This region is Emilia and Romagna. In short, Emilia means ham, cheese and Ferrari; Romagna means Sangiovese, the Adriatic Coast and cycling. Many more reasons to go below.
A press release has outlined the increasing popularity of both Mortadella Bologna IGP and Cotechino Modena IGP. The IGP (indicazione geografica protetta) mark of quality was awarded to the Mortadella of Bologna in 1998, and in recent years sales have increased by over 35% and production by a similar figure. This equals a total of 28 million kg of mortadella sold in the Italian market place each year, which is an awful lot of ham sandwiches.
Formagio di Fossa or 'pit cheese" is produced in an area which borders Emilia Romagna and Le Marche and through which flow the Rivers Rubicone and Marecchia. The origins of the cheese were documented in 15th century and speak of the people of Sogliano al Rubicone concealing their possessions underground from the Aragonese troops who were plundering the country.
This is no doubt true but the custom of storing cheese in pits may have been happening a lot earlier (see 'Unearthing' below). Such pits were already in existence in the Middle Ages and were dug into the soft tufa rock under Sogliano to store grain and act as early refigerators. Even today they are different shapes and sizes, although a flask shape is more common, typically three metres high including the neck and a base of about two metres in circumference.
This is the traditional broth you should be making when preparing a dish of classic tortellini or cappelletti from Bologna. How authentic is it? Well, it is certified by the Chamber of Commerce in Bologna and printed in a document called 'La Mercanzia'.
5kg topside of beef, 2kg veal, 4 carrots, 4 celery stalks, 2 cloves, half onion, 1 chicken
Think 'Adriatic Coast in Emilia Romagna' and the imagery tends to be kilometers of sand covered by colorful beach umbrellas all the way from Cattolica to Riccione, Rimini, Igea Marina, Bellaria and beyond to Milano Marittima etc. Somehow, between sun cream, discotheques and dancing dolphins, Cesenatico has escaped with some sort of alternative reputation intact. And good for them.
If you are a cycling fan, Marco Pantani may come to mind. He was born and brought up here and is still a hero notwithstanding his rise and dramatic fall. His nickname, of course, was Il Pirata, the pirate, due to his swashbuckling take no prisoners riding style and trademark bandana. This seafaring image in somethng we also like to apply to Cesenatico; a hardworking people with an alternative story to tell than mass tourism.
Bologna Turismo produced an interesting guide to the porticoes of the city a little while back. It has the evocative title of 'Musica per Archi e Portici - note per un itinerario' in Bologna. Translated that's 'Notes for an itinerary - music for arches and porches'. It's always more lyrical in Italian.
But it is certainly true that all the great composers have walked the historical centre of Bologna at one time. The guide mentions Mozart, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Rossini and Donizetti. If you know where to look, the alleys, ways and hidden paths of the city have left traces and clues to their presence.
Bologna is one of Italy's most interesting and active cities. It has managed to preserve one of the country's most charismatic historical city centers, while at the same time embracing the arts, technology and remaining politically progressive.
Bologna 2000 was one of the Jubilee year's most successful initiatives and the city was also European City of Culture. Bologna is called 'la dotta' (the savant one) as the city is home to the oldest University in the world. They also call Bologna 'la grassa' (the fat one) because of its fantastic food such as tortellini pasta and bolognese ragu sauce.
March 8th in Italy is La Festa delle Donne or International Women's Day and is celebrated by giving bouquets of bright yellow mimosas to mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters and female friends. In following with this tradition, mimosa cakes are also baked on this day and can be found in bakeries throughout Italy. The varieties are endless and include several variations of fruit and alcohol ingredients. We picked up the one above from our local family run pasticceria in Rome. Enjoy!
Lambrusco wine has regained a certain credibility recently. Not least thanks to a concerted effort by the Consorzio del Marchio Storico dei Lambruschi Modenesi. This no profit entity guarantees the authenticity of the product and the cultivation of the 'lambrusca' grape in a designated territory.
The grape was known in ancient Etruscan and Roman times. Greek physician Discoride, Cato and Pliny the Elder all spoke fondly of the characteristics of version of the wine in their times and documents from the late 17th century recording "strong red grapes" from various areas within the Modena territory including Sorbara, perhaps the definitive territory for Lambrusco.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is one of Italy's great cheeses, but whatever you do don't say 'parmesan cheese'. A recent law has asserted that 'parmesan cheese' is not parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the name cannot be used to fool the customer into thinking the cheese they are buying is the real thing. Above all, look for the distinctive logo of the Consorzio Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano to be sure, both on the cheese itself or on the plastic packet.