Going on a culinary tour of the Bologna/Parma area of Emilia Romagna should be a must on the itinerary of any food lover visiting Italy. The towns and villages around Bologna and Parma are the bread-basket of northern Italy and are home to the producers of the majority of famous Italian food exports such as Parma Ham (prosciutto di Parma), Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) and real Balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico). A typical culinary tour of the region will take you to see how all three of these products are made and give you the opportunity to taste them, followed by a lunch featuring the specialities of the region.
Parma hams visits in Parma, Make sure you have a GPS.
These tours generally start in Bologna, with an early-morning (7.30 am) departure, to be sure you get to the cheese manufacturer in time for the once-a-day morning tour, and you will be returned to Bologna after lunch. However, if you are not based in Bologna, it would probably suit you far better to do the tour in your own car. This option has many advantages, which will become evident as you read on. This is how do go about it.
Rent a car and GPS. You probably already have a rental car…it is by far the best way to see the many attractions of the Italian countryside. Be sure to request a GPS…all the producers are situated in rural areas, and can be really tricky to find.
Meet your guide.
Meet your tour guide at a pre-determined location near Modena, Parma or Bologna. This will save you a lot of time, as you can choose a location near the first stop of your tour. It is really important to have a guide to ensure you get the best out of your day; Our guides know the area and the producers extremely well and will be invaluable, especially if you do not speak Italian. They will also ensure that all visits that require advanced bookings will be organised well in advance to save you time.
The Culinary Tour will start with a visit to one of the 1600 Parmesan cheese producers, where the production process starts early every single morning of the year, and where you will be able to see the entire process from the raw milk to the finished product and the maturation cellars. From here you will move on to Modena, to see how the wonderful aged Balsamic vinegar is made, and learn why this product is so superior, and how to use it correctly.
Then it’s back into your car and on to Langhirano, south of Parma to visit a Parma Ham producer. Once again, you will have the opportunity to see the full production process and, best of all, get to taste the wonderful end-product. The tour will end will lunch, where you can savour Prosciutto de Parma and other regional cured meats before trying some of the traditional pasta of the region, followed by dessert and coffee.
This is the point where the full benefit of doing the tour in your own rental car becomes evident! Instead of being returned to Bologna, you have the freedom to spend the rest of your day enjoying the many pleasures of Parma and Modena. Now you will say goodbye to your guide and have time to explore on your own.
Both Modena and Parma are very charming and characteristic Italian towns, full of churches, art, architecture and interesting shops. Stroll around the piazza in Modena and visit the wonderful fresh food market (Mercato Albinelli) to shop for your supper, or sit at one of the outside cafes and enjoy an espresso while you watch the world go by. Ferrari fans could go to Maranello and visit the Ferrari Museum, while if culture is more to your liking you could visit the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral. Finish off a perfect day with a glass of local Lambrusco.