Different people plan their trips differently. Some love to just “wing it” and decide what they will do and where they will sleep once they get to a destination. Sometimes they don’t even plan a destination past their original stopping place. I am definitely not one of those people.
I cannot go away without making sure all of my “ducks are in a row.” I have to have my flights and any other transportation I might need completely planned and ticketed long before I ever leave home which includes any travel between cities either by train, car, or any other method. I have to know exactly where I am sleeping each night and what that hotel/B&B/resort looks like and which category of room I have reserved and confirmed. I do a little research about where I am going so that I don’t miss any “must see” places or restaurants I have to try. I’m one of those. And, because I am one of those, I was always what I would call the travel agent in my family; maybe it was a little bit of a control issue – I don’t know.
Well, this last trip I was able to leave the planning to my girlfriend – Akasha Richmond – who is immensely more meticulous in her research and planning than even I. We were perfectly matched. I made sure that we bought all of our tickets and confirmed all of our lodgings. Akasha did enormous research about what was in the area that we were traveling to – in this case Emilia Romagna, Italy – and where we should visit and eat so that we fit in as much as possible in the time we had.
We had one day in Savigno, a small town in the Province of Bologna southwest of the city of Bologna. Akasha wanted to eat at Trattoria da Amerigo (a one Michelin star restaurant) in Savigno and was researching what else was in the area for us to see. She found Helena Kyriakides (a Sommelier FISAR and a qualified Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano taster), whose company Yummy Italy, had an amazing reputation for arranging personal visits to various artisanal producers in the area. And we even had time to meet the owner, Alberto Bettini, who was an incredible host.
Helena took us to a small Parmigiano Reggiano maker that makes their cheese by hand and produces only 14 wheels per day. After taking us on a tour of their facility, watching the process (passed down from generation to generation), getting to taste warm ricotta that was made from the cheese production that we watched that morning, we moved on to a winemaker. She had organized for us to eat lunch with the winemaker in his home, taste his award-winning wines and enjoy his wife’s cooking. The winemaker kept complaining that we weren’t drinking enough!!
When he found out that Akasha preferred goat cheese, he decided that we should visit one of his friends who has an organic goat farm and makes goat cheese. He piled us all into his jeep, and we took off. We were really glad we were in his Jeep because the goat farm was up a narrow gravel road and it was raining. Akasha got to see the goats and taste some wonderful goat cheese – completely unplanned!
The last stop of our day with Helena was to Il Mulino del Dottore (part of the slow food movement in Italy), The Mill of the Doctor, a 17th-century building with a very old flour mill made of four millstones and run by water from the Venola stream nearby. From the flour that they mill they produce all the products that are sold in their tiny shop as well as at various organic markets in the area– breads, cookies, dried pastas and of course flour. They were some of the best cookies we had ever tasted! I bought some pasta flour to use at home, dried pasta and some honey.
Our day with Helena from Yummy Italy made one thing perfectly clear – even when you think you’ve planned for everything you have to be open to the possibility of a slight detour that can take you to a place you never knew existed. In our case to the wonderful goat farm. Helena was perfect and our day with her couldn’t have been any better.
By the way, our dinner that night at Trattoria da Amerigo was everything we hoped for and more, and we got a pasta cooking class with the Nonnas (grandmothers) the next morning; courtesy of my friend’s expert planning!
In the photo above (from left to right), you see my girlfriend Akasha Richmond, Alberto Bettini, Helena Kyriakides, and me.