasted 12, 24, and 36 month cheese. The age changes the cheese drastically, and while all three were delicious, I opted to buy the 18-month-old cheese- a perfect blend of the crumbliness of the 24-month cheese with the smoothness of the 12-month cheese.
For lunch, we drove a few minutes to the city of Modena, one of the most famous cities in the gastronomy giant that is Emilia Romagna. When ordering food in Modena, you really can’t go wrong, since they follow heavily in the Italian tradition of heavily regional menus- nothing will be on the menu that isn’t a specialty of wherever you are. In this case, nearly everything is a specialty, especially at Trattoria Il Fantino, where I opted for ricotta and spinach tortelloni with a butter sage sauce and a glass of gutturnio, a sparkling red wine that is a crowd favorite among Emilians. The food was incredible, as expected, although I feel like you’d be hard-pressed to find bad food in Modena.
We finished our afternoon at Acetaia Malpighi, one of the only certified producers of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) in the entire world. I didn’t know this before the tour, but apparently the balsamic we all buy in the grocery store is sadly pretty artificial. Most balsamic vinegar is classified as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which may sound official, but is actually a product made with lots of sugar and additives and made in China but bottled in Modena so that they may use Modena’s name to market. The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale made in Acetaia Malpighi uses only one ingredient; cooked grape juice. This cooked grape juice is left to reduce and ferment in wooden barrels that are passed down from generation to generation, containing flavor from the batches that came before them. As the balsamic reduces, it changes barrels, and the different wood used to make each barrel adds a new layer to the flavor. After learning about the process, we tasted the difference between several types of balsamic vinegar. The older the balsamic is, the sweeter and thicker it gets, so I chose to pick up a bottle of 25-year-old balsamic vinegar for my parents, since I knew my dad would flip out over just how good it tasted. For myself, I got a bottle of white balsamic vinegar, made from white grapes and cured for a shorter period of time. It’s the only salad dressing I use now and I have no idea what I’m going to do when I run out!!
One of the reasons I was so excited to come to Italy in the first place was to try out all the amazing homegrown food, and this was such an awesome experience. I was amazed at the amount of care and attention put into every single aspect of the process, and I think especially nowadays it’s so important to care about what you eat. I definitely am motivated to go check out more tours like this!!
I know I said to expect more blog posts this week but I’m serious this time! I have to fill you in on ziplining/paddleboarding in Lucca and Oktoberfest before I head to Paris, Galway, Belfast, and Dublin this week.