I am currently in Rome just back from a 4 day trip to Modena.
Modena is in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy- famous for their traditional balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese and home of Ferrari. In my opinion, this seems to be the best region for food and finally good bread (meaning that it isn't dry or stale )!!!
The gastronomic specialties in the area are the tortelloni which are big tortellini filled with squash and topped with the wonderful parmesan cheese refferred to as 'grana' and drizzled with thick syrupy balsamic vinegar. Of course there are the small tortellini - filled with meat or sometimes ricotta cheese and spinach in a cream sauce or in broth. Hmm...something new i didn't know would be a 'local' food were tigelle. A basket of small disk shaped breads that look like small pancakes arrive warm to your table. They are accompanied by various meats - salami, prosciutto and chicken. You then slice the 'pancake' and fill it with the various meats to make a sandwich of sorts. Not something i would expect to see at a supper table but they were good. Different grilled meats are on the menu as well.
So, balsamic vinegar here is a lot different than what we know back in Canada. Of course for those that use it, it is a thin liquid much like a vinegar is. Here in Modena they are famous for the 'aceto balsamico tradizionale' the balsamic vinegar made in the traditional way with only Lambrusco or Trebbiano varieties of grapes.
Like many Italian specialties that fall under strict rules and regulations to be named a certain product like: Brunello di Montalcino wine and the olive oils, aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena falls under these regulations as well. We got a great tour from the owner of a balsamic 'farm' who explained the process wonderfully. Did you know that the vinegar ages for a minimum of 12 years? The end product is a wonderful thicker, sweeter vinegar than the one used for salads. You are able to use the vinegar on anything from cheeses to meats and fruit. Wonderful!
This region is very industrial and is the region for tile. We looked in one shop and the tiles they produce are gorgeous!! The patterns and designs would cost a fortune to furnish a bathroom at home I am sure. But unique!!
Before i arrived in E.R. i had spent some time in Roma - around every corner there seems to be something to look at ...some ruin, church amazing fountains! It is a beautiful city although it is crowded. I loved the Colosseum and the church of Gesù - one of the most elaborately decorated churches. Today Brian and i were to go to the Vatican but due to the All Saints Day holiday it is closed. :( So i will visit tomorrow myself as Brian leaves tonight.
Before i arrived for the 2 week stint in Rome I was swimming the Amalfi Coast. Ok not literally but wow do they have GORGEOUS waters! The atmosphere was sooooo charming!! So get this, my first morning there I was walking from my B&B to the town of Postianto. It is about a 15 minute walk down the winding road. All of a sudden a vespa stops and the man asks if i want a ride into town!! WOW!! I think, 'just like in the movies'! This is my Under the Tuscan Sun moment. Made me very happy. I spent the week checking out the area flowering trees, beautiful hills and gorgeous sea side towns. Of course this week wasn't without trying to ward off men. One older man presented me with 6 chocolate bars and 2 bags of cookies and asked if i would sleep with him. WARNING: southern Italians should do not normally greet kiss you any different than any other Italian - meaning that they should stick to the two on the cheeks and not throw one on the lips at the end. Stuff i need to learn the hard way...
Sorrento was next on the list where I was able to squish grapes in bare feet!! This was due to the wonderful grape festival in Priora. Typical - white lights strung all over the street, traditional songs being sung and there was a great cake contest to top it all off.
Well off to Sicily in 2 days. I need some sun as i am feeling the effects of SAD. Its the rain....
Ciao for now!