We didn’t hesitate when our friend and tour guide Michele suggested we go on a gastronomy tour in Italy, to highlight his home region of Emilia Romagna. We simply had to book our direct flights from Lanzarote to Bologna via Ryanair, where Michele would take over organising our agenda.
A small group of foodie friends from Lanzarote booked on to the tour, so we were in good company and everyone knew each other. The forecast was very mixed ranging from 5-25 degrees as we were packing for our week, we were warned that it was unseasonably cold and unfortunately rain was also due.
Day 1: Flight from Lanzarote to Bologna, airport transfer to Corte d’Aibo
Our Ryanair flight was uneventful and before long we were touching down in Bologna. Michele was waiting for us outside arrivals and it was a fairly short transfer to our rural farmhouse accommodation. We were staying at the Corte d’Aibo which is a winery with accommodation and restaurant. Our room was in the renovated accommodation block, we had a comfortable double bed, with jacuzzi bath and a terrace with views over the lake and valley. We had a couple of hours to relax, before the group was due to meet up for dinner and wine tasting that evening.
Day 2: Vignola and it’s flavours!
We were blown away with our visit to La Cà dal Nôn, Mariangela welcomed us warmly to their Grandfather’s home and business. Her passion for traditional Balsamic Vinegar made in Moderna was infectious, we thoroughly enjoyed the morning learning about the vinegar making process and what makes the annual production of the 10,000 litres produced in this area of Italy, so precious. Our lunch was described as rustic fare at a truck stop! We discovered a really popular restaurant which was packed where we tasted the local specialities of “Borlenghi & Tigelle”. We walked around the Rocca di Vignola fortress to admire the frescos and view from the paintbrush tower, plus discovered a fabulous staircase at the Barozzi palace. Before we left this area, we just had to taste the legendary “Barozzi Cake” made from a protected & secret recipe. The sun was out in the afternoon, so we had a couple of hours to relax back at the farmhouse before dinner at the Michelin star restaurant Amerigo. We were seated in our own private dining room, with lots of family memorabilia dating back to the 1930’s adorning the walls. Alberto, the owner presented each dish to us, including the amazing asparagus lasagne, which was served to a special press event at the London Wine Fair 2019. The restaurant takes local, fresh and seasonal produce to create traditional dishes with a modern twist. Each course was paired with local wine, and we tasted gelato with 25 year old traditional balsamic vinegar from Moderna for dessert.
Day 3: Valsamoggia: Little world of best producers!
We visited the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese producers and met Teresa, a wonderful lady who started building her empire at age 16 with 5 cows. Teresa was the character we remembered most from this trip, her infectious enthusiasm for making cheese, explained with sexual innuendos had us all amused and Michele lost for words during translation. Next we met with Monica and Barbara, the pasta chefs from Try and Taste for a cooking class, where we made our own lunch. Followed by wine tasting at the stylish winery of Tenuta La Riva with Alberto. Dinner was at the farmhouse.
Day 4: Roccamalatina
We were all ready for a walk after a few days of gluttony, our challenge was to reach the top of the Roccamalatina. This countryside walk served up some stunning views, and the climb up the rock was definitely worth the 360° panoramic view at the top. Lunch was at the impressive B&B farmhouse of La Buca owned by Mauro and Andra. The couple were great hosts and deservedly proud of their property, animals and produce. Followed by a visit to a restored and working water mill, Il Mulino del Dottore Fabio Rossi, to meet Alberto who is producing organic flour. Our evening meal was at the Trattoria del Borgo in Valsamoggia, a short drive from our farmhouse.
Day 5: Enjoy Appennino!
We headed to the mountains and climbed up over 750m during the drive to visit the Beltaine Brewery where we met Mateo the brewer, and Piero the promotor. After a tour and description of how to make beer from chestnuts, we visited the Parco Didattico Sperimentale del Castagno to see the different varieties between the food producing chestnut trees, and trees cultivated for furniture / wood. It was raining, but that didn’t deter us from a guided walk around the chestnut park with Luca, and a cosy lunch and tasting in the event centre. We also visited the Racchetta Mattei designed by the Count Cesare Mattei, the construction of this unique building begain in 1850. Evening meal was at the farmhouse.
Day 6: Bologna – Inside the city!
After our transfer from the rural farmhouse to our hotel in the city, we met Maria for a guided tour of the city. We touched on some of the history and hardships of Bologna through religion and war. Lunch was at the famous Osteria del Sole, where you bring your own food and drink their wine. We continued our tour of Bologna with a walk through the Quadrilatero food market and to the Basilica of Santo Stefano (known as the complex of seven churches). Followed by some free time for shopping and exploring. In the evening we went for a great pizza at Berberè.
Day 7: Tortellino Experience
For our last day we met an Italian Nonna to learn the difference between tortellino and tortelloni, as size matters! Rina and Giovanni welcomed us into their home to shape tortellino for lunch. We had the same pasta served 2 different ways, first with a broth which really enhances the meat filling flavour, followed by a cream & cheese sauce version (usually served for children). The third course was polpettone (meatloaf) with mashed potato and giardiniera (pickled vegetable salsa). We were on the border with Tuscany so tasted two different bottles of Chianti with our meal. Finishing the feast off with Vin Santo and Arrocco Albana dessert wines served with a fabulous home made cake. What a superb end to our gastronomy tour, this meal was similar to the family’s menu served at Christmas. We spent a couple of hours having a last wander around Bologna. There was just time for a few hours sleep, before heading to the airport to catch our early morning flights.
Addio per ora (bye for now) – until next time Italy.
You can find our Bologna photo album on our Facebook page, with lots of images and descriptions about each activity and place we visited.