If you've ever read Paulo Coelho's book "The Alchemist", you know what it means to appreciate the treasures of your own land only after being wandering for a while (and with a while I mean YEARS). I've always traveled since I was I kid but I've never really explored Italy.
Most of all, I've never explored my own region, Emilia Romagna.
Trekking Italy (don't get fooled by the name!) is a boutique tour operator specialized in delivering uncommon experiences which will make you feel like a local abroad.
I got together with Trekking Italy's president, Riccardo Solmi, and a couple of fellow American bloggers to wander through the region I was born in.
I'll take you into a journey through the most surprising areas of my region. Ready? Let's go! Here are 5 key (and not that famous) places to check out and things to do in Emilia:
1. Wine tasting at MOMELIANO'S CASTLE
From Milan we headed to the area of Piacenza's Hills (Colli Piacentini), which is worldwide known for its important wine production.
Our first stop was the castle of Momeliano (Gazzola), for wine tasting at Luretta, very renowned for its biological grapes and most of all for its spumante metodo classico "Principessa". The staff guided us on a tour through the beautiful wine cellars of the castle.
Wine is one of my biggest passions. I remember a few years ago while building my first "Vision board" I sticked a lot of images on it about weightlifting, fitness, healthy food, roller skating and... WINE. I know I know.. An active girl shouldn't indulge on alcol (and believe me, I don't.. otherwise I'm totally unable to workout!), but wine-is-just-so-good-and-classy-and-delicious-and-relaxing-and-I-just-LOVE-IT. So once in a while I enjoy a good glass..
Well.. Let's say that at Luretta I surely enjoyed more than one glass.
The owner, Carla Asti, was so kind and generous with us. Not only we had an amazing time tasting 7 different wines and several cured meats and cheeses, but we were gifted with exclusive bottles of wine to bring home.
I highly recommend visiting Luretta, either if you are a local or you come from Canada. They are gonna make you feel welcome and you'll taste delicious, elite wine!
2. Castle seeing in RIVALTA TREBBIA
We spent the evening in a very suggesting location: the borgo of Rivalta, in the heart of Val Trebbia.
The hotel Hotel Torre di San Martino took good care of our stay. First it organized a guided tour through the castle, which had such a fairy atmosphere (regardless of all the ghost legends about this ancient village).
We enjoyed a rich dinner at the Hotel's Restaurant La Rocchetta (fried dumplings, cured meats, risotto, selected wines), just stepping downstairs from our rooms.
My bedroom was nothing less then stunning. I truly felt like a princess in a castle and I when I woke up I had to pinch myself to see if I was still dreaming.
3. Say a little prayer at the Abbey of CHIARAVALLE DELLA COLOMBA
The Abbey of Chiaravalle is part of a monastic complex built between the 12th and 13th centuries. The Gothic and Romanesque elements, especially the arches and columns, make this abbey a true little masterpiece. A little colorful garden adds a final graceful touch to the whole structure. So worth stopping by!
4. Have a walk in CASTELL'ARQUATO
I didn't expect all this beauty existed just around the corner (I literally live at one hour distance from this place).
Castell'Arquato is a very characteristic medieval town built on a high rock. The vibe and appearance are still the ones from the 10th Century, that's why the town has been chosen as cinematographic set for movies like Lady Hawke and many others.
We had a delicious lunch right in the main square of the old town. The restaurant was called "La Taverna del Falconiere"; we enjoyed truffles and mushrooms in abundance, surrounded by beautiful paintings and a privileged view on the piacentina valley.
For more information regarding this old town feel free to visit the tourism board's website.
5. Drive a Ferrari in MARANELLO
Just passing Modena you can get to Maranello, the mythical town where Ferrari (and Lamborghini) cars are made. The whole city looked "Ferrararized": the famous Cavallino Rampante was everywhere (even on the flowerbeds!).
Funny enough 80% of the people I met here looked American. Lol.
The museum turned out being fascinating and fun: besides the impressive wide rooms that hosted some of the most famous cars in the history of Formula One, it had a few features which I truly enjoyed, like the opportunity to drive a wheel like a real pilot.
You can book your tour at the museum here: Museo Ferrari Maranello. Prices are very reasonable (from 5 to 11 euros) and the visit doesn't take too long.
If you are true fan, it's also possible to rent a Ferrari for the day. That.. That will cost a lil more.
5. Explore the best food in the world and how it's made in POLESINE PARMENSE
Let me get this straight: my region has the best food in the world. Seriously.
Try thinking about ANY Italian food you know. They were all invented in Emilia Romagna!
So on the next stop in our tour we decided to dig deeper in our food's origins, and I couldn't imagine a better place to do this than the country house Antica Corte Pallavicina.
Situated inside of a fortified castle, Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais features a starred restaurant, exclusive hotel rooms, and a romantic view on river Po.
The restaurant has received 2011 Michelin Guide Star and is considered one of the most exclusive locations in the Parmense lowlands.
The very unique characteristics of this restaurant is that pretty much all ingredients are directly produced in the lands surrounding the property. The day after a local guide showed us all the farms and cellars through an in-depth tour by car. We could find out more about how the famous and delicious Culatello di Zibello, Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma are made and visit all the related production factories.
The hotel counts 6 total rooms, so you can imagine how private the atmosphere felt.
I really need to mention that my room was an incredible mix between modern and shabby chic. The design was very well-curated. You could smell a "wood" aroma everywhere and the bathroom was nothing less than perfect.
That's all folk! We then headed to the magical Bologna.. But that's a total different story ;) And I'll tell you all in another post!
I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour and that you'll feel inspired to wander through my region when you visit Italy next time!
I'll leave you with this cutting edge map of my hometown Reggio Emilia (which is right in between Parma and Modena) which we didn't have time to visit but I highly recommend to explore as well! Map courtesy of Mapiful (if you wanna get your own personalized map, check their website! They ship worldwide).