La Macchina

enzo ferrariDriving a Ferrari on the streets of Maranello was a definite alpha Italy experience so when launched in March with information and locations of Italian automobile museums, a calendar of racing and car show events and discounts on car driving experiences we were all over it.

The revved up Emilia Romagna tourism website also lists day tours of factories and showrooms and some great offers to immerse you into the “land of taste and motors”.  The province of Emilia Romagna in northeastern Italy is home to Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani and De Tomaso luxury car manufacturers as well as Ducati motorcycles and the taste towns of Bologna and Modena. You can sample the regions’s iconic  Aceto Balsamico, Lambrusco wine and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and satisfy your inner racer along the way.

The site also has an interesting section about the stories and characters significant to Italian motor racing and car manufacturing.

eric ferrari

Our travel group at the Hotel Arthur close to the Ferrari factory (Modena area)



Italy’s Bigfoot Is a Maker of Cheese

wildmanThe Italian version of Bigfoot is more akin to a wilderness cook than a cryptozoological monster.  More rational and reasonable, a teacher of sorts. Legends about a wild man living in the forests along the Alps and the Apennines describe him as a master of the cheese trade. At an ancient encounter near Lucca it is said that the wild man, having taught men to make butter, was about to leave, but the men insisted so much that he stopped to teach them how to make cheese. He started to leave, but once again was pressed to continue and so explained how to produce ricotta. He would often appear unexpectedly to help and correct the local cheese makers yet gained little respect for his efforts.

European urbanization drove these bands of wild men (in some cases women) to extinction. They survive in regional paintings, carvings and iconographic representations and a subjects of inspiration at local trattorie. trattoriaAncient legends kept the story of l’uomo selvantico alive and the lore of the wild men of the forests created a whimsical mythology.

When Alfonso d’Este married Lucrezia Borgia, a dance was staged at the wedding banquet with performers as wild men carrying horns of plenty. The wild man so captured Leonardo da Vinci‘s imagination that in the planning of a nuptial pageant for the Sforza he mentions putting footman in their costumes as ‘salvatichi’ or wild men.

Yet some say the hypertrichotic selvani still exist. Periodic sightings describe footprints similar in shape to those of humans that sank into the ground to fifteen centimeters. And in December 1996 a Swiss music producer would tell that he saw in the woods of Ventimiglia in Northern Italy “a  gigantic creature that looked like a cross between a primitive man and a gorilla covered with hair with the face of an elderly person”. Hopefully on his way to make cheese.

Parm Tools

cheese tester

Implements of cultivation and design have always been held in high esteem by artisan producers for they are an extension of the vision and process of creating a unique product, something that goes beyond the mundane. The tools used are often specially designed and often handed down from one generation to another. Artisan producers use their tools to practice their craft and consider them to be of great importance. Nowhere is this more evident than in Italy.  For example, tools and equipment used in the mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting (bronze dies) and drying of artisan pasta are specially designed to produce shapes and rough textures that allow the sauce to adhere to every delectable bite.

Whether making shoes, blowing glass, weaving textiles or painting ceramics the tools of the Italian artisan are essential to the outcome of the product. Violin makers, bookbinders, gilders, ironworkers, sculptors and cheese makers have their own set of tools.spinoIn the artisan making of Parmigiano Reggiano  there is the “spino”, a balloon-like whisk used to mix the cheese and break down the curd. The cheese maker uses a percussion or tapping hammer to tap the outside of the cheese listening carefully to the way the crust takes the blows. parm toolsThe screw-needle pierces the cheese to extract a small sample of the contents and check the internal consistency while the sampling dowel or trier is used when a wheel needs to be cored and tested. And the famous bulb-handled knife; a short, pointed, almond-shaped knife used to break the wheel open, with one side thinner to aid penetration while the other is thicker and to act as a wedge. parm knife