I love Emilia – Romagna and I consider this region my second home. I was very happy to go there again and spend a week on visiting a variety of places related to its food and wine. Settimana di Buon Vivere – a week of good living is an annual event organized to promote Emilia – Romagna. Indeed, I think that Emilia – Romagna is the best place to learning the Italian kitchen. I had an opportunity to meet the local wine producers, cooks, restaurant owners and managers focused on the promotion of the local excellence. Here is my short review of best places to eat and drink in Emilia – Romagna, places I can recommend you to visit and taste high-quality Italian food.
Pizza Gourmet – Col Basilico Nel Cuore, Forli
I was sceptical when we were told we got invited to a place where gourmet pizza is served. After all, pizza is not about gourmet nor elegant cuisine at all. Col Basilico Nel Cuore was, however, a perfect place to learn that food is not only about eating but also about the mood and the people you are with. I was lucky to sit at the table with one of the co-owners. A charming man, Fabio, was eager to share the secrets of double leavening and the top quality of pasta used for the pizza. This was a good start of learning about food but later that evening I got known that Fabio not only likes poetry but his favourite author is Wisława Szymborska – a Nobel Prize winner from Poland. This was a blast!
The conversation about her lasted for hours. Fabio asked me to read aloud her poems in Polish and he was listening to it as if it was pure magic. He read a few poems in Italian and we were discussing the quality of the translation. I told him a few anecdotes about the private life of Szymborska from a book I have recently read. Every fifteen minutes the new kind of pizza was brought and we tried at least five different kinds. Fabio was explaining me all about wines, both sparkling and white ones. I had an impression that the poetry was all over the place. The food was excellent! I normally have some problems with digesting a traditional pizza, but the one leavened twice was so good for my stomach! I normally find it difficult to appreciate luxury or elegant places but this pizzeria I can recommend with no hesitation. Especially if you like poetry!
Wine of the highest quality – Tenuta Carbognano, Gemmano
The winery we visited the other day was a totally different place. Ornella e Marco – the owners of Tenuta Carbognano – hosted us like their own relatives. Their hospitality was deeply touching. Our visit started with a long walk around their modest vineyard. They are the owners of only 3 hectares and they have started their wine adventure about 10 years ago. All of the information I got from Ornella destroyed the myths I had in my head. I thought that wine business is only for the people who inherit not only the ground and the company but also the secret knowledge. The ancient families where the knowledge and skills are passed from one generation to another. Ornella told their story of starting with sommelier course and their previous bar business as years of preparation to get their hands dirty in grapes.
Walking around their vineyards was a pure pleasure. Gentle hills, autumn warmth, well-kept lines of grapes and interesting stories were wonderful. Ornella told me that the major part of the grape harvest is done manually and also the plants’ treatment throughout the year. As their vineyard is modest their business is focused on a small quantity of the best wine called superiore. Even though their business is young their wine won a few local and national competitions.
The best part of our stay on their farm, where you can rent a room too, was their attitude towards their vineyard and the guests. Ornella was laughing every five minutes and her smile was a proof that if you do business with joy and engagement it brings you not only good money but most of all fulfilment and happiness. I had a wonderful stay there, a delicious lunch and obviously excellent wine.
Cooking classes – Al Vecchio Convento, Portico di Romagna
I had a few cooking classes in my life. In fact, I run my own cooking classes in Ferrara, thus, I didn’t expect anything outstanding out of our visit in Vecchio Convento in Portico di Romagna. This was, however, one of the best events of the whole week of Buon Vivere. First of all, the town Portico di Romagna was charming. It was very small and located on a hill which always makes the tiny little streets even more delightful. There was a beautiful old bridge and also a few elements of modern art by the local artist Il Castello Errante.
Further, we got a fantastic cooking class by Massimiliano, who happens to be an experienced and professional cook. Through working on a dough, precise instruction on technique, stories from his professional life up to creating hundreds of ravioli, the whole lesson was really nice. I felt I was learning new things and gaining new skills. Brilliant! I love to eat afterwards food I prepared, but this time the pleasure was magnified by the setting of the lunch. The old building where the cooking classes took place has a beautiful garden with lush green vegetation and relaxing view. Massimiliano opened a few bottles of excellent wines just perfect to accompany our handmade ravioli.
This was not the end, though. We spent the afternoon in the nearby forest hunting for truffles. A weird looking dog was our guide and we even found a few small truffles. The best part, however, was a walk with stunning views over the gentle hills and fields. This was a very relaxing time and I found it a great conclusion of the lunch.
When we returned to the hotel a mayor waited for us to run a guided tour around the town. It was great to listen to his stories about the local problems and events. We went to one of the public gardens and found a lovely modern bench. It was amazing to see in such a small town a piece of modern art. There was more! From the park, we went to the atelier of the author of this bench. This could happen only in a small and friendly town like Portico di Romagna. He was so happy when we told him how much we liked his works of art. Oh, how much I love small Italian towns!