As far as food tours go, I must say that one of the best I have ever taken is the Bologna food tour. As a fan of food tours, I have visited many and I was very much looking forward to this one. I had scheduled it as part of my holiday in Italy. I knew that they do some pretty amazing things with ham, cheese and vinegar in this regions but I wasn’t prepared for all the delights that I experienced. To understand why I would recommend this tour to anyone who is visiting Italy, let me take you through exactly how the food tour went.
The Parmesan cheese tour
We had a pretty good guide, Julio, for our tour. He explained to us that in most cases, the Parmesan cheese tour takes place in the morning so that visitors can see the entire process, right from when the milk is delivered. It was true; we set off at about 7.30 in the morning for a factory in Bologna. We were able to see the milk delivery. Julio explained to us that all the milk comes from the region and the cows that produce it are fed on only hay and grass from the region – no chemicals at all. That is why this particular Parmesan cheese has a “”Denomination of Protected Origin” or DOP status. We watched the cheese maker turn the milk into cheese, shape it, brand it and then set it up for curing. We had a cheese tasting right at the end and I must say that this cheese is different from any cheese that I had ever tasted before.
The Balsamic vinegar tour
The most surprising thing about this part of the food tour was that I discovered that what I knew as Balsamic vinegar is nothing like the real thing made in Bologna. It is thick, black, bittersweet and can turn everything, even sugary foods, into a complete delight. The skill of making Balsamic vinegar is passed down from generation to generation and only the makers really know what the secret ingredients are. What Julio was able to tell us is that it was discovered quite by accident when a bottle of wine was forgotten for a long time. The vinegar is made from a combination of grapes and it is aged for years; to be exact, the youngest is 7 years old and there are some that are as old as 45 years. Again, we were able to sample the vinegar at the end of the tour.
The Parma ham tour
This was to be the last stop of the tour and we were able to see why Parma ham is so special. It is made through a painstaking process of cleaning, brining and curing the ham for several weeks. We were able to see the ham makers pressing the ham gently so that all the moisture came out of it and then salting it. We also saw the dark, cold rooms where it is cured and of course we were able to taste it
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Gabriele is a dedicated travel and food writer who contributes to the food blog of Emilia Delizia