We are not newbies to Italy travel. In fact, before this trip, we had been to over 15 cities and towns in Italy, from Rome to Milan to Venice, and loads of small towns in between. It is a place that has captured our hearts and our imaginations for years. But, we had never spent time touring Emilia Romagna, a region I was relatively unfamiliar with.
Italy was one of the first countries we visited overseas – Ireland was first to visit family. Italy was second. When living in Chicago we took Italian language classes. We considered buying property in Italy for years.
We also managed to travel here regularly while living in the States, at least once a year for awhile. We came for Christmas, anniversaries. We even came to Italy for Labor Day weekend one year. We were jet-setters.
Our last trip was in early 2010, when we brought my mother in law to see the Pope. It’s a loose interpretation, but she experienced a mass led by the Pope. We traveled to Luca to see new friends, and to Bologna. Could it be that two people who love to travel, and who love Italy, had not been to Italy in over four years? How did that happen?
When we planned our gastro trip through Europe we could not decide between visiting Spain or Italy, so as any legitimate full-time travelers do – we decided to visit both. And, like many Americans, we immediately assumed a return trip to Tuscany and Umbria was in order. Pasta, wine, vineyards, stunning hill towns. It just seemed obvious. Many Americans might not even know that Emilia Romagna exists at all.
Then, one night in Bali, Eric played a recent Anthony Bourdain show on the computer. I remember it distinctly as I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing, and I increasingly became more distracted by what was on the screen.
The episode was Anthony Bourdain touring Emilia Romagna, a large region that reaches from Rimini on the east coast almost to Milan. It encompasses Bologna (home of lasagne), Modena (home of traditional balsamic vinegar), Parma (home to Prosciutto ham), and Reggio-Emilia (which gives its name to Parmagiano-Reggiano). In addition, there is a little town to the west called Piacenza, home to pancetta. Sign me up. I haven’t even mentioned the white truffles!
We had some problems in the past trying to recreate Anthony Bourdain experiences, in particular in Croatia. Would I be setting us up for failure if we wanted to tour Emilia Romagna, which might be considered the foodie capital of the world, based on watching Bourdain in Emilia Romagna?
For us, the bar was actually set pretty low. We have very little access to wine on a regular basis in Bali. Minimal access to cheese. And, try to find a decent pancetta or proscuitto in Ubud – I dare you.
So for us, two weeks touring Emilia Romagna, eating pasta and drinking wine, and exploring local food markets, was enough to make me happy. If we were inspired by Anthony Bourdain in Emilia Romagna, that would be enough. I did not need to recreate his experience.
Touring Emilia Romagna for Food
I can tell you, without hesitation, that touring Emilia Romagna was one of the best foodie experiences ever. I have officially designated it as a must visit destination for any so-called foodie. There is so much history and tradition surrounding food. New and exciting restaurants mixed with generations old farms and family-owned food factories.
It was explained to me that in a northern European city, like London or Amsterdam, if someone invites you over for dinner it is rude to talk about food. If you talk about a meal you have eaten prior it would be considered rude to the host. Instead, you should talk only about the meal you are currently eating.
This concept does not exist in Emilia Romagna. While touring Emilia Romagna, we had so many conversations about food and meals both past and present. We walked into a bar one night and the bartender and a customer were watching a youtube video about cooking an egg in a special way. They watched it over and over and over. They analyzed it. They were intrigued by it.
And, this, my friends is Emilia Romagna. It is why we came here for two full weeks, driving all over Emilia Romagna, looking for food, drinking wine, and tasting balsamic vinegar. It is why we left much fatter than we arrived. It is why I will be rolling out blog posts on touring Emilia Romagna for weeks and months to come and why I will have at least a dozen videos on YouTube about the food. It is why we most likely will return in 2015. It is a foodie haven, and I felt entirely at home.
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.
We were supported during our tour by Emilia Romagna Tourism, but all of my opinions, and all of my yummy sounds, are of course my own. For more information on Modena, check out this Modena Travel Guide from Bacon is Magic, and yes, it truly is.
For more about the food 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.