Our last visit to Tuscany brought us to another long-awaited visit to the Bologna region. We didn’t have long, so again, we opted to maximize our visit with a Bologna Food Tour! This tour was a great option for us because it included business class train tickets from Florence to Bologna, private transportation, a guide, and all tastings…and lunch! We were really fortunate, because the one we chose on Viator included behind-the-scenes tours with four awesome artisanal food producers, and even included a six-course lunch as well! Should you want a little bit less food, you can skip the winery part of the tour and opt to check out the Ferrari Museum instead, and meet back up for lunch after that with this experience. It was a great day, with some great people!
First, we went to a parmigiano reggiano factory in Parma. We got a tour taking us through every step of the cheesemaking process, and wound up in a room floor-to-ceiling of wheels of “real deal” parm. It is everything you think it would be! We also got the opportunity to taste a couple of cheeses at the end, each one a parmesan but aged for different amounts of time. I was in absolute heaven, and I was even happier when I learned that they had vacuum-packed wedges for us to purchase and easily transport back home! I got a huge chunk for TEN EUROS. I brought mine into work when I got home to share with my coworkers and it was a huge hit!
Then, we went to a three story house off the beaten paths of Parma, and met a family who cures prosciutto on each and every level of the property! These people take their ham (it’s SO MUCH MORE than that) to heart, and from start to finish you are in rooms full of hanging meat (it’s almost too easy….)! What I didn’t know about prosciutto curing is that the part of the ham not covered by the skin is covered with a mixture made from lye and ash to preserve any exposed part(s) of the meat during the curing process. Of course, if you’re familiar with prosciutto then you know by the time it gets to you in your local deli counter or wine bar, that’s all been cleaned off and it’s finally sinfully delicious bites of melt-in-your-mouth saltiness. Life is good!
I know for a fact, because I also got to take a huge chunk of this home for about 12 euros and share it at work, too!
We were fortunate to be able to stop by a small villa where a family produces small batch balsamic vinegar. What most people don’t know is that it’s not the real deal if it has more than ONE ingredient: grape juice/must. It’s not official balsamico acetio di Modena until its aged at least 10 years and bottled into specific bottles designed by the Lamorghini factory! Producers can sell the product for a lower price direct to consumers otherwise, but can only call it balsamic vinegar in that case. We tried some 7-year aged salad vinegar, as well a 10, 15, and 30-year aged variety! We tried them with bread, cheese, and over ice cream! I purchased a bottle of the 15-year aged variety and its interesting that a couple of drops is more than enough when you’re using the good stuff! I also got a bottle of salad vinegar, and it was delicious, too!
Another cool thing is that most families traditionally gift a set of barrels when a baby is born, and you begin the process in the barrels when they arrive! As the batch ages, it gradually goes into the smaller barrels until the finished product is ready. The cloths on the barrels are embroidered with the name of the person the batch is made in honor of. I thought that was a beautiful tradition!
We ended the tour portion of this day trip at a beautiful winery! The estate on the grounds has been around for over 100 years and this is a family-owned winery. The current generation still come and stay in the villa during the summers! This winery specialized in sparkling wines, so it wasn’t feasible to pack any to bring home. They also didn’t ship to the US, but did provide a website with a store locator where we can find their wines state-side. It was a perfect way to round out a day of learning about true Italian artisans and food! A Bologna food tour is where its at! A great way to eat good food, meet good people, and have a good time!