This wasn’t our usual sort of trip – we generally do our own thing while travelling, rather than use the services of a guide. But there were a few reasons we elected to do this:

1/ It was with a bunch of friends.

2/ It was all about food and drink.

3/ The organisers are good friends, from the area, and we knew they would make it special.

Emilia Romagna is a district of Italy in the north of the country and is famous as both an industrial and a farming region. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati are all based there, and it is the home of Parmegiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) and the true Balsamic vinegar of Modena. It’s also one of the wealthiest regions of Europe, and historically important, as it’s a kind of crossroads between Italy and the rest of mainland Europe.

It’s a mountainous, green and very beautiful region and has some spectacular architecture, much of which dates back to medieval times, and some to Roman, despite having been very heavily bombed by the allies in world war 2.  The climate is diverse, with heavy snow in winter and very hot summers, in the 30’s – an essential ingredient for the making of the balsamic.

Despite everything it has going for it, Emilia Romagna is much less well known as a tourist destination than neighbouring Tuscany, but anyone just “passing through” is missing out.

Our trip was fantastic! We spent five days in a luxury farmhouse on a working vineyard, and we went out each day on trips to a cheese factory, a balsamic manufacturer, another vineyard, a craft brewery, a chestnut forest and a working water mill. We also walked, climbed a huge rock, learned to make pasta and visited a castle. We also enjoyed some spectacular meals, including one in a Michelin starred restaurant, and tasted some excellent wines we’d never heard of before.

We spent the following two days in Bologna, where we enjoyed more great food, including “real” pizza, and were guided around the city, having all the cultural highlights explained to us.

Our hosts, Michele and Liliana were just amazing, and the guides they introduced us to were fantastically knowledgable, and really made the area come alive for us. In fact, every single person we met was so incredibly welcoming and clearly ready to share information, stories and proud to tell us about Emilia Romagna. It was breath of fresh air.

One thing I learned on this trip is the value of great guides. We have never used guides when visiting attractions or cities, always preferring to do our own research and visit things at our own pace. But it made a huge difference to have local experts explaining everything to us on this trip, and I know there is so much I would have missed without them. This will change the way we travel forever.

In summary, a fascinating and very beautiful area, the food and drink are just amazing, and the people delightful. You really should visit Emilia Romagna!