On May 2nd, 2022 I embarked on a Journey of food discovery and experiences to one of my favorite destinations: Italy 🇮🇹
I was lucky enough to begin my tour #inemiliaromagna and add a new authentic discovery to my food trips map: Modena! Situated right in the middle of the Italian Food corridor; which runs from Bologna, the father of Italian food to Parma, the home of ham…
Modena is a city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It’s known for its most precious Black gold in the world: its balsamic vinegar and has numerous claims to fame, not only is it the hometown of the late and great world famous Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti but is the hometown of Ferrari, Maserati and Pagani.The Enzo Ferrari Museum, its nearby Parmigiano Reggiano factories and many other interesting destinations were on my list suggested with offered tours by @visitmodena @modenatur that welcomed me warmly #inemiliaromagna!
I stayed at Central Park Hotel, a well positioned 4 stars hotel situated 10 minutes walk from the historic center of Modena with an outstanding service from all staff that speak English fluently and are very helpful. The room was very clean, soundproofed with a bed featuring premium bedding.
The Breakfast buffet is very rich and offers a nice selection of savory and sweet options.
Isabella Pellicia, from Modena’s Office of Tourism was waiting for me upon my arrival for a guided tour in the city center.I spent an enriching afternoon in her company learning historic facts and food facts about an elegant and affluent city, in the mid north west of Italian Peninsula, with 185.000 inhabitants, well-maintained, well-endowed with parks and culture.
Like most cities in Emilia-Romagna, Modena is graced with miles of porticoes that lend class and keep you dry or cool depending on the whims of the weather!
Walking through the narrow atmospheric cobbled streets into the sleepy piazzas you can really get lost in the sense of Italian history that Modena displays through its architecture! Modena flourished under Roman rule but then went into a steady decline until the ruling family d’Este made it their home and set about modernizing the city.
My first pit stop was at the Office of Tourism of Modena where I got to meet and greet the lovely team and Francesca that actually welcomed me with a very precious gift!
A 12 Years Old aged Black Gold bottle of Aceto Balsamico di Modena! From the traditional Balsamic Vinegar production (Acetaia Comunale di Modena) that is located under the roof of the Palazzo Comunale (town hall).
There are many acetaia to visit in the area of Modena and there is the Balsamic vinegar Museum which is located in Villa Fabriani in Spilamberto that I will hopefully visit next time!
I am preciously keeping this bottle that is numbered 23 out of 100 bottles that have been aged for the past 12 Years 😍
Aceto di Balsamico was used to treat and heal many discomforts and diseases as its main active compound is acetic acid which contains strains of probiotic bacteria that can enable healthy digestion and improve gut health.The antioxidants in balsamic have the potential to protect against heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions.
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) was born in Modena and is considered one of the finest bel canto opera singers of the 20th century. One of his secrets 🤫 was drinking a shot of Aceto Balsamico di Modena before each performance!
Another emblematic Modenese is the world’s number one chef Massimo Bottura that keeps on celebrating his hometown through his inspirational dishes because “balsamic vinegar runs in his blood and his bones are made of Parmigiano Reggiano”. Modena to his eyes is the land of slow food and fast cars, a tradition of excellence.
I got the chance to meet Chef Massimo Bottura in Dubai at the Gulf food exhibition held in 2020 and was hoping to see him again in Modena at Osteria Francescana (Voted 2016’s best restaurant in the world). Unfortunately there were no places and I took that as a sign for me to go back again to Modena, book ahead of time in order to enjoy this once in a lifetime memorable experience!
If you’re a fan of Chef’s table documentary on Netflix you’ve most probably watched the episode about Chef Massimo Bottura and know how this world-renowned chef saved his town’s economy with cheese and rice !
In May 2012, two earthquakes hit the Emilia-Romagna in Italy with devastating force; the warehouse where stacks and stacks of Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels were stocked was destroyed:: 360,000 wheels of cheese amounting to just over 200$ million were damaged.
The consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano (official delegation in charge of safeguarding the cheese’s quality) was looking for a solution and turned to Chef Massimo.
He created his spin on a classic recipe a social gesture: cacio e Pepe to create his own risotto cacio e Pepe (instead of using pecorino he used Parmigiano and rice instead of pasta).And debuted this risotto during “Parmigiano-Reggiano night”: a fundraiser where people gathered online to eat this delicious dish at the same time (October 27, 2012).
The weeks leading up to this online fundraiser the recipe was shared all over social media and made its way to culinary hotspots all over the world: from New York to Tokyo.
All 360,000 wheels of damaged Parmigiano/Reggiano were sold out.No one lost a job.No cheese maker closed the doors.
Speaking about Parmigiano-Reggiano, I was invited by the consortium Parmigiano-Reggiano to visit Caseificio San Giorgio in Carpi (a beautiful town in the north of Modena) and to discover the making of this traditional cheese!
Parmigiano Reggiano is made, not produced.
For 1000 years it has been made with nothing but milk, Calf rennet and salt.
Those are the first steps of the making of this unique cheese.
They are followed by the application of a casein plate by the cheese maker, a unique alphanumeric code that identifies each wheel allowing it to be traced finally a marking brand is applied to the cheese overnight. Leaving an imprint on the cheese bearing the marks of origin.
The famous dotted Parmigiano Reggiano inscription, the dairy registration number and the Month and year of production.
The next steps are shared in this video:
Parmigiano Reggiano is a ‘hard paste’ cheese, characterized by low water content and an aging period that can vary from a minimum of 12 months to well over 30.
This specialty is produced in the provinces of the Italian cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua (on the right of the Po river) and Bologna (on the left of the Reno river). It’s the fruit of a very ancient tradition, begun in the Middle Ages by Benedictine and Cistercian monks. Both the quality of its ingredients and the way it’s prepared have remained unchanged over time: not surprisingly, Parmigiano Reggiano has been awarded the PDO Denomination, whose main purpose is to protect its unique features.
Thank You Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano for the tour and this memorable experience!
My next destination on that same day was to one of Italy’s oldest balsamic vinegar producer: Acetaia Giusti!
Since the 17th century, the Giusti family has been producing Balsamic Vinegar. Learning more about this history and tradition helped me gain perspective and look at balsamic vinegar differently appreciating the real ones made solely in Modena !
I discovered how this elixir is made from grape must and wine vinegars from sustainable agriculture and traditionally slow cooked grape must(minimum temperature 80 degrees) is mixed with wine vinegars in casks from different woods and varying sizes.
The tasting session of different aged bottles was really surprising. I never expected balsamic vinegar tasting to be that impressive with each bottle having different notes, flavors, bodies and different long or mild finishes.
A traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena will always be natural without added sugar, coloring or additives and will always abide by regulations governing the production to be sealed PDO (Protected designation of Origin) & PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) to guarantee their quality and authenticity. After more than 12 years it will be judged by the serious Consortium of the producers of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and if it makes the grade it will be bottled with the distinctive seal to guarantee its authenticity!
Unlike wine, balsamic vinegar is not aged in the basement or cellar but rather in the attics of homes in Modena.Temperature variations (cold in winter, heat in summer) are essential for the product to become fully mature.
I also learnt about a tradition of new barrels started at the birth of a child and given away at weddings, 25 years later and made according to the regulations of the consortiums in the Modena and Reggio-Emilia regions that is still running in some families.
I finally understood what’s in a 5$ bottle of balsamic vinegar:: wine vinegar with added grape must, caramel, often artificial flavors and more.. And from now on can’t but use in my recipes, a traditional balsamic vinegar produced in Modena and can’t but recommend it, to my followers and viewers from Lebanon, Dubai and the Middle East as discussed during this live segment on TV upon my return from this magical trip!
As soon as I came back to the city center I headed to Mercato Albinelli, Modena’s covered market built in the 1920’s. The market offers a selection of the best produce, cheeses, cold cuts, fresh pasta as well as gourmet stands.
Only in Italy will you meet and greet strangers that turn out to be artists !
Was lovely meeting Andrea Govogovoni and Gianluca Derubertis 🎶🤩😂
The best Gelato you can enjoy in Modena will surely be at Gelateria Bloom where you can discover surprising new flavors!
And the must have Amaretto cookies at Forno San Biagio!
I ended my day at Archer, a very unique wine bar situated on the cobblestoned street of Cesare Battisi, offering a large selection of wines and a delicious menu!
I really enjoyed Old wines, old Italian recipes in the company of a dear friend from Modena, Michela!
As we always save the best for last, on my last day I visited the Ferrari Museum! And that was just another incredible experience that I highly recommend 😉
The museum includes as well a new building designed with a shiny yellow aluminium roof made to look like the hood of a car, air vents and all. The house is attached to the workshop of Ferrari’s father, a carpenter and mechanic for the Italian railway.
At the age of 22, Enzo Ferrari sold the house where he was born to buy a race car. He failed in several attempts later in life, to buy back that house… In 2012, it became a museum dedicated to his memory.Like Enzo, the museum did not manage to buy the building where he was born; it obtained a long-term lease.
Back to the city center for another Aperitivo.
And some more Aceto Balsamico, cheeses, cold cuts and glasses of vino!
Thank You Modena, You’ve been too good to me ! A big Thank You goes to the Office of Tourism in Modena and Modenatur for helping me create those beautiful memories, learning about all those food facts and stories and giving me the opportunity to share them with you ❤️ Travel is indeed the only thing you pay for that makes you Richer !!
Before your next visit to Modena, please check Visit Modena’s website :
A la prossima volta, Modena !