The birthplace of Lambrusco. Of Ferrari. Of Pavarotti. Of balsamic vinegar. Of magical sunsets dipping down behind ancient walls.
This is Emilia Romagna, a stunning region in Italy where charm, history and modern-day life all merge together to create a place that is eponymous with what they imagine the country to offer.
And now, there is a way to encapsulate all the area’s highlights: Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land.
Yes, it is a tour, but no, it isn’t one of those shuffle-you-on-and-off-and-in-and-out-and-back-again tours. This tour is different. Imagine a hop-on, hop-off bus service where you can cherry pick the places you want to visit. Each hour, a bus comes and you can either stay where you are, or head to another location.
Stops during the Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land tour include so many things I love: Lambrusco tastings at wineries, wandering through gorgeous towns like Modena and Bologna, balsamic vinegar tastings, and a glimpse at historical sites like Luciano Pavarotti’s home and two Ferrari museums (one of which where you can actually drive a simulator and be in a pit crew).
Of course, the wine tastings are the highlight for me (’cause we all know how much I dig wine). My favorite winery is Cleto Chiarli.
Flanked by vines and in a house far older than anyone I know, we enter and learn about how Lambrusco is produced. Surrounded by large vats of aging Lambrusco, I marvel at the vastness of this enterprise and the history of the product.
And the tasting? Sweet, bubbly, beautiful. (Also, included in the 60 Euro price of the tour.)
But, it is Italy, and no tour of a region can include just one winery as options to explore.
We visit one other Lambrusco maker as well, Gavioli in Nonantola, which includes a museum dedicated to the history of wine-making in the region, as well as race cars (naturally).
Home to Ferrari, the first museum I check out is Modena’s Museo Enzo Ferrari.
In a giant white hall with red Ferraris spanning the company’s history, we are presented with a beautiful multimedia presentation which pairs Pavarotti with the story of the race car manufacturer.
Sitting in the large room, I am swept into the moment, Pavarotti’s velvet voice setting the stage for the day.
My personal favorite of the two museums is the second one, Museo Ferrari Maronello, where I get to experience driving a Ferrari via a simulator.
While I realize I can’t drive a race car (who am I kidding, my race car driving days will never happen), it is cool to see what it is like to be behind the wheel of this powerful little ride.
The balsamic vinegar
During Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land, there are opportunities to stop at a few balsamic vinegar manufacturers. Each one includes a tiny museum and a chance to stand among the aging barrels, the sharp smell of the vinegar permeating the air (and making me want to eat bread).
I’m not a foodie, but having 100-year-old balsamic touch my taste buds is up there with some of the best culinary experiences I’ve had.
I had no idea the history of the vinegar, the qualifications it takes to be a producer or the difference in tastes. Now, I’m a mini-expert. Or, I just happen to know more than the normal person about the production of this sweet condiment.
Balsamic vinegar stops offered are: Acetaia Malpighi, a traditional balsamic vinegar maker in Modena, which includes a tasting and a guided tour; the oldest traditional balsamic vinegar maker in the area, Acetaia Guisti; and, the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Spilamberto, which also includes a visit to the museum and a tasting.
Only open on Saturdays, the Palazzo Ducale, is a place of magnificent beauty. Tucked into the town of Sassuolo, famous for its ceramics, this palace is a work of art. Literally.
Detailed stories are painted on the walls and ceilings and have remained there for hundreds of years. I could have spent hours in each room, just staring up and learning the stories. And, the large terrace outside? Breathtaking.
Complete with some serious views.
The tour includes the option to visit three towns in the region: Nonantola, famous for the San Silvestro Abbey;
Modena and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Duomo and Piazza Grande;
and Bologna, the hip university city that combines history, architecture and urban life. My personal favorite of the three is Bologna.
Be sure to walk the city’s many arcades and find the secret window to the canals which used to run through town like Venice’s do today.
Other stops on the tour
I’m not a fan of cheese, parmesan in particular, but for those who want to see cheese-making, the tour includes two stops: the working-farm, Hombre (which also includes a massive collection of Maserati’s to explore), and 4Madonne Parmigiano Reggiano, where you can watch the process of making of cheese from start to barrel to aging.
Finally, travelers can also visit the Smoked Meats Museum.
Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land runs April through October and offers visitors a chance to explore the highlights of Emilia Romagna and learn what makes this part of the world so special. For 60€, guests can cherry-pick their two-day tour. Tours start daily at the Ferarri museum in Modena and 10:30 a.m. from the Ferrari museum in Maranello. It stops at each destination every hour until 5 p.m. and participants can select how long they wish to stay at each place.
The tour includes pick-up from either the Bologna train station, Bologna Airport or the Medio Padan train station in Reggio Emilia.
Tour participants can structure their day however they wish. The tour price includes transportation and entry fees, as well as tastings. For those who want to visit a locale more than once, they can do so. Cost does not include extras, like driving the Ferarri simulator or being a part of the pit crew.
The bottom line
I like to pick and choose which tours I go on, and this one is a great value for the money. I like that participants can stay in one place longer than another, or choose to return to specific places should they choose. Discover Ferrari and Pavoratti Land truly gives a great taste of the area (and is tasty). Personally, I love to explore the towns, so I would definitely include stops at at least Modena and Bologna on the itinerary.