I often make it known that we are not museum people. We tend to skip most, if not all, “must see” museums in every town or city we travel through. Many people criticize us for this, saying we are missing something, or not learning from history. But, we know what we like and what we don’t, and we don’t like museums.
There seems to be an exception though – wine museums.
We arrived at Gavioli Wine Museum, just outside of Modena, Italy. We stepped into a white, modern and open plan wine shop, as we waited for our contact. I snooped around and started to see some wine artifacts. Considering how I normally feel about museums, I was a little disappointed. I thought this would be nothing more than a wine shop, disguised as a museum, to get people to buy the Gavioli wines.
Oh, I was so very wrong.
Exploring the Wine Museum
Instead of a wine shop/museum/tourist trap, the Giacobazzi family patriarch has been collecting artifacts relating to wine production for at least 50 years. From a French wine press dating from the late 18th Century, up to more current methods of production, the Gavioli wine museum spans over 200 years of wine history.
As we walked through the two main museum rooms, we learned about the process of how wine has been made over the last few hundred years, from picking the grapes, to pressing them, to fermenting the wine. Many of the seemingly ancient tools were used up until the Second World War. It was a labor intensive process, including washing the bottles one at a time, inserting corks, labeling – everything was done by hand.
The Gavioli wine museum collection included artifacts from Italy and all over Europe. Many of the pieces included the names of companies from nearby towns within Emilia Romagna. Some of them even included telephone numbers, the strangest of which was telephone number “92”. Just merely 92, as in, it was the 92nd phone number that had been issued at the time.
The most interesting piece of wine history, though, included a machine that could make any bottle of wine sparkling. It was explained like this: if you have a customer in the restaurant who wants a bottle of sparkling wine, but you don’t have any on hand, then this ancient machine would make it sparkling. It is probably pretty similar to those machines that people have in their houses now that make sparkling water, but for wine!
Perhaps it was because we received a private tour, to learn about the different artifacts on display, or perhaps it was because the subject of the tour related to wine, but this was one museum that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Italian Transportation History – at a Wine Museum?
We had anticipated, based on our itinerary, that we would be touring a wine museum. In fact, if you look at the Gavioli wine museum brochure, there is a map of the museum rooms, including the three rooms loaded with wine treasures.
But, our tour did not end there. Instead, we were escorted through another door into a transportation museum, and then beyond that to their cellar, production floor and aging room. I am not sure if the “regular” tour includes these extra rooms.
The transportation museum is only a fraction of the collection of the Giacobazzi family. The collection included some Ferrari models, of course, as the home of Ferrari is only a few kilometers away. One Ferrari model was created for the American market in the 1970’s and included air conditioning, a novelty at the time.
For me, I was excited to see the old Fiat “Mickey Mouse”, named for the headlights on the front, which resembled ears. I have been infatuated with Fiats since some of our early trips to Italy. Our guide looked at me strange when I was more excited about this old Fiat than the Ferrari or Maserati. I was able to sit inside the tiny little car, to imagine what it would be like to drive this Fiat through the Italian countryside in the mid 1940’s.
Tasting at the Gavioli Wine Museum
At the end, we experienced, probably the best part of visiting a wine museum – the wine testing. We first tried the classic Lambrusco di Sorbara, a dry, sparkling rose, different from the deep red Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, which we had become accustomed to during this tour through Emilia Romagna.
Sensing perhaps that we were keen to try something else, we were offered a Lambrusco DOC Modena, a sparkling brut made in the classical method. Although many bottles of Lambrusco can be found for less than €5, this bottle goes for an astonishing €16. For me, coming from Bali, it is still a bargain. Particularly considering how good it was. Fresh, crisp, dry, perfectly bubbled. We immediately purchased a bottle for later, as it was so unique.
And, not to let us walk away disappointed without a taste of the traditional, ruby red Lambrusco Grasparossa, we were gifted a bottle to take with us.
This was the best museum trip ever! The museum was well done, as was the private tour. We both walked away saying to each other that the museum was much more enjoyable than we anticipated. Perhaps, museums are not so bad after all.
Gavioli Wine Museum and Shop is located at Via Provinciale Ovest, 55, Nonantola, Italy
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.
More About Our Trip
We were supported during our tour by Emilia Romagna Tourism, but all of my opinions, and all of my gulping sounds, are of course my own.
For more about the food and wine in Emilia Romagna, check out our Emilia Romagna Food Travel Guide.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.