Art, architecture and tastes of the Emilia Romagna region
by Silvia Palmarini
Vignola is a pretty town in the province of Modena, famous for its cherries and its fortress, but not only; there is much more to do here and many more tastes to try.
I arrived in Vignola on a Saturday morning and the first thing I do is entering Caffè Terzi, a delicious coffee bar where I try a pistachio coffee with whipped cream, what a good start! Ready for the visit of the Acetaia Comunale, where they produce the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, I walk ten minutes through the city centre and I arrive in front of the City Hall. In fact, the municipal vinegar factory is located inside this building, Villa Tosi-Bellucci. I have never been in a vinegar factory before. I expect they keep the balsamic vinegar in a cellar, instead I find out they keep it in the attic. That’s because the vinegar needs to feel the weather changes. While walking upstairs we solve a mystery: Vignola derives its name from the Latin word vineola, which means little vineyard. The Acetaia consists of just one room where the barrels are gathered. There are small and big barrels, the latter are called mother barrels since they hold boiled must. The barrels are made of different kind of wood, and this gives the vinegar its unique taste. We get to try the juniper balsamic vinegar: it’s simply delicious, even without any food, because it is sweet and sour at the same time.
After such a visit one is very hungry, luckily we are at the heart of the Emilia Romagna region and the food is delicious everywhere. In particular, I could advise the Osteria della Luna, which is perfectly located in the city centre, where you can find all kinds of Slow Food products, and the Agriturismo Santa Chiara, in the countryside of the nearby town of Levizzano Rangone, if one prefers quietness and panoramic views over the hills. Either way, you can taste local products such as crescentine, gnocco ingrassato, local ham and salami, tortelloni, wine and many more.
In Vignola, you can find a place that sells a very special dessert, the so-called torta Barozzi, a kind of chocolate cake that is truly unique because it was invented years ago, and its recipe has been kept secret ever since; in fact, the name is a trademark. I am talking about the Gollini café/pastry shop. If you are wondering where the name of the cake comes from, then you should know about Jacopo Barozzi: this is the real name of the famous 16th century architect known all over the world simply as “Vignola”. By the way, I am really looking forward to see the Barozzi staircase, inside Palazzo Boncompagni. It’s a big spiral staircase he designed, that seems resting on nothing.
Palazzo Boncompagni is just in front of the Rocca di Vignola, which is indeed worth a visit. They have recently restored it, bringing its decorations back to its original colors. I enter the fortress through the drawbridge admiring the paintings on the walls. I’m fascinated by the three towers, so different from each other, while I listen to the story of the fortress itself in the middle age courtyard. There is so much to see and learn here. During the visit, you can enter some rooms on the ground floor and on the first floor, where you can still admire the original decorations. They will tell you the story of the families who ruled this town over the centuries. I also recommend a visit of the soldiers’ walkways upstairs, where the view over Vignola and the hills is amazing, and a visit of the towers, of course (if possible).
Main pic courtesy of Flickr User Giovanni Sighele