A weekend in Modena among markets, vinegar and Lambrusco
You can’t describe Modena without thinking of the cuisine, of flour-covered tables where a grandmother has just rolled out a sheet of pasta, of a plate of cured meats and of the smell of gnocco fritto (fried bread) accompanied by a glass of lively, fresh and fruity Lambrusco. Modena is Italy: where art and food combine in the joie de vivre of those who ride bikes with an innate love of the city and the surrounding area. These lands make an impression on you, they warmly welcome and embrace you. And between one party and a country festival, they drive those who have known them to come back.
One, two, three types of Lambrusco to drink in Modena
Lambrusco acts like a sweet Madeleine, it recalls the memory of parties, when one bottle finishes after another, and at a certain point you stop counting because this is a light wine, as Mario Soldati already documented in his journey through Emilia: “It must be drunk in large quantities. And it’s especially good when you swallow it, so the bigger the glass, the bigger the pleasure.”
Sitting on a bench at the long tables or on caned chairs of old trattorias, you can try the different variations of Lambrusco. Salamino is the most grown, but rarely vinified 100%, from Lambrusco Grasparossa we get full-bodied wines with a creamy froth, intensely purple-coloured, juicy and fruity, while Lambrusco di Sorbara is paler, dry, with a delicate aroma, very fresh and easy to drink. All of them are excellent with the healthy, hearty cuisine of this area, with a shaving of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the precious Traditional Balsamic vinegar.
Outside of Modena. Tours through the wineries of the region
If Modena offers refuge for the hungry, until the nineteenth century the municipality of Bomporto was considered a safe haven for vessels sailing on the Naviglio Modenese, a canal created from a deviation of the Panaro river, where goods were exchanged between Modena and the Adriatic.
The Cantina della Volta winery is located where the boats had to turn round to sail in the opposite direction towards the city. Built in 1920, the winery was completely renovated in 2010 by Christian Bellei. Here Lambrusco is expressed in all of its nuances: from the most traditional version to the traditional method sparkling wines.
Lambrusco di Sorbara holds no secrets for Paltrinieri, which is in the area called “Cristo”, a long-standing suitable area for growing this variety. Sant’Agata, Radice and Leclisse are different variations of 100% Sorbara, to taste at any time during a meal: from the aperitif to typical meat dishes; whereas Solco is one of the few examples of 100% Lambrusco Salamino.
At Campogalliano, a municipality crossed by the river Secchia, just before the naturalistic area of the Curiel Lakes, there is the Podere il Saliceto winery. Here, as well as Sorbara and Salamino, other native varieties are grown, such as Trebbiano Modenese and Malbo Gentile.
Tours and tastings are not only possible, but compulsory in each of these wineries. It will be like being at home with friends on a bank holiday.
Discover all the excellent products of the Modena area
Lambrusco del Fondatore, Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC of the Tenute Agricole Cleto Chiarli, represents the oldest tradition (an icon of wines from Emilia in the world) and the ability to know how to work great quantities to obtain an equally great quality.
For anyone interested not just in food and wine, but also other little local gems, Cleto Chiarli is part of the Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land project, a network of companies in Emilia that represent the excellence of this area that is also the “land of cars” (enthusiasts can visit the two Ferrari museums) and opens its doors to tourists and visitors. Tenuta Cialdini in Castelvetro is one of the gourmet stopovers of this project: as well as a guided tour of the cellar and the vineyards, you can taste the best Lambrusco wines.
Also Gavioli, the old winery in Nonantola, has been included in the same tour: the winery is in Nonantola and when you visit you can travel through 220 years of history gathered together in a museum with old objects, machinery and photos, old and new bottles of Lambrusco.
Where to eat (and visit a vinegar cellar)
– Antica Osteria di Rubbiara and Acetaia Pedroni: on a country road in Rubbiara, near Nonantola, there aren’t any signs, but just an old lantern that shows the presence of an osteria. Here a dynasty of innkeepers has been bred. Today Italo decides what to cook for you, all the dishes are traditional and the service is very unusual. Warning: mobile phones are not allowed here. Whether they are on silent mode or turned off, it doesn’t matter, Italo confiscates them at the entrance and only gives them back after the bill has been paid. Before or after lunch you can stop off at the old Pedroni vinegar cellar, where Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is aged for years in centuries-old oak and chestnut wood barrels.
– Ermes (059-238065): only open at lunch, Ermes offers 100% traditional cuisine in the town centre. A rustic environment and simple food: booking is recommended, although it’s worth waiting, even if only for a plate of tortellini.
– Archer: is the realm of the deliciously methodical inspiration of Marina Bersani, a landlady and great wine expert. An excellent place, elegant and welcoming, to taste sought-after dishes and wines that are worth drinking.
– Franceschetta58: who doesn’t know the chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana? A real experience of Modena, but at the right price. For anyone wanting to approach this world, but at a reasonable price, there is Franceschetta58: the more accessible, but just as sought-after, side of the kitchen captained by Marta Pulini.
– The Albinelli indoor market: for a quick but tasty lunch, you can pop into the indoor market, where the Manzini gastronomia prepares salted codfish fritters on a Friday morning and, just outside the market, you can grab a sandwich at the little Schiavoni bar.
– Casa Carpanelli: for anyone who loves the countryside, farmhouses, simple food and flavours that arrive directly from the farm. It is a place to spend Sundays with friends, also suitable for large families: children can take part in several activities and play in the large garden, where they also open the swimming pool in summer.
Where to stay for a weekend in Modena
In the centre of Modena, near the Piazza della Pomposa: Il Fonticolo
In the photo: Piazza Grande, Modena city centre (photo Davidtsousa)