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November 22, 2013

Our Very Own Gourmet Food tours in Bologna

     I must say that although I knew that Bologna is an excellent holiday destination, I got a lot more than I expected. The food tour in particular was a complete delight. I had gone there with my husband and he too was very pleased with the experience. Our tour company had organized for us to the Bologna gourmet food tour that takes one day. It started pretty early in the morning – we had to be on the road from Bologna to Modena at 7.15 in the morning. We were going to see how Parmesan cheese is made and we were looking to buy some to take back home – I had read up on its production and learnt that the stuff we have back home is nothing compared to the real thing.

parmigiano reggiano

  Our tour guide was great. The first thing that he told us during the tour is that although to the rest of the world it is known as Parmesan cheese, its real name is actually Parmigiano Reggiano and it has DOP status which means (Denomination of Protected Origin) which means that it can only be made in the Bologna area. We saw as the milk arrived and the tour guide explained that it all came from cows around the area and that they were fed on natural grass and hay only. No chemicals go into the milk; in fact, no chemicals go into the entire process at all. The cheese tasting was a great experience.       Next, we headed to see how Balsamic vinegar is made. It is also a DOP product and it takes many years to mature a Balsamic vinegar; the youngest you can get is 12 years old. It is aged by carefully distilling between different sized barrels each smaller than the last. I was surprised to see the end product; it isn’t anything like the Balsamic vinegar we have at home. It is thick, dark and bittersweet – just a drop of it will transform any dish, and it is even used in desserts. We were a bit knocked back by the price; a 100ml bottle was going for as much as €100, but it was so good we bought a couple of bottles anyway.   We stopped for the 3 gourmet food tour lunch and I must say this was the best part of the whole trip. We got 3 courses that were all simply excellent. It starts with a starter of thinly sliced local meats - Salame di Felino, Coppa, Culatello and Fiocco – and Parma ham. The starter was followed by the main course and then we finished with homemade desserts.   The afternoon was saved for a tour of Parma ham factories and it was also very interesting. We got to see how the ham is cleaned, salted, pressed, brined and then cleaned again. We also saw where it is stored till it matures – cold, dark rooms – and then we sampled the final product. Of course it was simply great.   Would I go back? Yes, I definitely would and I will, soon in fact. It was one of the best holidays I have ever taken.
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Gabriele is a dedicated gourmet travel and he visited Bologna many times in the past years

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