When we stayed in Modena last year, we instantly fell in love, both with the city and the surrounding areas. We rented a car for that trip and were able to explore all of the famous Modena food products, by stopping at wineries and cheese makers along the way.
During this trip to Modena, I didn’t want to rent a car. We were staying in an apartment in a restricted part of town, where we couldn’t park. And frankly, I didn’t want the hassle of a rental car. But, my good friend from the US, Mollis, was visiting us. I wanted Mollis to taste all of the famous Modena foods, and have a similar experience to what we had when we visited in 2014.
I figured, if nothing else, we could rent a car for a day and go exploring because that is the one thing about Modena: everything great is outside of the town.
Of course there is an amazing Modena food market, and tons of great restaurants in town. We ate very, very well in Modena. There are also some shops where you can taste traditional balsamic vinegar, and even Parmigiano Reggiano. But, it is more difficult to learn the details of how these foods are produced if you are limited to exploring the region solely from inside Modena.
As part of the 2015 EXPO in Milan, the Modena tourism board realized this was a problem and decided to try out something new. They offered something akin to a hop-on, hop-off bus to explore the land of fast cars and slow food.
Because that’s what Modena is all about: fast cars and slow food.
Using the Discover Ferrari Passport
Technically, the passport is called Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land Modena, Slow Food, Fast Cars. But that is too much to type, so let’s just call it Discover Ferrari. Much easier to swallow.
Discover Ferrari is a route of food and wine producers, along with some historic sites, which surround the town of Modena. There is a route map, which you can explore using your own transportation, or by using the hop-on, hop off bus system. Each of the stops offers a free tour or tasting, allowing tourists the chance to try the major Modena foods. This includes Parmigiano Reggiano, Lambrusco wine, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar.
What made this tour even better was that all of these stops promised to be open seven days a week, even in August. That meant it was unnecessary to call ahead to make arrangements for visits. Traveling Italy in August can be a pain due to closures; this made exploring the region during the summer a lot more predictable.
Fast Cars in Modena
Our first stop was the Ferrari museum in nearby Maranello. We’ve driven past the museum before, but never stopped in. Frankly, I am not a fast cars kind of person, I don’t care for F1 when it’s on TV, and I don’t obsess about horsepower.
I would not have stopped into the Ferrari museum and paid an admission to see it, although many people do. We stopped solely as part of Discover Ferrari. We figured if it was included in the passport, we would stop by, particularly as we had Mollis with us. I thought it would be good to show her the big sites around Modena and the Ferrari museum is certainly one of the biggest.
The Ferrari museum was interesting, but because none of us are gear heads, we kind of finished it pretty quick. We walked around, saw some shiny cars and waited for the bus to pick us up for our next destination.
Slow Food in Modena
We planned our Discover Ferrari route over two days, to explore the Modena food products Mollis needed to taste. We already took her for a balsamic vinegar tasting the day before and we took her to a Lambrusco winery, both with Yummy Italy. Although the Discover Ferrari passport provided these experiences as well, we decided to focus on the most important Modena food products that remained: meat and cheese.
After the Ferarri museum, we visited the Museo della Salumeria, a small three story museum describing the specialty cured meats of Emilia Romagna. Our guide walked us through the museum, explaining the different kinds of prosciutto and other meats. We watched a short movie that walked through the manufacturing process as well. At the end, we tasted some meat. I love when a museum involves a tasting at the end.
On our second day, we visited a Parmigiano Reggiano producer. This particular producer, Caseificio 4 Madonne, is a cooperativo, or a collection of producers. Different dairies from the region bring their milk, twice a day, to the caseificio to produce Parmigiano Reggiano. Again, we watched a short video to explain the production and saw some of the employees working on the cheese that morning.
We also toured the aging room, which contained over 33,000 wheels of cheese, including some that were at least 75 months old. I could’ve spent hours hanging out in the aging room. The smell alone is intoxicating, and the wheels of aged cheese, well, they are just so photogenic!
Yes, I took more photos of cheese than I did of the Ferraris.
This was a much larger producer, in comparison to the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese makers we visited last year. For us, it was interesting to see the difference. Mollis was so impressed with this part of the tour, and found it fascinating to learn how they make the cheese.
After our tour we tasted, of course. The tasting was the best part, well, after standing surrounded by 33,000 wheels of cheese.
Touring Emilia Romagna for Modena Foods
We are becoming experts on the food products of Emilia Romagna, and in particular, of Modena. We’ve toured several producers of prosciutto, parmigiano, Lambrusco wine and balsamic vinegar. For someone who has been to Emilia Romagna a few times before, these tours may not provide additional insight into the foods of the region.
But, for someone new to the area, who has a short amount of time, this tour was perfect. And, Mollis was our guinea pig. She enjoyed the tours and learning about Modena foods. She even said that if she were traveling alone, she would feel totally comfortable traveling the region on the Discover Ferrari bus, rather than driving herself around exploring. We saw several groups of travelers making the most out of the passport, with tours perfectly timed to coincide with the bus schedule – this allows you to easily make the most of a day outside of town.
The passport can be purchased ahead of time on the Discovery Ferrari website. As of now, the passport will only be available through October 31, because it is part of EXPO Milan. I do hope though, that they continue to offer the passport in one form or another next year. I think it’s a great way to explore the region.
The passport costs €60, is valid for two consecutive days and includes the cost of entry to the museums and businesses along the route.
Planning a Trip to Emilia Romagna?
Looking for more travel tips on Emilia Romagna, and how to eat the best food in Italy? My book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, is available on Amazon now. If you are a NOOK reader, it is also available for download on Barnes and Noble.
More About Our Trip
We were hosted by Emilia Romagna Tourism for our Discover Ferrari day, but as always, my opinions are my own.
UPDATE: The Discover Ferrari program was, indeed, extended. The price is currently €48, and they’ve even extended the shuttle routes so that it is possible to start the tour at the high speed train stations in Bologna and Reggio Emilia!