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Why visit Emilia-Romagna for a second time? This is what we asked Jake L. Morrow, Associate Professor of Business Administration of Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham AL, USA. He has been visiting our region for 10 years now, he’s come back more than for a second time, and he asked us to plan also this year a private food tour as an Educational Trip for his students.

His answer was “if I am happy, why should I change?” In short, Professor Bert got to know Bologna when he was a researcher. He found that the Emilia-Romagna region was very interesting for his studies on GMO- versus naturally-developed food due to its strong vocation for food-farming, especially more than 10 years ago. Later, BSC College asked him to organize an educational  & leisure Trip in Italy. To be innovative and different, he chose a less conventional destination than more more famous Rome, Florence and Venice. He chose Bologna.

He’s become attached to the people and the place. Out of Europe, Italy is his favorite place.  Today, he keeps coming back to Bologna, which is a perfect logistic base to explore the business, economic and productive area of food-farming, and to take daily trips to the art cities by fast train. He loves going back to the same restaurant where the owner welcomes him back life family. He likes being accompanied by the same tour guide, Daniela Bigatti. He wants his students to enjoy a very local and authentic experience. Bologna is not very tourist and is not standardized. Bologna is Bologna.

The itinerary that Prof. Bert and I have planned together this year has been particularly rich and varied. Allow me to say that it perfectly represents the finest foods – and not only food – that have become a symbol all over the world for Italy’s premium products and Italians’ creative attitude. The Food Valley and the Motor Valley of Italy.

The first spot was the factory and museum of the prestigious automobile brand Lamborghini in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Then, we drove West to arrive in Reggio Emilia, and there we entered the magic world of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia – a stunning food tradition that has been passed on for generations and that is always very surprising for visitors. Very few people expect such a fullness of flavors for a simple vinegar and that the PDO-certified traditional version takes at least 12 years of aging to be marketed. Later, we visited a pasta factory to see how real Italian Pasta is made, the real-time production process – inspiring. Very close to Reggio Emilia is the town of Parma, famous for Parma ham – to say it right “Prosciutto di Parma DOP” and Parmesan cheese – to be exact “Parmigiano Reggiano DOP”. These two Italian products are certified as products of Protected Designation of Origin based on the EU legislation and the chance to watch their respective productive processes really makes people understand why. A lot of work and a lot of care.

Bologna city of food is the political capital of the region and has become more and more active in recent years. Not to miss the beautiful view from San Michele in Bosco up the first hills of Bologna and only 15-mins walk from the historical centre. The day we stopped for this was cloudy, but we could perfectly see the super-central Asinelli tower!

Then, we drove East to the Romagna region to take a guided tour of an olive oil producer in Brisighella, visit this beautiful ancient Medieval village and enjoyed some food and wine typical of this area: Strozzapreti Pasta with ragù sauce made from the Bianca Romagnola cow breed, truffle and Sangiovese red wine.

The last stop was FICO Eataly World, where we learnt how Bologna Mortadella is made locally and had a superb tasting.

Should ourselves answer why visiting Emilia-Romagna for a second time, we would say that there is always something new to learn.

Each trip is unique. It brings the emotions of that trip. Each trip is the result of the people you meet, the emotions that you bring home, the places that you visit, the pictures that you take. An example? The warm shades of the  vineyards on the hills in Fall, the sun beating down on the hay bales just after the harvest in Summer, the snow covering the red roofs of Bologna historical centre, and the fog softly enveloping the Po Valley, which can be kind of romantic and enjoyable – if you are comfortably seated in a private car with driver and your tour guide…

We could add that it is worthy to visit again for the vast diversity offered by this region. We do not want to sound too localist, but Emilia Romagna offers a tremendous multiplicity of experiences, with plenty of Medieval villages, towers and castles, museums and monuments, resulting from centuries of history, wars and different rules.  It has a strong food culture and is well-prepared to welcome foodies and visitors from all over the world, so much so it has been recently defined the “ultimate foodies destination”.

Do you want an example of culinary variety? 23 different sizes of typical eggs pasta; Tortellini, Lasagne, and Tagliatelle, to mention the most popular ones. They are traditionally rolled by the rolling pin. Something that you can learn in a funny cooking class guided by a very local “sfoglina” teacher/cook.

Food culture keeps strong and intact thanks to grandma’s recipes passed on and on, passionate people patiently working to age Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena for at least 12 years, and locals preserving their land to produce non-standardized wines. Every year, wine producers of Bologna and Castelvetro hills in the province of Modena produce their wines to be sold in the finest restaurants of Italy. As matter of fact, wine is the results of each different vintage year, climate and the people who have taken care of it from the first buds of the vines.  Smell and aroma are distinctive of one particular wine and cannot be standardized. Wine tells the story of a place, of a family.  Wine, like food, becomes true and important only if it shared.

At Emilia Storytellers we work to share our  culture and land 360°. We would be happy to welcome you for the first time, and even happier to welcome you for a second time and make you feel like at home. So, we could end and say that we think it is worthy to come back to try different things and, every time, feel like part of a family .

Thanks to Prof. Bert for loving Emilia-Romagna so much and for coming back every year. Thanks for choosing our services of private and tailor-made food tours. Thanks to all the partner producers and companies that welcomed our group… See you next year!

Katia Perdicaro – Founder of Emilia Stoytellers