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The Emilia-Romagna region is often a mystery to even the most seasoned Italy travelers, but some of its nine provinces can be easily explored with the Cooking, Motors and Nature itinerary offered by Perillo Tours. Tucked in northern Italy between the Apennines Mountains, the Emilia-Romagna region is comprised of capital Bologna as well as Modena, Ferrara, Parma and other charming towns. The must-do activities are numerous, but a good amount of highlights are manageable within a week. Naturally, culinary indulgence should be on the agenda — feast on local specialties such as tagliatelle pasta topped with a slow-cooked Bolognese ragu. Chew on hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sample aged balsamic vinegar.
Emilia-Romagna is the place where songstress Tracy Chapman’s question “Do You Drive a Fast Car?” can be answered with a resounding “Yes!” as this is the Motor Valley and home to Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati factories, where visitors can see both street and racing bikes in production. Testosterone flows freely while traversing these roads, but female clients who dig speed and good eats will love it too.
Stone arcades designed to shield people from the rain and sun are found all around this college town, where the first university dates back to the 11th century. People watching is de rigeur, and top spots include the Piazza del Nettuno, with its masterful centerpiece, a nude bronze statue and fountain of sea god Neptune. With a nickname of “la grossa” (fat), eating to excess isn’t frowned upon in Bologna — it’s almost celebrated. Mortadella, the region’s famous cured meat, as well as prosciutto and salami, will almost always appear as a lunch option no matter the restaurant. In the evenings, follow local tradition and have a biscotti or a Nocciola gelato from Cremeria Funivia, where lines (though quick moving) are known to trickle out the door. The jazz scene is also becoming a source of late night entertainment, with clubs playing live music for a diverse crowd of students, locals and tourists.
Learn how to make fresh pasta at the glass-walled Casa Artusi under the tutelage of sweet, non-English-speaking resident cooks called mariettas, as well as the school’s professional chef. Guests will knead dough, then shape pappardelle, cappelletti and more.
This town is headquarters to world-famous automaker Ferrari. Its museum, which opened in March 2012, is more of a gallery, but there’s still an impressive assortment of classic cars on display. Between Bologna and Modena is the Lamborghini factory and museum. Here, visitors will see the inner workings of one of the world’s most coveted cars. They will be able to see the process from engine to fancy final product — Lamborghini produces just six cars a day. ItalyVacations.com, the independent travel department of Perillo Tours, can arrange private test drives of the vehicles around the country roads complete with a video of you behind the wheel.
Modena is also famous for its balsamic vinegar. Those made here are obtained from grapes that are cooked down, its juice naturally fermented, and then aged in wooden barrels. Learn to taste the difference between vinegars aged from 12 to 25 years during a visit to Acetaia di Giorgio, a small boutique producer. Some are so sweet they can be drizzled over ice cream. Once clients have sampled 100 percent Aceto Balsamico from this city, it will be hard to go back to anything else at home.
ItalyVacations.com’s six-night tour includes an informal painting class with a local artist, a visit to the city of Ravenna, with its breathtaking Byzantine mosaics, plus a stop and tasting at a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese factory.
ItalyVacations.com is the independent travel department of Perillo Tours. The Cooking, Motors, and Nature itinerary is $2,799 per person. It must be booked at 800-482-5925. Other customized Emilia-Romagna itineraries can be arranged as well.