The fourth stop of our journey takes us to Modena, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Modena is known as “the capital of engines”, since the factories of the famous Italian sports car makers Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are, or were, located here and all except Lamborghini, have headquarters in the city or nearby.
Our reason for staying here is not necessarily because of Modena itself, but rather for its central location for us to experience exceptional fine food and restaurants here; as well as in nearby Parma and Bologna. Our time in Modena was also intended for us to have some time to ourselves (we had no guides or tours) and relax some during our vacation. We just needed to get there first!
After using trains to travel from city to city, now we rented a car (a BMW X1) in Venice and drove the slightly less than 2 hrs to Modena. This was quite an experience as driving the autostrada is quite different than driving on highways at home. While there are posted speed limits here, they do not appear to be enforced all the time as cars were constantly passing me at high speeds (even when I was going 140 kmh). We actually made it direct to the hotel without getting lost or taking a wrong turn.
Once in Modena, we spent the majority of our time relaxing as well as walking around the city. We found a great little cafe right on the main piazza that served some good food, so we would stop there for a couple of glasses of wine and a light lunch.
After walking around some more after lunch, the afternoon became hot, and so we needed something to cool us down. In Italy, Gelato that can be found everywhere, so “When in Rome…”
While our dining experiences in Modena were fantastic, none of them would be the most memorable gastronomic delight of our stay. Instead, it was a last minute “tasting” that we scheduled that opened new doors for us. Our “tasting” this time was not a traditional wine tasting. This tasting still consisted of wine, but wine that had turned to vinegar; intentionally.
Aside from being known as the Italian “motor city”, it is also the only place in the world where certified balsamic vinegar is made. Our educational tasting at Acetaia di Giorgio was beneficial because learned how true balsamic vinegar is made and were actually able to taste multiple different vinegars aged in different types of barrels (oak, cherry, juniper) and of different lengths of time. Certified Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) is not the same as the stuff that sits on our grocery shelves back home, it is of unique flavor and its characteristics are strictly controlled by the body in Modena that governs what can be labeled as real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.
The planned dinner highlight of this stay was not what we had expected. We did dine at our third Michelin 3 star restaurant Osteria Francescana, but were sadly disappointed that the entire experience did not meet our expectations. The service was the best yet and the food was delicious , but we both felt that the wine pairings presented with our tasting menu served to detract, rather than enhance each course. Normally, I wouldn’t be so critical, but this restaurant, in addition to being a Michelin 3 star, is also #3 of the Top 50 Restaurants In The World. Oh well, I guess Beth and I have different criteria than the critics.
We did however have a great dinner at another local ristorànte, Antica Moka. It was another small and elegant place that was comfortable and welcoming.
We had a spectacular meal here – with of course some good wine. Of course, given the size of their wine list, it took a while to make a decision:
The food was superb and the Sagrantino wine I ended up choosing was also delicious.