The city of Bologna is steeped in history and can keep a traveler busy exploring and eating. However, there is much more to this region of Italy. Within a short drive from the city center will take you to the rural heart of the parma region. Famed for its cheeses and cured meats, Parma takes you back in time. While out in the countryside make time for a visit to an authentic balsamic vinegar maker to see the art of aging real balsamic. On the way back into Bologna stop in the city of Modena another city with a famous export, the Ferrari. There is no shortage of things to see and do in the city, but these 3 unique things to do near Bologna showcase the true history of the region.
#1 – Cheese
Bologna is located in the Parma region. You may recognize the name from some of Italy’s most famous foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the Parma ham. The foods that were created here are so good that they are even copyrighted. Only cheese made with the milk from cows the Parma region can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sure, there cheeses made in the same style, but they’re not the original. While in Bologna we set out to find some true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
About a 20-minute drive outside Bologna, we arrived at a small cheese making factory. The cheese makers here collect milk from the region and make their famous cheese. The work here is done mostly as it has been done for centuries, by hand. In large vats, the milk is converted into a soft cheese and is then loaded into the molds by hand. A wax coating covers the cheese and it’s then stored for as long as three years before being sold. We got to try the fruits of the cheesemaker’s labor and sampled the two and three-year aged varieties. The older the cheese the dried and more flavorful it becomes, the three years Parmigiano was out of this world.
#2 – Balsamic
Another short drive from the cheesemaker brought us to a producer of fine balsamic vinegar. Balsamic also has its roots in this part of Italy. The process of making high-quality Balsamic takes a special expertise and a lot of time. The process starts using 5 barrels of different sizes and woods. Over time, the Balsamic begins to evaporate and become thicker. Through the years, the Balsamic moves into a smaller and smaller barrel until it reaches the right age. Many balsamic vinegars are ready between 15 and 30 years and sometimes longer. The tour of the barrel room finished as you might expect with a sample of Balsamic. Learning the art of making balsamic was quite interesting and gave some appreciation of why a set of balsamic barrels can be worth up to 50,000 euros.
To round out the day we stopped by a place where things move a little faster than the balsamic. The final stop of our unique things to do outside of Bologna tour was to the Ferrari museum in Modena. This area of Italy is where Enzo Ferrari made the one of a kind, red car with the bright yellow label famous. At the museum, we learned the history behind the black horse on Ferrari’s logo as well as the rest of the history of the famous automobiles. Inside the museum were cars from the early single seater racing days up through the latest Ferrari supercar models. The museum was a great way to finish our day touring the unique things to do near Bologna. It was entertaining enough to keep even the non-car lovers interested.
Italy is full of amazing and unique things to do. Find time to get out of the big cities and truly explore Italy. A trip outside of Bologna is worth it for just the Cheese and Balsamic along, and it’s that much better seeing how it’s actually made. We left Bologna with a new love for the amazing foods and cars made in this special part of the world.
Have you had any unique experiences in Bologna or Italy? Where was your most unique experience in Italy?This post may contain affiliate links, see our disclosure