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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Foodie Honeymoon in Italy

Words by Holly V. Kapherr
Photos courtesy of Emilia-Romagna Region Tourist Authority

Spend your sweet escape at the intersection of Italy’s timeless romance and culinary heritage: the region of Emilia-Romagna. It’s a no-brainer that Italy is one of the world’s most romantic destinations, and for foodie couples, it’s nirvana. Rome, Florence and Venice might be your first choices for a post-wedding Italian getaway, but there’s good reason couples who identify as eating enthusiasts should head to the lesser-known region of Emilia-Romagna instead.

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Many of the ingredients you love in Italian cooking, including Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto and salami, and – of course – pasta, all have their origins in Northern Italy. The Slow Food movement started there, too, so there’s a dedication to authenticity and traditionalism that doesn’t always translate to the more tourist-trafficked areas of the country. Meaning: You’ll be hard pressed to find “tourist menus” – and that’s a good thing.

Here’s how to eat your way through Northern Italy and savor every bite, while taking in some of the region’s most romantic hidden gems and la dolce vita vistas.

DAY 1-2: BOLOGNA

There’s a reason the reasonably-sized city of Bologna has worn the nickname “The Fat One” for centuries. It’s said this is where pasta was invented, not to mention Bolognese sauce, which tops the thick ribbons of pappardelle native to the city. The Bolognese people take their traditions seriously and you’ll have to work hard to have a bad meal here.

Start at the Mercato di Mezzo and stroll through the winding streets together, taking in the sights and smells where the city’s flavors are on full display. Stop and sample some thinly shaved mortadella, a pistachio-studded deli-style meat that’s wholly underappreciated stateside, but that the Bolognese claim as a staple, especially atop crusty bread spread with creamy ricotta. It’s to die for, and the place to get it is local favorite restaurant Zerocinquantello. Order the mortadella as a starter and then the tortellini en brodo. The tiny cheese-stuffed pastas float alongside fat shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano in a hearty chicken broth in this regional classic. Toast your union with a liter of semi-sweet, lightly fizzy Lambrusco wine, which you’ll find plentifully (and cheaply!) throughout Northern Italy.

As a foodie couple, you’ll want to spend at least a day at the brand-new “food theme park” FICO Eataly World, about 20 minutes outside the city. It’s easy to get to – just take the shuttle bus that leaves every half-hour from Bologna Centrale train station. The building covers over a million square feet of space and is home to at least 25 restaurants, three of them with Michelin stars. Adorable couple photo alert: the place is so big, they offer complimentary bikes to get around. Ask someone to take your picture holding hands while pedaling through the markets.

DAY 2-3: MODENA

You might know food-forward Modena from the Netflix series “Master of None” and “Chef’s Table” and, since you’re planning your honeymoon well in advance, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to score a table at Osteria Francescana, the world’s second-best restaurant, according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization. If that’s a little out of budget, not to worry. Almost anywhere you eat in Modena will be a special experience.

Balsamic vinegar was invented and first sold in Modena, and the first producer, or acetaia, as they’re called, offers exceptional tours and tastings. Acetaia Giusti has been producing the vinegar since 1605, and is the oldest continuous producer in the world. Take home a bottle or two and have a taste to remember your honeymoon when you get home.

A few minutes away, visit another temple to one of the area’s most-loved ingredients, Parmigiano-Reggiano. 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia was established in 1967, and now produces 75,000 wheels of the cheese each year. Take a fat hunk home with you – don’t worry, it can withstand lack of refrigeration and is perfectly fine to take on a plane. (Just remember to claim any food items at U.S. Customs.)

DAY 4-5: PARMA

If you’ve guessed that Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is partly named for this charming town, you’d be right. The other major ingredient to come from Parma is prosciutto di Parma, and the locals are extremely proud of their brand of ham. Taste it and other charcuterie from the region at the charcuterie museum by Villani, between Modena and Parma, and pick up a few bottles of two-Euro Lambrusco to take home from Setticani Winery, which has been producing the wine since 1923.

The historic old city of Parma is centuries in the making and there’s plenty to eat and see, including the Gothic cathedral and Romanesque baptistry. Stop into the Pasticceria Torino, one of the oldest pastry shops in the area, for an espresso and a sfogliatelle, a flaky pastry covered in powdered sugar and stuffed with almond paste. For lunch, head to Degusteria Romani where locals pack the bar for cheese and charcuterie boards full of cured meats like culatello, coppa, pancetta, patanegra, spalla and, of course, prosciutto.

Once the sun sets, take a trip back in time to Ristorante La Greppia, where white-coated waiters serve traditional Parmigiani favorites with a side of snark. These guys are the real deal and many have been serving here for decades. An ultra-vintage detail: women get a special white menu, without prices.

INSIDER TIPS

Make your escape easier with these pointers. 

Rent a Car
After leaving Bologna, rent a car for the rest of your trip. Driving in Italy is no more difficult than driving in the U.S., minus the myriad roundabouts you’ll have to navigate. Google Maps works just fine and get your international driver’s license in about 45 minutes from your nearest AAA office.

Hire an Expert
Want to get the most from your Italian eatabout? Tour companies like Modenatur in Modena will help you set up an eating itinerary that will net you the best bites in town, plus some insider tips for brag-worthy experiences, like a guided tour through the Mercato Albinelli.

Dinner is an Event
Italians love dinnertime. So much so, in fact, that you shouldn’t be surprised if a meal out takes three or four hours. If you plan on attending the opera or another event in the evening, plan on eating afterward or have a picnic in the piazza instead so you don’t miss a minute.

This article can be found on page 80 of the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Destination I Do.

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