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Two days in Emilia-Romagna

Hi, all. My fiance and I are planning our two-week honeymoon to Italy (neither of us have been), and have two days (October 2 and 3 of this year) to spend in Emilia-Romagna between visits to Venice and Rome. After perusing the board, we have decided that it's best to rent a car for this portion of the trip, have yet to book accommodations so we can remain flexible (these two days are all about food!) and are considering all of the following (but are open to anything):

Da Ivan
Da Amerigo
Hostaria Guisti
Osteria Francescana (although Francescana has slowly slipped to the end of the list as we are leaning towards a more traditional experience).

We are willing to try just about anything, love all meats, cheeses, pastas, and seafood, and are looking to experience the best the region has to offer (understanding, of course, that we only have two days). Given all of this, where would you eat and what would you do (tours, etc.) for these two days in the region? Thank you in advance for all your help!

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  1. I can heartily recommend Amerigo (in Savigno). Alberto's philosophy is very locally focused. The restaurant is simple, but the food is outstanding.

    1. As you can see from my many past posts, these are among four of my favorite five ER country trattorie (and they are trattorie). La Buca ("Miriam's") in Zibello is the other.

      Hosteria Giusti is open only for lunch. First trip to Italy and ER, I wouldn't go there at the expense of any of the others.

      All the places are traditional with excellent food (this is the real ER) and very good wine lists; All have wonderful caring owners (ghiottone is right on about my friend Alberto). First trip knowing what I know, would probably go to Da Amerigo and either La Buca or Da Ivan. Two different areas of ER and so you'll get two different types of food, the food in the Parma countryside and the food in the Bologna countryside (and they are very different).

      Great to see that you're renting a car even for only two days; by far the best food, in our opinion, in ER (or for that matter Piemonte, Toscana Liguria, Lombardia, Friulli or the Alto-Adige), is in the countryside, accessible only by car.

      Wonderful time to be there. Have fun. Congratulations on your marriage.

      1. Thank you both very much for your responses and your kind well wishes, Allende. Da Amerigo sounds like a must, and it appears we can't go wrong with the other two, either. Any recommendations for how to fill our days (i.e., particular food tours not to be missed, etc.)? Thank you again!

        12 Replies
        1. re: elpaladin

          the cities of Emilia Romagna are full of art and architectural treasures - Parma is a particularly nice compact city for a days visit in E-R as well as Verona, Padova and Mantova which you might see one more of on your way from Venice, In E-R There are parmigiano makers, culatello makers (near Zibello, and La Buca/Da Ivan, for example Spigaroli) and makers of balsamico to be visited ( and lots of threads on this if you search. You will have to be selective, there is so much to do in this region

          1. re: elpaladin

            La Buca, in Zibello, makes its own culatelli. They hang in the cellar of the restaurant. Thousands. It is truly a special place and Luca, Miriam's son-in-law, is only too happy to give a tour and explain everything in perfect English. That would be the place to go if you want to eat AND see a culatello cellar at the same time.


            You can see a very small part of the cellar in the photo gallery, lower left photo.

            If you go, be sure you have the tagliatelle con culatello. It is a dish that Miriam developed a long time ago and is simple... and simply fantastic. And also, of course, have a plate of culatello and spalla.

            1. re: allende

              This was a favourite spot on our trip, so friendly and warm, even had a 'conversation' with Miriam (we don't speak Italian and she doesn't speak English). We somehow got the gist. The tour of the culatello was great, and we bought some culatelli to go. Pricey, but heaps better than proscuitto. Ate it with bread and tomatoes for the next few days. sooooo goood.

              We did tours of Balsamico around and in Modena and a Parm tour near Parma. If you are interested in more info about either of these free tours let me know.

              1. re: cleopatra999

                Would love the tour information for both, cleopatra!

              2. re: allende

                Ill second the recommendation of tagliatelle con culatello as a wonderful dish to sample in this area, tho we have not been lucky enough to try the La Buca version.

                1. re: allende

                  Thank you all for your responses! I, too, would love the tour information for both, Cleopatra. We are tentatively considering the following:

                  Head to La Buca, after renting a car in Bologna, for lunch and a possible tour, with dinner at Da Ivan (stay at Da Ivan Wednesday evening);

                  Spend Thursday touring around Modena/Parma, with dinner at Da Amerigo (stay at Da Amerigo Thursday evening).

                  Anything I should switch around, add or take away? Can't thank you enough for helping us plan this part of our trip.

                  1. re: elpaladin

                    you might want to look at a map while doing this

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      sorry didn't think this posted. Thought it could make more sense to drive down from Venice than take train to Bologna drive to Zibello -might be something to see/do along the way if you travelled by car. also that back to back meals at La Buca and Da Ivan might be a bit much. given the richness Without knowing how you want to spend your time when not eating its hard to advise more.

                    2. re: elpaladin

                      Here is where we went for going for the Balsamic tour/tasting in Modena, they don't charge for the tour, and have free parking outside. The are outside the ZLT. The are a very small Mom and Pop operation that only does traditional (ie. aged, expensive, amazingly delicious elixir). If you don't have any intention of purchasing I would not suggest going. You will be going into their house to see the operation.


                      Our other stop was at Giusti, outside of Modena. They are a large scale operation with various levels of balsamico ranging from 10Eu to 200Eu, this is the place to buy gifts and taste a wide range of balsamico. You can find some levels of these imported in NA. Very informative tour and tasting. Lots of options to buy.

                      We set up both tours in advance.

                      I also contacted: http://www.parmigiano-reggiano.it/ the Parmesan consortium about a dairy visit. You have to contact the specific region you want to visit. Again no charge for the tour. They don't let you know which dairy you are visiting until close to the tour, you meet early morning at the dairy. we are only 2 people, I contacted each of the regions, and some of them had a 12 person minimum, we ended up booked with the RE region. We ended up just the 2 of us for our tour, great option to taste and buy at the end. Fantastic tour. It took about 2-3 hours for the tour and tasting (and many many pics. I can't recall if we tipped the guide. I think we tried to, but she wouldn't accept.

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        Do you remember the location of the dairy in RE?

                        1. re: Negaduck

                          sorry no, not at all. It was very close to Reggio Emilia.

                      2. re: elpaladin

                        One other interesting place that we went to (I think it was Jen Kalb that recommended it) was Hotel Arnaldo. It is in Rubiera, just south of Modena. It is very traditional ER cuisine with carts of boiled, roasted and other preparations of meats. The place was packed with Italian families dressed up in suits and dresses. The meal was probably the most memorable, because it was so incredibly different. We tried calves head, and other cuts you would not normally get, some were great, others just an experience LOL. We stayed at the hotel which was decent as well (one of the best breakfasts on the trip) We chose it because of location. We were able to do our tours of Modena, go here after, then we were very close to RE for our Parma tour, then off to La Buca for lunch.

                  2. I can't say for sure that this information is correct, but a relative of a friend, visiting New York from Bologna, told me today that Hosteria Giusti is closing (or perhaps already has), so I would check.right away to avoid later disappointment.

                    Since you will have a car, I would highly recommend a trip to Al Cavallino Bianco in Polesine Parmense, where we had a lunch that I would rank right up there with Giusti.

                    1. i haven't been yet- but Massimo Bottura opened a new less expensive place-- which i can't wait to try.
                      more of a bistro- http://www.franceschetta58.it/

                      1. Thanks for starting this thread. My husband and I are planning to be in Emilia-Romagna that same week, starting with two nights at Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais, then three nights at a home base to be determined thinking of city center Modena). The planning is the best part!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: EAOrelup

                          As a home base, would definitely choose Mantova instead of Modena. The town has been forgotten by the rest of the world and is wonderful, not only for the Palazzo Ducale and the Palazzo Te, but the restaurants (different food from Modena and Bologna and IMO, much more interesting) and the ability to walk on most pedestrian streets. The countryside around it, and the ability to get to great restaurants and trattoire within an hour, is really superb. Additionally, you can get to Verona, Brescia (a fantastic restaurant) easily, as well as Garda. Plus, it has a really excellent hotel.

                          1. re: allende

                            allende, what is the name of the hotel in Mantova. I am looking for a place and would love a recommendation. Thanks

                          2. re: EAOrelup

                            I agree not to stay in city center Modena as a base. Its a nice, prosperous town but apart from the amazing cathedral and a couple of major restaurant draws,, there are not attractions that justify the long in-an-out travel time of basing in this City center. Mantova (as allende notes) is much more interesting if you want to base in a town - and arguably easier to travel from - the traffic in the Modena area is particularly congested, along the Via Emilia and such, and travel times can be more than expected. think about what you want to be doing for the rest of your visit (eating at country restaurants and touring country food attractions? visiting historic sites, churches and museums? hiking or walking, in town or out? dipping into wine bars, food shopping, other shopping? and you may get a better idea of where you want to stay as opposed to just visit in this region.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              Good points. We are spending our first two days at ACPallavicini for a bit of country life, and the following week we have rented a villa in the countryside near Orvieto. The three days between would be divoted to food shopping (I do love a good market street), food touring, walking, wine bars, and driving a Ferrari (treat for my husband). I thought that it would be fun to be in a town for walking distance to dinner or other evening attractions for those few days, although we definitely would expect to travel outside the town during the day. Is Modena not friendly to pedestrians? I had not considered Mantova, but I will. However, I had been thinking that we would stick close to the ER region before we head south. Is there another pedestrian-friendly ER town with a good hotel and less congestion than Modena?

                              1. re: EAOrelup

                                If you plan to be driving out of town every day, it won't much matter that Modena is less interesting touristically than Mantova, and it may be more conveniently positioned for your daily sightseeing targets than other pedestrian-friendly towns, depending on how far east you intend to travel. Modena might also might have the best morning markets and food shops outside of Bologna (which I hope you will visit, perhaps most easily done by train if you are staying in Modena).

                                Presuming you will do most of your Parma and Reggio nell'Emilia sightseeing while "based" in Antica Corte Pallavicini, someplace further east would make sense, especially if you mean to see Ravenna or eat at the seaside. You might check out Vignola to see if it appeals to you for its preserved cherries and chocolate cake, although I don't know what kind of morning markets or hotels you would find there. Depending on your interests, Brisighella is convenient to a plethora of interesting food experiences and sights, but again, can't give any guidance on hotels.

                                1. re: EAOrelup

                                  The center of Modena is pedestrianized like other Italian town centers, and it has a lovely public food market and other shops. Its a wealthy town in a wealthy region with plenty of restaurants, winebars, etc. Having visited several of the major towns in this region, it does not stand out to me as the place to stay in a brief visit to this area for the reasons I stated, but it could certainly be very pleasant to "live" in for a few days, especially if you havent experienced the amenity of Italian town life before. Reggio Emilia (middle sized city) and Rubiera (smaller( are also very nice towns with good hotels and restaurants (admittedly not the range of Modena for a three night visit). Certainly, Modena is convenient to the Ferrari factory, and country restaurants, vinegar lofts and such toward that end of Emilia. Maybe others can comment on evening life in Modena, whether there is a nice passagiata, and such - we only had a day there, but I believe the part of the centro southward from the duomo was the most attractive. Ive added a link to a local food enthusiast website below which is fun with google translate. I dont think you can underrate the level of passion in this region about the local cuisine. I keep rereading and try to nuance this - thinking back, ours was a summer visit, on a very hot day, so we spent our time crossing the street looking for shade..certainly that had an impact on our experience of this town which somewhat undercut our great enjoyment of our lunch at Giusti, and the great Cathedral square. October would be much more pleasant!!


                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    Thanks. Years ago (before the internet became such a planning resource), we passed through the region, with one night in Reggio Emilia and I have wanted to return ever since. I have a particular weakness for food markets, which may sway me toward Modena, but I'm going to keep reading and thinking.
                                    I was not familiar with passagiata, but a quick Google tells me that I may just be a passagiata type of person!

                                    1. re: EAOrelup

                                      Aside from the food market, Modena doesn't begin to compare with Mantova. The two Palazzos, the lake, the pedestrian streets, the countryside (with great restaurants), a wonderful hotel to stay in, plus, for dinner, three really good trattorie and one really good restaurant.

                                      1. re: allende


                                        But it doesn't sound like they intend to spend any time in their "base." I would find it an exercise in frustration to book a hotel in Mantova and then leave town all day. Mantova is a multi-day destination in itself.


                                        Every Italian town has a passeggiata -- but that it usually it for nightlife, although Emilia-Romagna towns are often rich in concert offerings in autumn. Do you have any sightseeing plans east of Maranello?

                            2. Last spring we spent two unforgettable nights at Antica Corte Pallavicina in Zibello. Gorgeous setting, beautiful rustic rooms, a staff that couldn't do enough for us, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and an immense cellar for aging culatello. The room was just over $200 a night and included breakfast. They also have a restaurant, The White Horse, down the road which serves more traditional regional fare, and we loved it as well. Restaurant La Buca is only about ten minutes away, and we had a very memorable lunch there, served to us by Miriam Leonardi herself.
                              On our way to Bologna we had a wonderful Sunday lunch at Da Amerigo in Savigno. Chef/owner Alberto Bettini was lovely, gracious, and funny. After lunch he took out a map of Bologna and proceeded to notate his favorite restaurants along with the names of the chef of each (even though he hinted that the best food in the area was to be had outside of Bologna).
                              While staying in Bologna we took a short train ride to Modena for lunch at Hosteria Guisti, which was indeed memorable (and memorably simple). I just read on this board that someone believes it has closed. If so, a terrible shame. The brother and sister who greeted and waited on us (mama was in the kitchen), were incredibly nice, but I find that to be the case with most Italians.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: crixie

                                What were your thoughts on Antica Corte Pallavicina versus La Buca? One, for the culatello itself? And two, for the restaurants associated with each? I'm probably only going to be able to visit one of them and I'm debating which one to go to. Leaning towards Antica Corte Pallavicina at the moment but I could easily be swayed.

                                1. re: DougOLis

                                  The restaurant at Antica Corte has a Michelin star and everything about the place reflects that. It a gorgeous room with a polished and attentive staff. The food is adventurous and delicious. The culatello may just be some of the finest to be sampled, and with samplings from various breeds of pigs, and aged for various lengths of time. It is a romantic, memorable dining experience.
                                  La Buca is charming, rustic, with straightforward presentations of a more simple but equally delicious local cuisine. I was told many of the recipes have not changed in hundreds of years. Pork, chicken, heavenly pastas...
                                  So now it really comes down to the type of experience you'd prefer...wish I could be of more help, as I sit here typing and reflecting on each, if I had to choose which to revisit, I'd have a hard time making up my mind !

                              2. Most of the other posters on this thread are far more experienced than I am in Italian food, but I still remember with huge fondness our trip in 2011 when we went to Da Amerigo (stayed there the night) and La Buca the next day (and got a tour of the kitchen and cellars :) This was all thanks to people like Allende so listen to what they say!

                                1. Also, this is the thread with my trip reports for the region - we were also on our honeymoon!!