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Emilia-Romagna, Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation

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Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation
Live Italy! Don't Just See It

Emilia-Romagna, Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation

While we love to look back and reminisce on all the great memories of past trips, we are also excited and look forward to the incredible experiences we will arrange once the rest of the world can join us again in Italy.
A prime example is the historic region of Emilia-Romagna. With charming cities such as Parma and Piacenza, or Ferrara, Modena, and Ravenna whose artistic treasures are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Emilia-Romagna offers excellent opportunities for those interested in history and the arts. In addition, Bologna, home to the western world’s oldest university, is a vibrant city with plenty to see resulting in days spent exploring grand piazzas, Medieval and Renaissance architecture, and historic markets. That said, there are two other
important reasons for why this less explored region is one of Italy’s most underrated jewels:
Slow Food and Fast Cars.

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Italy’s Culinary Capital: Emilia Romagna

Famous for being the gastronomic heart of Italy, Emilia-Romagna is the ideal place for anyone who enjoys unique culinary experiences and high quality traditional products. As Italy’s first region to adopt a strict criterion pertaining to the production of quality controlled food products, today Emilia-Romagna has the most certified PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products in the entire country.

Local Products of the Highest Quality

Any food lover will immediately recognize some of the names on Emilia-Romagna’s long list of PDO and PGI products, while other tasty creations are just waiting to be discovered. Among these delicious products, you will find Parmigiano-Reggiano (nicknamed “The King of Cheeses”—and for good reason) as well as the fragrant Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and the sublime Prosciutto di Parma.

Another product certainly worth mentioning, which may not be immediately recognizable outside of Italy, but can hold its own among the region’s culinary heavyweights, is the Culatello di Zibello, a slow-cured boneless ham that is considered to be a prized rarity among Italians.

For the perfect pairing, consider tasting a nice glass of Lambrusco, one of Emilia Romagna’s superb DOC wines. This sparkling red wine is often featured on tables throughout the region in the company of local cheeses, cold cuts, and meat dishes.

After sampling the Emilia-Romagna’s best cured meats and cheeses, be sure to save room for the handmade pasta, which is nothing short of heavenly. As the home of so many internationally renowned pasta dishes, your most difficult decision will be deciding where to start.

In Emilia-Romagna, fresh egg pasta reigns supreme and a few of the most celebrated shapes include tortellini, cappelletti, and, of course tagliatelle, Emilia-Romagna’s iconic pasta shape traditionally served with ragù alla bolognese, a slow-cooked meat sauce that is also the star of the famous lasagne alla bolognese.

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Zoom Through the Motor Valley

Though there is so much delicious food to enjoy, travelers should be sure to dedicate time to Emilia-Romagna’s other great export: sports cars. Referred to as the Motor Valley, Emilia-Romagna is unique due to the high number of luxury car manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers, race tracks, and car museums that are all located within a relatively small area. This region is also renowned for its constant innovation in the field of motorsports thanks to ground-breaking developments that are supported by continuous research.

The titans of the automotive industry that call Emilia-Romagna home include such famous names as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, and Pagani. Each brand is inexplicably tied to this enchanting land from which so much inspiration has been drawn over the decades. Any car lover is sure to enjoy learning more about these automotive powerhouses, visiting the local racetracks (including the ones in Imola and Misano), and exploring museums dedicated to those who continue to push the envelope in technological advancement.

Reimagining the Museum

Italy may be known for its art museums, but the museums located in Emilia-Romagna that are dedicated to automotive brands and motorsports offer a whole new experience. Case in point, visits to the Lamborghini Museum, Maserati Museum, and Ducati Museum offer an up-close look at the history of these influential manufacturers as well as interactive exhibits plus the exceptional opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and witness the production lines.

Also worth visiting is the Pagani Factory and Museum, which may be the youngest of Emilia-Romagna’s automotive brands, but it certainly holds its own thanks to meticulously designed products. Furthermore, Ferrari lovers have two museums to choose from: a museum dedicated to the brand’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, in Modena, and the Museo Ferrari, located in Maranello, the brand’s headquarters.

For travelers with a need for speed, channel your inner Michael Schumacher and test-drive an actual Ferrari (or another super car, such as Lamborghini, if preferred) on the nearby Autodromo of Modena or even the public roads for a true local experience. Alternatively, during a visit to the Museo Ferrari it is possible to take a spin on the exhilarating F1 Driving Simulator.

As we celebrate past experiences and look to the future, this is just a small taste of what Emilia-Romagna can offer. Once things are back to normal, we cannot wait to share these experiences with you. In the meantime, let’s continue to dream. If you are considering adding Emilia-Romagna to your bucket list, click here to discover more about this region’s unforgettable treasures.

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Golden Focaccia Genovese

When travelling to Liguria, in addition to the beautiful sea and warm sunshine, visitors will surely take notice of a ubiquitous treat enjoyed by locals as breakfast, an appetizer, or a snack throughout the day: focaccia. Though many varieties exist in Italy, the most traditional and delicious iteration of focaccia has its home in Liguria. Focaccia genovese, a golden flatbread with a fluffy center and a crisp crust, is considered to be the simplest variety of focaccia, but also the richest. Authentic focaccia genovese is one to two centimeters thick, is only seasoned with coarse salt and a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and is covered with characteristic holes that serve as pockets to trap the delicious oil.

The historical origins of focaccia are quite ancient. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks all used barley, rye, or millet flour to bake flatbreads over flames similar to the modern process of baking focaccia. The word focaccia itself derives from the Latin word focus, which means “hearth” and “fireplace”. In ancient Rome, focaccia was considered to be such a rich delicacy that is was often offered as a gift to the gods. During the Renaissance, focaccia was enjoyed with wine and other treats as part of wedding celebrations. Legend has it that since these celebrations occurred in church, focaccia eventually became a popular treat during funerals too. This tradition was quickly put to an end by a local bishop as it was deemed too joyous for such somber occasions. In addition, the portable, delicious flatbread was typically considered the food of travelers and fishermen up until modern times.

Though several regions in Italy produce their own variations of focaccia, the Liguria region is considered to be the traditional home of this tasty bread. Here, focaccia is accompanied by coffee for a typical Genoese breakfast or by a small glass of wine for a midmorning snack. In addition to the focaccia from Genoa, the cheese-filled focaccia di Recco is quite popular as well. This simple focaccia composed of very thin unleavened crust filled with fresh stracchino cheese that melts as the focaccia bakes in a wood oven. This type of focaccia is such a local delicacy that it was granted IGP status by the European Union, meaning that authentic focaccia di Recco can only be made in the town of Recco.
Traditionally, focaccia made in northern Italy was usually brushed with lard or butter during the baking process, while focaccia made in Liguria and in southern Italy was, and continues to be, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil. The exact date of the origin of focaccia genovese is not known, but the oldest historical document that mentions this delicious Ligurian flatbread dates back to the year 1229. Focaccia di Recco, on the other hand, dates back to the 12th century and it is believed that its origin coincided with the Crusades.

Two additional varieties of focaccia are also quite popular in other parts of Italy. The first originates from the province of Bari and can be enjoyed throughout the Puglia region. This variety, focaccia barese, is quite unique for two reasons: boiled potatoes are added to the dough to make the focaccia even softer and it is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes. The second type is found in the province of Messina on the island of Sicily. Known as focaccia messinese, this variety has a thick, soft base that is topped with endive, diced tomatoes, anchovies, and cheese (usually tuma, though mozzarella can also be used). Other types of focaccia found in Italy are topped with a variety of other ingredients including rosemary, sage, onions, olives, salumi, cheeses, and other herbs and vegetables.

Though focaccia genovese may be considered simple compared the other varieties listed above, it is the high-quality ingredients and expert preparation that render focaccia genovese so incomparably delicious. Authentic focaccia genovese can only be made with finely ground type 00 flour, extra-virgin olive oil, and coarse salt. The key to focaccia’s unique taste rests in the baking process, which occurs in a wood-oven and brings all of the exquisite ingredients together. Truly, the best slice of focaccia is the one that has just been pulled out of the oven—nothing quite compares.

So the next time you find yourself in Liguria, be sure to enjoy some authentic focaccia genovese made with extra-virgin olive oil. We hope your slice is fresh out of the oven and perfectly golden!

Gluten-Free food in Italy: a new path to Italian flavors

ItalyGluten-Free, a land whose cuisine is known world-wide thanks to gluten-rich staples such as pasta and pizza, is actually quite celiac disease friendly. Nearly one percent of Italians test positive for celiac disease, which is an intolerance for gluten, a protein found in wheat.  This percentage is on par with the global average, so the increase of gluten-free options is not driven by a higher affected population in the nation. Rather it is actually wheat’s pervasiveness in Italian cuisine that has increased public awareness of the disease and has spurred the growth of the gluten-free market in the southern European peninsula.  In fact, currently there are roughly 4,000 restaurants in Italy that offer senza glutine (gluten-free) options, and the number of cities throughout the country without a gluten-free restaurant is sharply decreasing.

Continue reading "Gluten-Free food in Italy: a new path to Italian flavors"

The Ancient Chocolate of Modica

The south-easterModica Spicy Chocolaten Sicilian city of Modica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning Baroque architecture.  Along with seven other towns in the Val di Noto, like Ragusa and Catania, Modica was rebuilt in 1693 following a powerful earthquake that devastated the area. The construction after the earthquake resulted in remarkable city planning and the culmination of Baroque style of art and architecture in Europe.  Though Modica is stunning and filled with beautiful architecture, this city tucked away in the Hyblaean Mountains is also internationally famous for a much sweeter reason: chocolate.

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The Charming Hills of Piacenza

Piacenza Hill Country and CastlesWhen most tourists plan their itinerary around Italy, they think about the usual cities, such as Rome, Venice, Milan and Bologna, among so many others. There are smaller destinations along the way that will truly give you an untouched and authentic feeling of what Italian culture and history is all about. Continue reading "The Charming Hills of Piacenza"