Delicious Emilia-Romagna is a region north of Florence and south of Milan and stretching along the Adriatic Sea from just south of Venice down to San Marino — an independent microstate completely surrounded by Italy. During Roman times, the main road — the Via Emilia — ran through Parma, Modena, and Bologna, all the way to Rimini. Parma and Bologna are but two cities in the region who’ve lent their names to tasty Italian delicacies.
ManAboutWorld covered Emilia Romagna in its most recent issue which you can download here. Get a taste of the region through these top five food experiences brought to you by ManAboutWorld correspondent, Italy food expert and tour operator, Sean Timberlake.
- Most people know of the famed truffle festival in Alba, but there are other, less-known sagre del tartufo that are well worth a visit. My favorite is in the tiny mountain town of Sant’Agata Feltria, which occurs every Sunday in October. Expect truffles, of course, but there are also vendors with foraged mushrooms and gorgeous, small-batch artisan cheeses. Be sure to grab a sandwich with slices from tremendous loaves of mortadella, and stop by the roaster for fresh chestnuts and a glass of Cagnina, a fresh wine of the region. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only non-Italian there.
- Exploring the production of prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamico is de rigueur, but they’re not all made equal. For balsamico, I favor Acetaia Pedroni in the countryside east of Modena; I find their product a cut above the rest. Yes, a tiny bottle of the real tradizionale will set you back some major coin, but it’s worth it, and there are worthy, less-expensive options as well. Pedroni also makes wine and a very recommendable grappa, and you can enjoy a meal at their adjacent tavern. Reservations are required for tastings.
- The best way to experience local cuisine is to learn to cook it. To experience the heart of Romagnolo cuisine, head to Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli. This museo del gusto showcases the work of Pellegrino Artusi, who catalogued regional Italian cuisine in the mid-19th century. In their kitchen, you can learn to make hand-rolled pasta or piadina, the local flatbread, with the aid of a Marietta, so named after Artusi’s own assistant. Regularly scheduled classes are in Italian, or contact them to make special arrangements.
- Everyone knows Parmigiano-Reggiano, but it’s worth a trip to Sogliano al Rubicone to experience formaggio di fossa. Using a technique dating back to the medieval era, wheels of cow’s or sheep’s milk cheese are stored in limestone pits (the name literally translates to “pit cheese”) for around three months. (This was done initially to escape taxation from the Vatican.) The aged cheese takes on a sharper, flinty flavor. Though cheeses from several towns are protected under DOP status, Sogliano al Rubicone is the original source, and the best. If you can make it the last Sunday of November, the town hosts a festival as the fosse unearth their cheeses. Otherwise, contact Fosse Brandinelli or Fosse Venturi to schedule tastings.
- The coastal town of Cesenatico is best known as a summertime beach destination, but its position on the Adriatic also makes it a marvelous place to experience seafood. Every day at 2 pm, the day’s catch goes up for auction at the Mercato Ittico di Cesenatico. The auction master sits at the center of an auditorium in a structure resembling a ship’s prow, and incrementally decreases the cost until bids stop — a reverse auction. In the heart of town, along the da Vinci-designed canal and adjacent to the pescheria (fish market), head to Ristorante San Marco Piazza Fiorentin 12, to enjoy the fruits of the sea, like sweet canocchie (grey mantis shrimp) baked in salt crust, and great bowls of tiny clams barely the size of your thumb.
Photo credits: Sean Timberlake.
ManAboutWorld correspondent Sean Timberlake is the founder of Punk Domestics, a community for DIY food enthusiasts, and is the Food Preservation Expert for About.com. He periodically takes groups to Emilia-Romagna for a week of hands-on food craft classes and tourism. The next tour, in October, features foraging for porcini mushrooms in the Apennine mountains. Learn more at http://www.punkdomestics.com/travel.
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