Discovering ModenaApril 29, 2008 Tuesday
A Modenesa greets us today as we get off the bus in
The town’s opera hall recently renamed Teatro Maestro Luciano Pavarotti is the first place our guide for the day takes us. We got to walk up and down the aisles; I even found a bathroom and wondered if the Maestro would ever have been caught in there.
A side room holds treasures collected through the decades, such as costumes and beautifully painted backdrops.
From behind it I could see an interesting collection of little stone towers and arches.
My cries of “I wanna see that!” were ignored by our determined guide who whisked us on down the block and around the corner. She explained the significance of the statues on the front of the cathedral then took us inside to see the unpainted terra cotta nativity scene by Vigarelli – a little less than a third of actual size. This is another church that becomes split-level at the arms of the cross shaped layout.
The upper level with the high altar is for the super-worshippers while the main level is for all the common people. Somehow I don’t think heaven will be like that. Below the higher level is a lower level crypt, cold and with tombs of several old-timers scattered around including one occupied by the bones of the patron saint of
A culinary school in town was eager to show of its facilities and skills to us tour operators. Toqued teachers showed us the big table with stools for students of Emiglia Romagna cooking and the spacious kitchen with big stoves for their creations. We got to taste several bite-sized trophies prepared just for us and served along with prosecco and blood orange juice. The chefs described the ingredients for each tasting and we ate it up as we gulped them down before rushing out to inspect a hotel.
On the way there, we got our first strong whiff of the real, live Parmigiano Reggiano for sale under a tent in an open air market. Since we’d not stopped in any cheese shops yesterday in
The hotel was unimpressive – the opposite of the next stop, which was to me the highlight of both days. Outside
Up the stairs we went to the fragrant barrel room where parallel benches fill the room like pews in a country church and on each bench a family of 5 barrels sits. By the wall is the largest but only about 24 inches tall, then toward the main aisle the barrels get progressively smaller and the last one is only about 12 inches tall. The first one is filled with grape juice called “must” and when it matures, the must is used to fill each of the smaller ones. After a year, some of the must from the littlest one has evaporated (the angels’ portion) and the must in the second littlest is used to fill it up. Then the third littlest barrel is used to top off the second barrel. After about 12 years of this traditional method, the balsamic vinegar from the littlest barrel is ready to be skillfully blended with the vinegar from the littlest barrel from another pew to give it the perfect sweetness required for certification by the consortium. This is a fascinatingly slow process and the rewards are just a few 100ml bottles each year. The young 12 year old vinegar goes for 40 euros (around $65) a bottle and you can use your imagination for the price of the 25 to 50 year old stuff.
On a long farm table, Senora Galli served us a country homemade lunch in the building beside the barn. She kept bringing food and explaining what’s in it and how it’s made until we begged her to quit. While we were getting back on the bus, I signed her guest book then paged through reams of happy comments from visitors from
We made a quick stop at the Abbey of San Silvestro in Nonantola and at a bar for a cup of coffee before driving up to
Before driving back to