Our two weeks with Patrick were truly wonderful, but we needed some time to breathe after the hard work of touring Tuscany with a veteran hiker. We dropped him off in Orvieto - he was headed to Rome for the last 3 days of his vacation - and we headed back north to the quiet of Castelfranco Emilia - a tiny town nestled between Modena and Bologna.
Nancy picked our AirBnB - Dimora d'artista, la creatività rende tutto unico ["Artist's residence, creativity makes everything unique"] - because there wouldn't be much we "had" to see, and it had a piano for Richard to play!
It was one of our harder travel days - drive from Pienza to Orvieto to drop off Patrick, then to Siena to return the car, train from Siena to Florence, then to Bologna where we caught a third train from Bologna to Castelfranco Emilia. When we got off the train it was clear we were in the middle of nowhere with still a bus ride to go.
Nancy insisted we grab a bite to eat and some groceries near the train station because the chances of a store and a restaurant near the apartment were looking slim. By the time we finished we had missed the bus that would take us to the AirBnB, so we took advantage our host's earlier offer to come and pick us up. Her daughter and her friend arrived in a tiny FIAT - we squeezed into the back seat with half of our stuff on our laps, but the ride was greatly appreciated.
We went from the small town of Castelfranco Emilia to the even smaller town of Piumazzo, and down a dirt road lined with orchards. Our host, Teresa, showed us past a chicken coop to her artist's studio on the ground floor of her farm house, filled with her original paintings and sculptures. She had prepared us a snack complete with hand-painted cloth napkins personalized with our names. We knew this was going to be a unique AirBnB experience.
As we expected, there was nothing of note to see in Piumazzo, but we totally enjoyed the down time - catching up on blogs, playing the piano (check out the new Christmas-themed recording on the Photos page), reading, relaxing, and cooking our own meals. For a diversion we scheduled an AirBnB "Experience" for the fourth day - Balsamic Vinegar, Parmigiano Cheese, & Wine - and were we ever glad we did.
Our driver Davide picked us up at the end of our dirt road and brought us to our first stop - Acetaia Malagoli Daniele, where we met our guide, Angelica, to learn about the making of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena D.O.P. The aroma in the acetaia was intoxicating (during the summer, Angelica noted, it’s literally intoxicating). We had the tour guide all to ourselves and she was excellent. The tastings were, of course, the best part.
Fun facts about Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Our next visit was to a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory. Similar official designations (DOP) govern the quality and origin of this great cheese. We looked particularly fashionable in our plastic smocks.
Our final tour of the day was at the Giacobazzi winery. Who knew that Lambrusco doesn't have to be sweet?! This place also features a museum of wine making and a collection of vintage cars - Modena is known as the the town of "fast cars and slow food".
On our final night at the “Artist’s Residence”, our host invited us to have dinner with her and her family. She treated us to home-made traditional local specialties - gnocco fritto, crescentine modenese, tortellini in brodo, and more - all washed down with a bubbly Lambrusco. It was, as predicted, a most unusual AirBnB stay.
Have we mentioned how much we “love” travel days? We awoke to a red-sky sunrise, broke a zipper on Nancy’s new backpack, forgot a bag and had to run back to the apartment, but somehow turned it into a great day. We checked our bags at the station and set out to explore Bologna for a few hours before taking an afternoon train.
Who knew Bologna...
Fortunately we left time for lunch in Bologna at Ristorante Diana (recommended by Angelica, our tour guide), where we had amazing Lasagne Verde with a dusting of parmigiano reggiano and Tagliatelle alla Bolognese with the longest strands of fresh pasta ever and the perfect amount of that classic, chunky, and flavorful sauce stirred in table-side with a flourish.
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