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Emilia Romagna - Zibello, Modena, Parma


Faithful 3 year lurker here - I actually used several of your suggestions when we visited Venice and Tuscany in 2011. This fall, we are returning to Italy to experience Emilia-Romanga (ER) and Piedmont for 8 nights. However, we are only spending 2 nights in ER since the main focus of our trip is truffles, chocolate and wine in Piedmont.

We have two nights booked in Castelvetro di Modena in the middle of October. I am trying to put together an itinerary that is going to include one meal reservation a day. (We don't like being tied to a completely rigid schedule when we travel without kids - we enjoy some spontaneity.) We also are not star chasers - but on special occasion, don't mind dropping $300 for meals - we are saving such a meal for Piedmont.

This is what we had in mind:

1. Arrive in Milan in the early morning. Rent car & start driving south. Stop in Zibello for lunch at La Buca & a tour of the culatello.

2. Time in Modena. Seek out balsamic vinegar tour & lunch - was thinking: (1) Pedroni tour & Osteria di Rubbiara for lunch or (2) Guisti or Villa San Donnino & Hostaria Giusti for lunch.

3. Leave Castelvetro di Modena for Piedmont early morning. We had discussed visiting Torrechiara Castle before lunch. Based on previous posts, we are considering Ai Due Platani for lunch because it is in the direction of Parma & the highway that would take us to Piedmont. If the weather is beautiful, we could drive to and stroll around Parma. If the weather is cold or rainy, we could start our drive to Piedmont.

Now, I have the following questions -

For the day in Zibello, does the culatello tour at La Buca need to be booked when you make reservations? Any other culinary items/places we should seek out when we are in that area?

For the day in Modena, any thoughts on what places that I listed that might make the better experience overall? We are torn. Also, any outstanding gelato and/or bakeries in Modena that are a must visit?

For our last day in ER, are there any other suggestions for lunch in the area? Our lunch budget - without wine - is 50 Euros.

Thank you for all your input!


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  1. Is your lunch budget per person or for the two of you?

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb

      For both of us for that day - but budgets are meant to be broken - so I'm open to suggestions. I'm trying to keep a few meals on the cheaper side so we can splurge on truffles and wine in Piedmont - but I'm also realistic - definitely no more than 75 Euros, wine excluded! :)

    2. There is no need to book a tour. The culatelli just hang in a cellar behind the restaurant. Same thing at Antica Corte in Polesine; there the cellar is larger.

      It takes about two minutes to explain how culatello is made and one minute to look at them hanging. It is all in the eating. Ah, what flavor and aroma. Nothing like it.

      After the meal, just ask to see the cellar and they will be happy to show it to you.

      There is nothing special in that area culinary wise except culatello. 24/7 culatello. If you go to La Buca, think about having spalla as well as culatello.

      1 Reply
      1. re: allende

        Thanks for your advice, Allende! Spalla is on my list of food to order at La Buca!

      2. you could set up a visit to a Parmigiana producer while in ER.

        1. concur with Allende here, the culatello cellar is almost part of the restaurant and no need to book. Actually in terms of Italian cuisine we found La Buca quite dull except for the culatello, but nowhere else was open in town and they do a good "culatello tourism" trade and have been there for ever, so it's worth the trip. there is another restaurant well rated in guide books in nearby Busetto, but it also was closed when we made our culatello expedition.

          our review at http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/emilia_...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Villasampaguita

            I don't have my travel notes nearby but I wonder if you are referring to the place where you drink wines out of bowls?

            Thanks for your input!

          2. Agreed. La Buca ... eat ... get up ... see cellar.

            Castelvetrano is a spectacular, unknown gem.

            In Modena: Acetaia Giorgio gives great tours, right in town, can wlak to Giusti afterward. (A little bit of a walk, but Acetaia Giorgio is fantastic.)

            Definitely go on a Parmigiano tour. In fact --- jeez -- I love Piemonte (ask Sampaguita!), but give Emilia Romagna its due. Like, an extra day?

            Trip seems a bit (understatement) rushed.

            I ate at Cavallino Bianco near Zibello once. Also great lunch. In ??? Polesine Parmense? Along the river, for sure.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pedalaforte

              Good to know we are based in an unknown gem - there is not much online re: the place. Do you have any favorite places to eat in the town itself? We are staying at Locanda Del Feudo in the old city.

              Based on recommendations here in this thread, I'm going to get a parm tour scheduled. It was an idea that was tossed around for awhile.

              This ER leg is rushed - I strongly agree. It wasn't part of the original plan - we like to park ourselves in one spot for a week and take is slow. We are returning to Italy next year & will likely be in ER for at least 10 days.

              Thanks for your input!

            2. FYI: I wasn't dissing your itinerary, just saying the ER part seems rushed. That is, I'd skip the trip east to ER on this trip and spend two more days in Piemonte. Hit ER another time. I did this almost exact trip before but did five nights in ER, five nights in Piedmont. I've since been back to ER three times, and that ain't enough hours to touch it. And there's way, way plenty to see-eat-guzzle in Piedmont.

              Just my two cents. Do enjoy. And you will!

              1 Reply
              1. Sorry to come late to this discussion but I've been traveling.

                Is there a compelling personal reason you are spending your Emilia-Romagna nights in Castelvetro di Modena? Coincidentally, I just returned from visiting there, as part of a long weekend, and it is a pinspeck of a (charming) town not particularly convenient to the western E-R touristing agenda you are outlining. I like the local wine well enough with certain foods, but it is available everywhere in the region.

                I visited Castelvetro di Modena hoping to do a bit of food shopping at La Vecchia Dispensa, but it had spontaneously closed on a Saturday, without explanation, leaving the main piazza of town rather abandoned. Even if La Vecchia Dispensa had been open, Castelvetro di Modena is something of a stage set. On a Saturday at the aperitivo hour, the historic center of town appeared fairly dead. (Maybe the locals gather elsewhere.) I would sooner pick lively Vignola if I wanted to be in that part of E-R.

                Since you have an interest in chocolate, do you know that Vignola makes a unique, famous, historic and delicious chocolate torte?

                Those agricultural roads in an out of Castelvetro di Modena/Vignola, etc./ are not swift driving, especially if it is raining or foggy in October. Even if it is sunny, it is a considerable drive to Parma/Modena and back again.

                If I was committed to a touristing agenda of cheese/vinegar/porky stuff, I would probably stay in handsome Reggio 'nell Emilia or beautiful Parma itself. (Neither town gets too many tourists). Or marvelous Soragna if you want something really off the foreign tourist radar, and you can have goose prosciutto and freshwater fish to boot. FWIW -- since I did not eat in either fetching town -- both Soragna and Vignola have Slow Food restaurants.

                If you'd rather be out in the boonies and closer to Bologna, I spent Saturday night in exceptionally cheerful Savigno (eating dinner there as well) and, while not convenient to the other parts of Emilia-Romagna that apparently interest you, if truffles are of interest to you, then stay in Savigno for 2 nights and book with Amerigo, for 2 nights of food + rooms. Having tasted the food at Amerigo, I agree with the owner's viewpoint that (from the website) " In our opinion it is wrong to try and look for the taste of white truffle in all truffle as if you look for the taste of Porcini in a delicate morel mushroom, each truffle and each mushroom has its own unique taste and flavor. A good recipe should be able to exploit the nuances, also thanks to the different intensities of these products."

                You might find it interesting to get a different take from the mystification and fetishisizing of white truffles (which can just be overpowering killers as part of a meal) and see how a serious but imaginative (not dogmatic) cook handles truffles as an ingredient, not a self-aggrandizing pilgrimage.

                Anyway, your trip isn't until October, and all I am suggesting is that you might want to re-think taking those long and pokey winding drives from and to Castelvetro di Modena to anywhere else if all you've got is 2 days for Emilia-Romagna.

                4 Replies
                1. re: barberinibee

                  Um, there's a Ferrari to rent just down the road for those loooooooong, winding --- and FAST -- roads! I don't know -- been to Castelvetrano twice; loved it both times. Last fall it was during the local Lambrusco festival.

                  Also, hmmmm, porcini nuance? Fantastic. Morel-nuanced foods? Fantastic. Black truffles? Fantastic. White-truffle-nuanced food? Aint no nuance from a roundhouse to the choppers, but that's why Piedmont's chefs pair them with the region's wares. Well.

                  But I'm definitely of the to-each-their-own mindset when it comes to ... well, to everything.

                  1. re: pedalaforte

                    Sorry, pedalforte-- can't follow what you are trying to say -- or saying. Might be my fault -- or the Lambrusco's! (I confess to drinking a fizzy glass of wine from Castelvetro di Modena as I type.)

                    All I am trying to say is that if one is headed to the E-R to spend one's days visiting vinegar makers and culatello cellars, then Castelvetro di Modena is rather far east for that, and I don't know whether there is a great restaurant in town. The Slow Food restaurant in Vignola is only open for lunch. I wouldn't want to be driving too far from Castelvetro di Modena every night just to get dinner.

                    When I get a chance, I'll look at the recent Slow Food guide to see what might be within striking distance for dinner if one is sleeping in Castelvetro di Modena.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      Watch the summer weather. If it's a scorcher, you may not find good Piemonte truffles until late in the fall, maybe not at all. This past year only the smaller truffles were decent. Overall, it was not a good year.

                      In Modena we like Giusti. Ciara speaks English if you want to book by phone, but book ahead you must. Recommending Osteria Francecana is a no-brainer. It's a nice balance between avant-garde and deft reinterpretations of the regional cuisine. Check out the prices and see if it fits your budget and consider it strongly for your splurge place. It's not cheap!!! In Piemonte, don't let the restaurants bring dishes to the table with truffles on them. In case you don't know it, ask for the basket of truffles, examine and smell them and choose the one which you think is best. They will weight the truffle before and after and charge you what you hope is close to a market price.

                      1. re: Robert Brown

                        Thanks for the input. We are actually visiting in later October - but still hope for a nice rainy fall so to encourage a good truffle season.