I use TripAdvisor frequently when we travel. It has become an invaluable resource to our trip planning because you can connect with so many people who are very knowlegable about the area you plan to travel.
On TripAdvisor, I had heard of many tours that take you to producers of the main three foods from Parma, including balsamic vinegar. But, once I contacted a tour company, I was quoted a gargantuan price and you had to provide your own transportation. So, I decided to dig into the travel forums a bit deeper. I found out that you can contact the Traditonal Balsamic Vinegar Consortium about setting up a tour with a producer. I did exactly this, and within one day, the consortium emailed me with a message that a producer would soon be in touch to set up a visit.
I received an email the following day to set up a tour with Davide and Cristina from Villa San Donnino. Davide was so kind and helpful, we set up a tour for Saturday the 11 of April. He offered us a free tour, or a paid tour which would take us not only to the acetaia, but also a tour of the Villa itself and a tasting of the vinegar with regional products.
It took us a little while to find the Villa, fortunately we had GPS. But once we found it, we found a beautiful Italian villa. Davide met us at the entrance. First, we toured the Villa.
The villa is beautiful, and gigantic! It was built in 1910 and purchased by Davide's grandfather some years later. Iin 1976, the villa was used in the filming of the Robert deNiro movie, 1900. The interior of the villa is incredible! There is an amazing art collection, and Davide showed us his collection of bronze animal figurines.
I cannot even begin to do justice to the villa. The ceilings were high, and the walls were decorated in frescoes. We were brought into the dining room, which was also used in the filming of the movie. The fireplace is decorated in an azure blue and gold mosaic tile, and is breathtaking. In the dining room, the fresco around the ceiling contains the crest of the original owner, Lieutenant San Donnino.
After touring the main floor of the villa, we were brought to the cellar, to the kitchen and smaller dining room. Davide and his wife, Cristina, brought us various local products to enjoy with the traditional balsamic vinegar. First of course, we were brought a Lambrusco produced by the family. We tried Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with Extravecchio Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (TBV), which is aged over 25 years, and homemade breadsticks. We then tried homemade ricotta cheese with balsamic vinegar jelly. As a finish, we had homemade vanilla ice cream with Nerone, which is a sweeter condiment. Everything was incredible , and I never knew balsamic vinegar could be so versatile.
After our bellies were full, Davide brought us to the acetaia, the building on the property where he produces TBV.
The process of making TBV is fascinating. It is a bit like wine-making. Davide uses a mixture of Trebbiano, a white grape, and Lambrusco, a red grape. The grape juice, or must, is boiled down and fermented by the addition of already fermented TBV. The must is fermented in barrels of varying size, beginning with the largest first. Every year the must is then moved into smaller barrels. The barrels are not completely closed, there is a hole in each, covered by a cloth, that allows for the air to enter and for the liquid to evaporate. Unlike wine, the barrels can only be used once, as the vinegar gives its flavor to the barrel, whereas wine takes its flavor from the barrel.
Davide explained that the best location for an acetaia is in the attic of a building. The cold in winter slows the process, and is the time when the vinegar is moved within the barrels. The heat from the summer fuels the fermentation process.
After 12 years, the vinegar is bottled and sold as Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, Aceteio Balsamico Tradizionale. Some vinegar is allowed to ferment for 25 years, and then sold as Aceteio Balsamico Tradizionale Extravecchio.
The vinegar is heaven on earth, and is nothing at all like the Balsamic Vinegar from Modena that is sold in grocery stores. But then again, you probably wouldn's use TBV to douse a salad.
We spent the majority of the afternoon at the villa. It was such an incredible experience, an opportunity most people never have. Not only to enjoy the food, but to learn about such a delicate and traditional process. The afternoon will surely be something to remember for a long time.
We left Modena, and headed out to Bologna. Before we made it to Bologna, we made a brief detour in boy's heaven, Maranello to look at the Ferarri factory.
Joern was a bit disappointed to discover that the factory is only open to Ferarri owners, but it was still fun to drive around Ferarri town. We even found the test track, where they test not only street Ferarris, but also the Formula 1 cars. It was amazing to think of all the influential people in the racing world to drive on the track.
We then went to the Ferarri Galleria. They have a few Ferarris on display, including ones that were racing champions once.
From the Gallery, we headed out to Bologna, our stop for the next two nights.
Welcome to our life!
Hi, I'm Allison! I'm a thirtysomething, freshly baked, stay-at-home mom. I'm originally from Connecticut, now living in Germany, hence the name of the blog. I live in southern Germany with my German husband and our baby boy. Life has turned out to be nothing I ever expected, and am so incredibly happy with it! We certainly do have a lot of laughs! I hope you will enjoy following our new experiences raising a little half American/ half German in a little German town.