Sunday, December 3, 2023:
Meet your fellow travelers and hosts (both Italian and American). Receive a warm welcome, get every last question answered on a Zoom call, and start getting excited… yes, you made the right choice to come to Italy with us! The Zoom link for all registered Fearless in Italy guests will be sent out on December 1.
Travel to Italy, pre-tour:
(Travel from U.S. to Rome is on your own. Plan on arriving in Rome no later than December 21… and, possibly earlier, to allow time to recover from jet lag. And, if you’ve never been to this great city, perhaps you’ll want to take a few days to explore before you get on the train to Bologna and join the group.)
Fearless in Italy: our trip
Friday, December 22, 2023 / Arrive in Bologna, by train; get settled in.
- Morning / early afternoon:Trains in Italy are much more convenient and easy than US train travel! Trains leave from Rome to Bologna about every ten minutes, starting at 5:10 am and ending at 11:50 pm. On average, there are about 78 trains per day which travel between these two cities. They depart about every 10 minutes, so making it to the station is pretty low stress… a train will be ready when you are. Prices for a single ticket between the two cities start from US $13.10, and go up depending on class. The trip takes about two hours, and you can buy tickets in advance, from the U.S.. For more information about the train, click here.Once you get to Bologna, no worries! If you’ve let them know when you’ll be arriving, Marcello and Raffa will meet you at the station, welcoming you and taking you to our hotel, Al Cappello Rosso. Get settled in to this delightful 4-star, unpack, stretch, nap, explore on your own.
- Late afternoon : We’ll meet our fellow travelers face to face, and gather with them and Marcello and Raffa. They’ll will explain the tour, giving further details… we have the basic outline below, but there are always a few surprises and last-minute additions. Then, we’ll have our first session of Fearless, followed by an aperitivo and dinner in Bologna.
Saturday, December 23
- Class: Session 2 of Fearless
- Exploration: After a wine and olive oil tasting, followed by lunch at the winery, Marcello and Raffa will drive us to Forlimpopoli, a small town along the via Emilia. We’ll take a pasta-making class at Casa Artusi, a cooking school dedicated to the town’s most famous citizen, Pellegrino Artusi. A businessman by profession, he was also a wonderful culinary writer. His La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangier bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) was published in 1891, and is considered the first moderfn Italian cookbook. Pellegrinio collected recipes from all over Italy, with a particular focus on from Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Marcello explain that the book is “considered a “bible” by our mothers and grandmothers.” At the school, each of us, in our individual cooking work stations, will prepare garganelli and cappelletti with ricotta and Parmigiano filling or other shapes of pasta assisted by “Mariettas.” Marietta, explains Raffa, “was the name of the mama that cook for Pellegrino Artusi.” Dinner? Why, we’ll eat —feast! — on what we have prepared together.We will also visit the museum dedicated to Pellegrino Artusi.
Sunday, December 24: Christmas Eve Day
- Class: Session 3 of Fearless
- Exploration: “This day is the Vigilia di Natale, Christmas Eve,” explain Marcello and Raffa, “so the tradition is to have no meat in our meals.” We will make bread with Samuel, at a bakery school in Bologna, where we’ll also enjoy lunch with him. The evening is unscheduled, for wandering and discovery… here is an article about the holidays in this wondrous place!
- Class: Session 4 (morning) and 5 (late afternoon) of Fearless (two sessions today because on the 27th it’s all exploring).
- Exploration: In the late morning we drive to Romagna hills for our Christmas lunch with Nicola in her home. She is a wonderful, welcoming hostess and a fine home cook. As we eat and celebrate, we’ll of course learn about the ingredients and traditions of the region and her family.
- Class: Session 6 (late afternoon) of Fearless
- Exploration: one of the highlights of our trip, Marcello will drive us from Bologna and out to Ombretta’s, in the hills of Romagna where we’ll meet our truffle hunter, a farmer who trains trains the darling Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. These enthusiastic and treasured pooches look a little like poodles; they’re an Italian breed which originated hundreds of years ago in the marshlands of the Delta del Po (in the eastern part of the Romagna sub-region of Italy), and, with training, can find the wild truffles. We’ll go with him and his scent dog on foot: a beautiful excursion walking in the winter wood and orchards. We’ll see first hand (and nose!) how this delectable prized ingredient is found. Truffle foraging is unforgettable, and the excitement that comes with each truffle find is genuine. A further thrill comes later, when we’ll feast on truffle-based dishes and seasonal products at a nearby agriturismo (working farmstead open to visitors).If you’ve never had truffles, one bite and you will know what all the fuss is about! We then return to Bologna (in time for a nap before Fearless and dinner).
Wednesday, December 27:
This day is packed — it’s all…
- Exploration: We’ll leave in the early morning departure to visit a “Caseificio” (traditionally, the place on a farm etc where milk is kept and butter and cheese are made). Here, we’ll see all the stages in the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, and learn all about it. You probably already know it is considered the King of the cheeses; now you will understand the why and how. We’ll also get to taste this remarkable cheese Parmigiano at different ages. We ‘ll also sample some locally-made wine : Lambrusco. From there, we’ll drive to Modena to visit a balsamic vinegar producer. Again, we will follow the process of how true balsamic is made, and taste the balsamico at different ages and stages. After lunch in the area, we’ll return to Bologna, and rest up for an evening performance of an operetta “Il Pipistrello” by Johan Strauss in Bologna, with dinner afterwards.
Thursday, December 28:
- Class: Session 7 of Fearless (late afternoon)
- Exploration: We’ll travel to the extraordinary town of Ravenna, about an hour from Bologna. Inland but connected by canal to the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna is known for its well-preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture, and has been a magnet for artists and craftspeoplefor centuries. We’ll visit and explore the amazing mosaics, in one of the eight Unesco World Heritage sites of Ravenna. Then, a delicious, unfancy lunch in an osteria, essentially a wine bar that serves traditional, simple meals, often changing daily, according to the market’s offering. Then, back to Bologna, allowing time to rest before Fearless and a lush dinner at the classic San Domenico, a famed 2-star Michelin restaurant. According to Michelin, “San Domenico is quite simply a landmark in the history of Italian cuisine.” (Do you get the sense that your hosts and the country you are visiting are both serious about good food?)
Friday, December 29:
- Class: Session 8 of Fearless
- Exploration: Marcello will drive us to Parma area, where prosciutto di Parma is produced and aged. You will see all the different steps of prosciutto making, from the fresh pork leg to the perfectly aged prosciutto, ready to slice. We’ll have lunch in Parma, with a prosciutto tasting, and enjoy a guided visit in Parma’s center, with a local guide picked by Marcello and Raffa. We’ll return to Bologna for dinner, in a welcoming trattoria (generally less formal than a ristorante, but more so than an osteria, trattorias are family-owned, casual, rustic neighborhood eateries, found throughout Italy. The food is fresh, unassuming, traditional, local and amazingly good: as Crescent said, in considerable wonder, after her first trip to this country and delectable meals in trattorias and osterias, “You can’t get a bad meal in Italy!” )
- Class: Sessions 9 and part of 10 of Fearless
- Exploration: Marcello will drive us to Comacchio, a small, quiet lovely town at the mouth of the Po river. Comacchio is a little jewel, built on 13 small islands connected by bridges and canals; it’s known as Little Venice, and is famous for its architecture and bridges as well as its fish market, featuring local eel and valley fish. “Picturesque” is an understatement here — what a beautiful place. We’ll have lunch there, then return to Bologna.
- Class: Session 10 completed and the start of 11 of Fearless
- Exploration: Another olive oil and wine-tasting in the hills of east Bologna; we’ll have a lovely light lunch in a beautiful winery. Oh, the views! Be sure to take a nap because tonight, after enjoying cenone di Capodanno, an abundant New Year’s Eve dinner at a Bologna trattoria known for its excellent food and warm hospitality, we’ll usher in the New Year in the city’s 13-century Piazza Maggiore. There’s music, performances, and a lively street market as we await he arrival in the square of “the old one” the vecchione, just before midnight. At exactly midnight, this enormous effigy (artists vie for to be selected to create it) is thrown onto a huge bonfire in the center of the piazza and burned, representing the discarding of all the bad things that happened in the old year and the welcoming in of the new. Usually the vecchione is represented as an old man, but, in leap years, it’s an old woman.
- Class: Session 12 of Fearless
- Exploration: we’ll return to Ravenna, this time joining Francesca at her beautiful home there for a family-style traditional lunch for the first day of the year. Afterwards, we return to Bologna.
- Check out of our hotel and depart after breakfast… Marcello will get us to the train station.