Italy: Day 6?
I'm starting to lose count! I feel like we have seen and accomplished so much in the little time that we've been here. Initially I was nervous that in my excitement I had planned too much and would be rushing us through these cities but that is turning out to not be the case! We have had an equal amount of time so far to enjoy the culture and the sights without feeling strained on the length of our stay.
After reading an article months ago that Bologna was the official "stomach of Italy" I inquired with a company called "Italian Days Food Tours" to see if they could accommodate us into on of their tours while we were here. Today we took that venture with a group of 10 other people.
The day started out with a 6:00am wake up call. "Please be prompt" was written across every email. Pickup was set for 7:00am. Sure enough as Allen and I rounded the corner at 6:59am still rubbing our eyes, our driver was out of the car and waiting for us with another couple from Australia. We picked up one other couple who happened to be from Santa Clarita, CA and drove to our first stop at the Parmesan Reggiano factory to meet up with the other half of our group.
It was explained to us that the reason for the early start time was because the cheese production began at 8:00am after the morning delivery of milk arrived and to get the full experience of the cheese making process it was better for us to be there and see it in person rather than explain it to us after the fact.
We did indeed get to see every step! What is known as the "King of Cheeses" begins with 220 gallons of milk in a copper lined tub that is cooked to a specific temperature. An enzyme called rennet is then added which immediately curdles the milk and that is left to sit and thicken before it is broken up by hand with this large whisk like instrument. The best way to describe it is watered down rice sized cottage cheese. This is drained to make Parmesan and what is left? A giant round of fresh ricotta!
Afterwards, we were led outside where a brunch was waiting for us that consisted of wine, salami and mortadella sandwiches, two types of Parmesan cheese (one aged longer than the other for taste comparison) and Italian pastries filled with custard and Nutella cream.
We did also go to a balsamic winery and prosciutto workshop and those were both wonderful but the pinnacle of our day was our fourth and final stop at a restaurant and bed and breakfast in the Bologna countryside. Thank goodness we were driven because we would not have been able to find it on our own! The hills were alive with the sound of music out there if you know what a mean... Hills upon hills, vineyards, fig trees, wild flowers, ponds, chickens. Landscape. Coming from Orange County where there is no greenery really this was a huge awestruck moment.
When we arrived the table was set for 12. The first, second and third course came out right after each other. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. All homemade and all delicious. The first was sausage and cioppino onions with chives. The second was a creamy asparagus rigatoni and the third was a Bologna specialty - tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce. The main entree was roasted pig cheek with grilled zucchini, broccoli and fennel. Dessert next then coffee. I counted something like 10 empty wine bottles on the table. I did not leave empty handed though. Two wine bottles made it home. At only 6 euros a piece how could I not? The only question was, "why didn't I buy more!?"
It will be hard to beat today. These memories and moments are priceless and there is no way we could have planned for the chance meeting of these strangers but we are grateful for their new friendships. For this reason Bologna will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Check out Italian Days Food and Wine Tours on their website here!