The Fast cars and Super Balsamic of Modena




Fast cars and Balsamic vinegar are also what Modena is famous for and while I may not be a car fan, going through the Museums of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati with a car enthusiast was an easy way to kick start my enthusiasm. How could I not ogle at the sleek lines, ooze over the timeless models and sneakily stroke the curves of their lustrous bodies.

Our first stop was still within the grounds of the Hombre parmesan cheese producer as Umberto Panini, the founder, had generously bought the historic collection of Maserati’s before they went to auction when the company changed ownership. As described on the website ‘The passion of a great man!‘ He was convinced these antique classics should remain forever in their home territory to be admired by visitors from far and wide. From racing cars to street cars for adults and even for kids!

And in the garage across from the collection we found a rather surprising sound system being made by iXOOST from recycled Formula 1 exhaust systems. A little out of our price range – € 5,000 – € 10,000!  We understand very popular with Emirates sheikhs, as for an enthusiast there’s nothing like the sound of a vibrating engine!

Next stop was the Lamborghini museum which when we arrived was knock off time forLamborghini museum the factory workers who streamed out, noticeably driving very modest vehicles. At the entrance I was already tempted by the model outside since it went so well with my jacket! We slipped inside to scrutinize more sleek bodies….

and the classic 1970’s Lamborghini Miura complete with the fluttering eyelashes!Lamborghini eyelashesLamborghini Miura 1970's





Senna victoriousSenna Formula 1 car







Together with an exhibition on Ayrton Senna Formula 1 driver, his victories and tragic crash.

And if you have come looking for the fast cars of Modena of course you can’t go past the famous Ferrari in all it’s glory and gleaming glossy red. The gem of Italian design that never dates and continues to enthral fans young and old.

The Ferrari Museum is a little out of the way (as are Lamborghini and the Maserati collection) but for enthusiasts a must, the ‘birthplace of a dream’ that continues to this day.

We tootled back towards Modena in my little red Ferrari… oops my little ‘Ferrari red’ Renault Clio! Time to savour the famous Balsamic vinegar at one of the oldest balsamic producers – Acetaia Malpighi since 1850. Balsamic vinegar has been Ancient Balsamic barrelproduced since the Middle Ages and the wooden barrels passed down from generation to generation. Here Acetaia Malpighi proudly showed their ancient barrel built in the 1500’s, recoated with timber in 1750 and again in 1920 and still producing exquisite Balsamic vinegar.

To produce an authentic traditional Balsamic vinegar 5 important elements are required – the right Microclimate of Modena (cold/humid in the winter, hot/humid in the summer), Grape varieties of Trebbiano and Lambrusco, wooden barrels,  adherence to the strict regulations imposed by the Consortium and a minimum age of 12 years.

The process is quite simple as the grapes are crushed, pressed, then slowly cooked over a fire for 24-48 hours to produce must (unfermented juice). After resting and undergoing fermentation, the must is then decanted and transferred through a battery of barrels of different sizes and wood types that are stored in an area that ensures natural thermal ranges and aeration.  Our guide explained the process and showed us some of the old equipment that was used.

To give an idea of quantity, Acetaia Malpigi need 90kilos of grapes ageing over 25 Acetaia Malpigh productsyears to produce 7 x 100ml bottles. Hence the high price for a traditional balsamic that is exquisite and worth every cent. (price range  € 40 – € 400+ for the extra old)

They have also ventured into producing some interesting new vinegars – from figs, apples, mint and more which make for some great salad dressings and ice cream or fruit toppings. And I guarantee if you have never tried a real Traditional Balsamic vinegar aged 12 years or more, just a drop will have you hooked!




Parmesan or Parmigiano, we find out more in Modena

Parmesan cheese roundWe went to find out more about the famous Parmesan cheese or officially Parmigiano-Reggiano on the organic farm of Hombre just outside of Modena. It has to be the all time favourite of cheeses in Italy, sprinkled on innumerable dishes,  an essential to Italian cuisine.

Unfortunately outside of Italy many cheeses are mislabelled as ‘Parmesan’ but are far from the real thing, and even within Italy the Gran Padano cheese, a cheaper alternative is often confused as a ‘Parmesan’.

Hombre milk cowsAn early morning tour led us past the cattle sheds where contented looking cows gazed at us curiously, while chewing the cud and farm cats sprawled across the pavement or rubbed up against visitors legs for attention. We had come to one of the few organic producers of Parmesan, thanks to the foresight of Umberto Panini, a local entrepreneur and auto enthusiast.Hombre cows

Our guide, Veronica, beamed enthusiasm as she talked of the 300 hectares of fields producing crops for their 250 cows and a number of sweet calves raised their heads on hearing her familiar voice.

We would see the production process from behind glass in an upstairs gallery while listening to an explanation of the process.  The evenings milk already skimmed was combined with the morning milk and poured into the copper lined pots, 14 of which lined the floor in front of the cheese moulds and brine vats where the cheese wheels would be immersed later.

500 Litres of milk goes into each cheese and Hombre produces 14 cheese wheels a day plus ricotta. The husband and wife team of cheese makers are seen here extracting the cheese mass from the base of the vast pot. A natural rennet had been used for the curdling process and the pots heated to around 50 degrees, and later switched off for an hour to let the enzymes do the rest.Parmesan cheese making 3

After 3 weeks immersed in the brine of salt and water the cheese is moved to the aging storage where it will spend up to 2 years for the ‘Stagionato’ (seasoned) or over 30 months for the ‘Stravecchio’ (extra old).

Parmesan cheeses


Hombre’s storage area can house up to 8000  cheese wheels  which are cleaned and turned regularly by a robot as the cheese sweats creating humidity and the last thing you would want is for any bacteria to get into the cheese. The cheese initially weighs 50 kilos, after a year of ageing 35 kilos and in 2-3 years 30 kilos.

Testers come from the Cheese Consortium to ‘tap’ the cheese listening for an homogenous sound before giving it the ‘green stamp’ of approval.

Testing parmesan cheese


And of course parmesan cannot be produce outside of a designated geographical area which runs between Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna in the region of Emilia Romagna. Hence the cheese is proudly stamped  Parmigiano – Reggiano.Parmesan cheese production



The only thing left to do on our visit then was to taste this magnificent cheese and buy some to take home!Tasting parmesan cheese




So check the labels when you buy to ensure you are getting authentic parmesan, and remember to only grate it on demand.