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A day in Modena, with an acetaia thrown in

Hello Chowhounders,

My wife and I are going to Italy in October for two weeks of art, architecture, and food. This discussion board has been invaluable in researching the latter, and helped us zero in on good spots to eat in Rome, Florence, and Venice. We'll also be spending two days and two nights in Modena. On our first day there we'll be lunching at Hosteria Giusti and dining at Osteria Francescana - I'm happy to say that I was able to get reservations at both.

Our second day is much more flexible. My only must-do that day is visit an acetaia to sample some real balsamic vinegars (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) and to pick up a bottle to take home. I'm interested in how real balsamic vinegar is made, but I'm most interested in the tasting - I'd like to know how different ones taste, compared against each other, and then buy the kind I like most. Seems like the best place to taste various kinds is at an acetaia.

As I see it, there are three options for us. One: Visit an acetaia based right in Modena, for an hour or so, and spend the rest of the day in Modena's markets and osterias, dining and sampling food of the region right in town. Acetaia di Giorgio (http://www.acetaiadigiorgio.it/) seems like a good option for that, since they're a 20 minute walk from the old centre of town where we'll be based.

Option Two: Travel on our own to one or more places outside of Modena, like Acetaia Pedroni (http://www.acetaiapedroni.it/en/), possibly having lunch there as well.

Option Three: Join an organized tour which visits an acetaia, a Parmigiano-Reggiano maker, and a prosciutto di Parma maker, all in the same day.

A key factor in all of this is that we won't have our own car, so if we choose to visit acetaias or other places farther afield, we'll either have to rent a car, use a taxi or public transport, or be part of an organized tour that provides transportation.

I'm kind of leaning towards Option 1 at the moment, since my primary interest is in tasting balsamic vinegars, and it seems like others who also visit cheese and prosciutto makers report the acetaia as their favourite of the three. I'm also disinclined to spend over 100 Euro on an organized tour where I'd feel I'm mostly just paying for transportation anyway, since I understand most acetaias and other producers offer free tours if contacted independently.

What do you think? Would I be missing out if I didn't visit a Parmigiano-Reggiano maker, and/or a producer of prosciutto di Parma? Is it a much better experience to get out of town for these things, or would it essentially be the same thing at Pedroni versus di Giorgio? Is there a factor I'm missing?

Many thanks. Miscellaneous thoughts about foodie Modena is also welcome!

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  1. Not able to answer your question but don't miss the Modena food market. It's an easy walk from Giusti, on the other side of the main piazza.
    It is chock full of beautiful produce, meats, cheeses and bakery stuff.

    I am not sure how you can plan on dinner after Giusti. We were so full! BTW--we drank the house lambrusco and loved it. The antipasto of mixed salume with gnoccho fritto was really memorable and the wine pairing was just right. They served a darker, fuller bodied lambrusco with the hot food that was also wonderful.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jangita

      agree with jangita - if you have two days there, why not split your meals between these two places? If you are not planning to have a car, and are more interested in tasting than in production processes, Id say you may want to stay in town to see the acetaia. You can taste high quality prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano in town - as jangita noted, the cured meats served at Giusti are really excellent.

      1. re: jen kalb

        Thanks to both of you. I had actually debated whether it was a good idea to have Giusti and Francescana in the same day. But I figured, I'd want to be enjoying Emilian cuisine on both days anyway, since we're only in the region for two days. And I'd want to have nice lunches and dinners on both days—I don't typically do well when I try to starve myself during the day in advance of a big dinner. Giusti appears to offer half-sized portions of many dishes, which we'd likely take advantage of, and it would be 6-7 hours between the meals (dinner at 8:00pm), so it seemed doable. Am I crazy? I might be able to switch one of the reservations if I do it soon.

        And thanks, Jen, for adding to my thoughts on my "Option 1". If there's something really special to find in venturing outside the city then that's one thing, but if I can taste the same quality in town it would make our lives simpler and we'll save a bit of money.

        1. re: Toopee

          as I recall there are quite a number of families that have their acetaie in the town of rModena. I think you can arrange through one of the consortiums of producers but it seems like da Giorgio makes it easy for english speakers//tourists so why not?

          Here are some other links - a consortium website that has a demonstration center http://www.balsamicotradizionale.it/c...
          a second that has a link for arranging visits and a list of members and their websites
          http://www.consorziobalsamico.it/inde...
          a third consortium http://www.balsamico.it/

          1. re: jen kalb

            That's very helpful, Jen, thanks. I think I may go ahead and switch Giusti to the second day if possible, so that we're not having two big meals in one day. If we can do our tasting in town then we'll do that, and not worry about fitting in a day-long excursion on Day 2. Thanks.

    2. Did you see the recent thread on Hostaria da Ivan? It certainly sounds tempting and it is not too far from Modena.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/981992

      2 Replies
        1. re: DavidT

          Thanks, David. Given our carlessness, I think that would be too far for us to venture this trip, but we'll put it on the list should we return to the region again.

        2. I think an advantage to doing Pedroni would be eating lunch there. I understand it is very good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: iamq

            @ DavidT

            Ivan is a good hour and a half from Modena. Is it worth it? Of course. But it is still an hour and a half.

          2. Get in touch w @ERTourism for add. places/things to do in Modena. One acetaia is all it takes to learn everything about the various balsamicos. There's also balsamico made in the province of Reggio Emilia. IMHO, generally of higher quality. But like everything else, it always depends on the producer.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lambrucosecco

              Thanks very much - I'll take that into consideration!