Any food lover should put a trip to Bologna and Modena at the top of their ‘places to visit’ list. I’d heard from fellow foodies (and Rick Stein) that this central area of Italy was a culinary dream, but had no idea of the intensity of the local food traditions. Every shop exhibits homemade tortellini in the windows and proudly hangs mortadella from the ceiling. The historic arched streets are scented with the sweet smell of balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano, I was in heaven. In between mealtimes there are plenty of beautiful buildings and art galleries to explore, and both cities have impressive towers to climb, to help work off those extra pasta calories!
We stayed at one of the Adriano Residence apartments, which are located all over the central part of the city. Our modern apartment was stylish and comfortable, ideally located just a short walk from all the sights and shops.
Archiginnasio of Bologna, once the main building of Europe’s oldest university, is a staggeringly beautiful place to see. While wandering round the city we stumbled across the beautiful ‘Little Venice” a part of Bologna where the roads are replaced with water, like in Venice. Also in the centre of town are the magical whispering walls, where you can stand at diagonal walls and hear your friend whisper. To see the city from up high, test your thighs with a climb up the 498 steps of the Asinelli Tower.
Every Bolognese local will recommend a different ‘favourite’ restaurant you should try. I quickly realised there wasn’t one or two restaurants that we HAD to tick off. Instead we chose dependent on their menus, prices and table availability. Scaccomatto was particularly memorable for their wonderfully simple sweet onion and parmesan raviolini. Head to Tamburini for wonderful meats and cheeses, perfect for an early evening aperitivo, and Drogheria della Rosa for an authentic four-course Italian dinner, accompanied with lovely wines.
There are specialist places to visit if you are after specific foods or ingredients: Le Sfogline for handmade pasta, Paolo Att & Figli for sweet treats, Caffe Terzi for coffee and La Sorbetteria Castiglione for ice-cream.
Modena is a quiet town which has become known for it’s long and rich food heritage. Locanda del Feudo is a boutique hotel in the small town of Castelvetro, a short drive from Modena. The property has just six suite rooms, each spacious but cosy and the hotel restaurant is highly recommended.
Many make the pilgrimage to Modena to visit the World’s Best Restaurant, Osteria Francescana. I loved every mouthful of our meal at the restaurant, a truly special experience that was worth the wait. Chef Massimo Bottura reimagines Modenese ingredients and classic dishes to create plates of food that are wildly imaginative and sensational to taste. If you unable to get a table here, do not fear, as Massimo also owns Franceschetta 58 in Modena, a more relaxed restaurant which serves some similar dishes, at much more affordable prices!
Stop by Mon Cafe or Menonoka for a morning coffee and visit Antica Pasticceria San Biagio for speciality pastries like frappe and tortelli fritti. Mercato Albineli is a lovely fresh food market to pick up any seasonal ingredient you could dream of.
The are plenty of charming shops to buy souvenirs from in Modena. I loved the handmade leather tortellini keyrings from La Vacchetta Grassa and there is a lovely range of Italian scents at Avery Perfume Gallery.
There are a few attractions to entertain yourself during the day. The Ghirlandina tower offers colourful views over the town and car lovers will be in heaven at the Museo Enzo Ferrari.
While staying in Modena venture to the outskirts of town to learn about the heritage of the famous Traditional Balsamic Vinegar di Modena and the process of making Parmigiano Reggiano. Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Spilamberto is a historic museum which holds many balsamic vinegar barrels in its attic. For an education in parmesan head to Hombre, an organic farm which makes some of the best cheese in the area, or 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia for a more comprehensive tour and tasting.
More information on Modena here.