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Bologna: A Day trip to Modena

April 30, 2014

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Emilia-Romagna offers a feast of possibilities to the gourmet. While based in Bologna it was hard to resist the opportunity to wander further afield for within easy reach lies Modena – famed for its balsamic vinegar – and Parma with its prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; Ferrara with a range of special salamis, and many other foodie destinations. However, when I saw Massimo Bottura at his famed restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Modena, on BBC’s Masterchef last year, I promised myself that one day I would go there. So, after I’d booked my trip to Bologna, I booked a table at Osteria Francescana. Knowing I was arriving quite late on Tuesday I tried to get a table for lunch on Thursday but that wasn’t possible. However, they told me they had a table for Wednesday lunchtime so that was it. I had to go then even if it meant leaving Bologna on my first full day and before I’d explored it and go to Modena instead. The lunch was such a special experience in itself that I’ll write a separate blog post at the weekend once I’m home.

Meanwhile the day began with more ordinary fare and breakfast in the hotel’s conservatory.

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There was fresh fruit, yogurts, juices and a selection of hams and cheeses and different breads. There were pastries and cakes. I didn’t want to eat too much with the lunch I had planned and settled for something modest and a cup of cappuccino. It was sunny and a lovely morning to look out into the pretty garden over breakfast.

The hotel suggested I might want to take a bus or taxi to the train station as it was a 35 minutes walk. But I’m a big walker on holidays so that didn’t seem far to me as I set off early and had plenty of time. The train to Modena takes only 20 minutes. It was nice to see a little more of Bologna as I made my way through the historic centre and Piazza Maggiore.

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The weather was looking a bit greyer by this time, the Duomo was covered in scaffolding, but it was still impressive and the piazza a surprisingly huge space. Walking further on I was excited to find an entire shop devoted to Bialetti coffee makers. This little – or sometimes larger – percolator-style coffee maker is said to be found in every Italian home. I have two: a single and one that will make three espressos. I’ll definitely be going back tomorrow to check this shop out.

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I saw shops with their windows full of tortellini and mortadella, but tomorrow will be given over to my real exploration of the food here.

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The journey to Modena may have been only 20 minutes but the train was delayed by 40 minutes! By the time I arrived coffee was needed – it was still only 11.00 am so a couple of hours before lunch. I stopped at a typical bar (in main photo at top) for a stand-up coffee, Italian style.

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A salumeria was next door.

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Walking through Piazza Grande I found another Duomo in scaffolding!

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There was still plenty of it to see and admire though. Modena is delightful. Quite small and with lots of covered walkways like Bologna. I love all those ochre colours ranging from burnt gold to rusty orange-red that speak of Italy.

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Like Bologna, much of its appeal is in the sense of it being a town where people live rather than a tourist destination. Fortunately the weather was kind and it was quite sunny as I walked round before lunch. The promised rain came while I was eating. When I emerged from the osteria, a couple of hours after entering, I could see it had been raining heavily. The sun was out again but the marble flooring along the walkways were lethally slippery so I had to take great care!

Back in Bologna I just managed to get to the hotel before a huge thunderstorm broke. It was as well I’d eaten a large lunch because I might not be able to get out again! By 8pm the storm had calmed and I decided to risk going in search of a snack of some kind. I asked for advice on where to go from the guy on reception. They’re so helpful here and on a map he showed me some places to look at. I ended up going into Osteria Sotto Sopra, not far away, which I’d noticed yesterday and thought welcoming. It’s more of a bar-cafe; all very simple.

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I chose a dish of paccheri pasta (large tubes) with a courgette and mint sauce which was delicious and just right. But first they brought a complimentary bruschetta – still warm and topped with fresh chopped tomato.

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Again, it had rained while I was eating but had stopped when I came out of the restaurant. It was quite late and rather than risk wandering and possibly getting soaked if it rained some more, I head back to the hotel after a full and very enjoyable day.

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