|Bologna built a tower and it started to lean. Rather than market it for tourists, they built a taller one next door.|
After lunch, we left Parma and headed to Modena for another Italian specialty. We had arranged for a tasting at a century old acetaia, making traditional balsamic vinegar. To make the vinegar, they start with local grapes (both red and white), cook the juice to make "grape must", which they put in a large barrel for 2 years. After the first two years of aging, it is transferred into a serious of barrels and aged for at least twelve years. The barrels, some centuries old, are made of different woods which affects the final flavor. Each barrel has a hole on the top which allows for evaporation. As the vinegar ages and evaporates, more vinegar is added from the next biggest barrel. At the end of the twelve years (twenty-five years for "extra vecchio" balsamic), the vinegar is tested by the local consortium and bottled in specific bottles. The acetaia we visited bottled only 2,000 bottles each year. They only sell online and at their production facility (which is the home of the owners). Only vinegar that has undergone this process can be called Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DPO. There may be variations of that name, but that is how you know you are getting the real good stuff. And it was pretty damn good.
|Sara and I with some of the barrels - not the clothes covering the holes on the barrels|
|An oak barrel - labeled and numbered to mark the provenance of the vinegar|
|The final product. We bought two.|
|Beautiful sky behind the Modena tower (which also leaned)|
Our last day in Emiglia-Romagna, we got a late start to the morning and headed to Ravenna. For a short period of time between 400 and 750, Ravenna was one of the most important cities in the world. It served as the Western capital of the Byzantine/Roman empire. One of the primary legacies of this history is the amazing mosaics in several churches. Unlike in Istanbul, these religious mosaics were wonderfully preserved over the centuries as Ravenna remained Christian throughout the duration of its history.
|Basilica of San Vitale features mosaics from the 6th century. |
The intricate and complex designs and beautiful colors are amazing to behold.
|Basilica of San Vitale|
|Even the floor was a gorgeous mosaic.|