We ate our way through parts of Northern Italy, journeying from Firenze (Florence) in Tuscany through Emilia-Romagna and ending in Piemonte. We thought it would be a good idea to post a few thoughts and sights that we experienced along the way. A quick summary: olive oil is Tuscany’s favorite condiment, point-and-shoot digital cameras architecturally ‘correct’ the leaning Tower of Pisa, Ferraris are cool and fast, we are envious of Italian produce available in the market, 300-year old Stradivari violins are perfectly preserved in Cremona and food and wine is fabulous almost everywhere we visited in Italy.
One thing we noticed in Tuscany is that olive oil makes everything taste that much better. Almost all of the dishes we had there, including the Bistecca, is tastily doused with olive oil. Here is an example of the Cream of Porcini Mushroom soup we had at Trattoria Cibreo in Florence:
On a slightly rainy day, we decided to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We were horrified to discover that digital point-and-shoot cameras (and iPhones) actually compensate and correct the lean to force the tower to stand upright, something many engineers over the ages have failed to do. So great was our shock, that we shot a video showing some Pisa Magic created by the Sony digital camera. Few people seem to know about this phenomenon, and it almost makes me want to dust off my 35mm Olympus OM-1 camera. Check it out for yourself:
Post Pisa-magic, we stayed in town and had a nice lunch at Il Bistrot, where we shared this beautiful platter of ham to start our meal:
In Modena, we did have a chance to visit the Ferrari Museum and Factory. We marveled at all the beautiful, expensive cars and how we can only imagine how fast they can go. With such a long history with Formula 1, they had a display with matchbox model cars from each year’s version (click on different parts of the picture to check out Lytro living picture refocusing capability):
The covered market in Modena made us truly envious of their beautiful produce and market selections. In California, we pride ourselves on the great bounty of vegetables, but neither Bay Area Whole Foods, the Ferry Building Marketplace or local Farmers Markets have as much of the selection of products that we saw in this market. They had several versions of bitter greens and the whitest and fattest leeks we have ever seen. Artichokes are in season and are just as delightful to look at as it is eating them:
We could do a whole post on this market alone, and perhaps one day we will since we have several more photos. The covered market has it all in one place: butchers, seafood, vegetables, pasta, bread, cheese and even a stall that focusses just on Salumi:
After our visit to Antica Corte Pallavicina to learn about the excellent Culatello, we stopped by Cremona to visit the Stradivari Museum, dedicated to the finest crafter of violins ever. The workmanship and detail are astounding, as this specimen from the early 1700s shows:
Another random thought is the extent to which food and wine in Italy is very regionally focused. We all are probably aware that there are literally thousands of Italian grape varietals, but the one thing we discovered is that each region seems to have their own breed of high-end white/grey colored cows as well: Tuscany with their Chianina and long-horned Maremmana, Emilie-Romagna with their Bianca Modenese (not to mention the red Reggiana that produces milk for their special cheese) and the Sanato Vitello in Piemontese. These are just the regions we traveled through, we can only imagine how many different cow breeds there are in the rest of Italy. We are pretty sure that this would likely apply to pig breeds as well.
One of the best things we encountered during our trip was the evening turn down service at the place that we stayed in Piemonte, Bricco dei Cogni in La Morra. No where else on earth could you possibly find glasses of Barolo wine waiting for you on your bed when you return home in the evening (we’ll never think of those pillow-side chocolates the same way again):
This wasn’t our first trip to Italy, nor will it be our last. We will return, maybe to discover new regions such as Trentino-Alto Adige (highly recommended by Ilaria, a native and resident of Emilie-Romagna), explore more about Emilie-Romagna, or even return back to the places that we know and love such as Piemonte.
Ciao Italia, until next time.
Note: The BarFlys are vacationing in Italy. SF posts will return soon; in the meantime, please enjoy these travel-related posts.
Click here to view all dining posts related to our Italian gastronomic journey.