Good Italian food
There’s no doubt that Italians are passionate about their food. According to our local guide: “Everything is carefully arranged and thought out – it’s all about texture.”
Wandering through Modena’s market only the freshest ingredients are on display. The market bursts with colour from blood-red peppers and Kermit-green lettuces to mushrooms of all shapes and sizes.
Emilia-Romagna has long been one of Italy’s richest gastronomic areas, producing staples such as tomatoes, potatoes and onions, as well as quality products such as Parma
ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar.
If you’re looking for a side dish, though, there’s plenty of history to the region.
The Romans set up garrison towns along the Via Emilia – an ancient road that connects Rome to the north through Bologna, Modena, Reggio-Emilia and Parma.
Without Roman roads, Modena wouldn’t have become the ‘capital of engines’ – spawning the factories for Ferrari, Lamborghini, Masarati, Pagani and De Tomaso. The Ferrari museum is well worth a visit for any Formula 1 fan as it holds the first 1947 125 S Ferrari, as well as the F1-2000 that helped Michael Schumacher win his first of five consecutive world championships with Ferrari.
Sing for your supper
Beyond the fast cars and fancy shops, though, is an ancient town known in Roman times as Mutina. We wander past the 19th-century Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti, renamed after the death of the opera singer, who was a life-long resident of Modena. It’s no surprise the well-rounded tenor was from such a foodie area, being the son of a baker.
Tenor Andrea Bocelli and many others gathered at Modena’s World Heritage-listed cathedral Duomo for Pavarotti’s funeral. Built in 1099, it looms over the Piazza Grande like a white angel. Its Romanesque marble exterior is adorned in sculptured celestial and grotesque reliefs.
Soon enough it was time for the next meal and I wondered would it be local zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) or succulent pork loin fried in the local grape sauce? It didn’t matter. Either way I was going to walk out a stuffed tortellino.
Products from Emilia Romagna must adhere to strict criteria to gain certification.
Balsamic vinegar of modena
What: A thick tangy sweet syrup produced since the Middle Ages.
How it’s made: Juice from the grapes is boiled and stored in wooden barrels, and then continually blended.
Cheap imitation: Commercial balsamic vinegars used for salad dressings.
What: A hard cheese produced in Benedictine monasteries since 1200.
How it’s made: Pure cow’s milk is curdled in huge vats until it is salted and stored.
Cheap imitation: Parmesan is loosely used to describe similar cheese.
What: A sparkling wine produced by the Etruscans and Romans. It’s traditionally dry, but some sweet wines are also made.
How it’s made: It goes through a second fermentation in a pressurized tank.
Cheap imitation: The New World produce medium-sweet ‘Lambrusco’ wines.
» Jo Cackett travelled to Italy with Emilia Romagna Turismo