The region of Emilia-Romagna is one of only a few provinces in Italy that does not touch the sea.What the region may lack in that access, it more than makes up for in the diversity and quality of its artisan products and meals. This is the heart of Italy’s very best food. The centrally located provincial capital, Bologna, is easily reached in only forty-fives minutes by train from Florence. In addition to being home to the oldest university in Italy, the city also offers unforgettable architecture, fascinating history and the most delicious food in all of Italy.
If you wish to understand the production of this region’s best products, you need look no further than Emilia-Delizia. (http://www.guided-tours-italy.com/). Gabriele Monti and his staff provide exceptional service and offer a wide array of tours and tastings to satisfy the most demanding ‘foodies’ in the world.
Our clients have enjoyed spending the day with Sabrina, one of the guides who works with Gabriele, on several tours to this region. Sabrina arranged the following schedule, one which you can easily follow on your own. I do highly recommend, however, arranging for a private guide and car. Your insured and bonded guide from Emilia-Delizia will also offer to join you in your rental car to assist in getting around to these various locations.
We drove to the city of Parma about a forty-five minute drive north west of Bologna. After meeting Sabrina, we visited one of the finest producers of Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy-Consorzio produttori latte (C.p.l. Parma) (www.cplparma.it), located on the outskirts of that city. Sabrina easily explained the initial process of creating the cheese. It was not, however, until we entered the aging storage shelves in the rear of the building that we came to truly understand both the time involved in the aging of the cheese, but also the immense value of the product. Each wheel is valued at over Euro 800 and there were more than 800 such wheels in the warehouse. We followed our visit with a tasting of their cheeses. The true Reggiano had a sharp, almost vinegar ‘tang’, on the palate. The texture was dense but not heavy at all.
(Remember that you cannot bring food products back to the United States unless they are plastic sealed and have the commercial designation of the product on the container. Unless you wish to enjoy the cheese while you are in Italy, I recommend buying your Parmigiano at home.)
From the producer of cheeses, Sabrina brought us up into the hills above Parma to Salumificio “La Perla”(The Pearl). (www.salumificiolaperla.it ). For over twenty years, brothers Carlo and Fabrizio Lanfranchi have been producing what is acknowledged as the finest dried Parma ham (prosciutto) in the region. Our drive from the cheese producer took about forty minutes.
Located near the top of a lovely hill, the family’s estate consists of a ham aging warehouse below a large restaurant. After an introduction to the receiving, preparation and aging of the hams, we were lead upstairs for lunch. The food was unforgettable: a selection of their best prosciutto di Parma followed by several dishes of Tortellini in Brodo (freshly made pasts lightly covered in a broth of butter and sage). Dessert was a tray with various types of sweets produced in their immaculately clean kitchen. Wines, both white and red, along with ample fresh water, accompanied our meal. Coffee was available as desserts were presented.
Well satiated, we left La Perla behind and headed to one of the finest producers of Balsamic vinegar in Italy, Medici. (www.acetaiamedici.it). An acetaia, in Italian, is where balsamic vinegar is aged. As with all artisan products produced in Italy, the quality control of the process for producing aged balsamic is tightly controlled.
All vinegars that carry the Balsamico di Modena certification are aged a minimum of twelve years. In the case of the Medici acetaia, there are three levels of production: Red (18 years), Silver (25 years) and Gold (30 years). Signora Medici introduced us to the initial process of creating the vinegar. We visited the upstairs room where the barrels rested. As with all such acetaias, this was located in a high room where heat can rise and keep the room at a reasonably warm temperature, even in the coldest months of the year.
All barrels have a small opening at the top. Across each opening is a simple linen cloth cover. This is a labor intensive, and loving, process. Each year, product is moved from barrel to barrel as the liquid evaporates. As the product ages, the level of liquid is reduced to a precious small amount. Different types of wood (cherry, oak, juniper, apple to chestnut) provide unique flavors and aromas to the balsamic.
Signora Medici offered everyone a sample of their products. The dark vinegar is as thick as syrup, luscious on the tongue, further supplemented by sweet aromas. As we savored the “Red” level to “Gold”, the flavors became richer, more diverse and extraordinarily more complex. Once you have the original, you can never go back.
The Medici family also produce an array of wonderful wines and, for those interested, tastings can be arranged.
After bidding farewell to Sabrina, we headed back to our hotel in Bologna, the Hotel Porta San Mamolo (www.hotel-portasanmamolo.it/). This property is consistently rated one of the best hotels in the city. Located on the south perimieter of the medieval city walls at the San Mamolo gate (hence the property’s name) the staff are extraordinarily courteous and accommodating. The rooms are comfortably spacious and the breakfast buffet each morning more than adequate.
All told, our day in Emilia Romagna barely even began to satisfy our craving for the incredible produce of the region. Yet, all was easily accomplished with the guidance of Sabrina and the support of the staff at Emilia-Delizia. If you are headed from Florence to Venice, or vice-verse, give yourself the gift of visiting this extraordinary, and little known, region of Italia.
As we headed north to Vicenza, the next stop on our tour, we vowed to return – and soon!
TO ARRANGE GUIDED VISITS IN EMILIA_ROMAGNA (Cooking Classes, too!)
Contact: Gabriele Monti
IF YOU GO ON YOUR OWN
Hotel Porta San Mamolo, Bologna:
Vicolo del Falcone, 6/8
40124 Bologna, Italia
Telefono. +39 051.583056
Fax +39 051.331739
Consorzio Produttori Latte Parma: (C.p.l. Parma)
Call ahead for open hours for visits
Spaccio baganzolino: Via Puppiola,15 43122 Parma – Tel. 0521.601313 Fax.0521.603742
Spaccio orario continuato: Via Casello Poldi, 7- Tel. 0521.272965
Salumificio La Perla:
Call head for lunch reservations to assure you of a table and guided visit.
SALUMIFICIO “LA PERLA” di Lanfranchi Carlo e Fabrizio S.n.c.
Localita’ Quinzano sotto, 3 – 43013 Langhirano (PARMA)
Telephone and Fax: +39 0521 853572
Acetaia Medici, Tenuta Rampata:
Call ahead for hours:
Strada per S.Ilario, 68
42027 Montecchio Emilia (RE) – Italia