Arriving at Bologna train station after a one hour journey by executive train from Rome - their guide and vehicle were awaiting them. Not the usual guide, though! Valere Tjolle is the boss of Best of Romagna, and, after a lifetime in the global travel industry, and 5 years in Romagna knows the area and the travel opportunities intimately. Not the usual vehicle, either! The girls were to travel in a bright blue BMW convertible. So great fun was on the cards for all.
First stop, naturally, the fab, award-winning Zuffa Organic Vineyard for the ladies’ first sensational wine and food tasting. Here they encountered Augusto (Zuffa) and his warm family, the vineyard and the scrumptious wines of the area that were chosen for at Italy’s World Fair in 2015. They also had their first of amazingly delicious fresh Romagna food including Squaquerone cheese and Capeletti pasta
A light and delightful dinner was served in the Michelin-rated Dei Cantoni and the pair emerged clutching roses.
All this before a trip over the hills to sleepy, stunningly beautiful Santarcangelo di Romagna and a visit to the wild art of the Mutoid Waste Company.
Time for a glass or two of wine and a little more local food at the picture-perfect Villa Venti organic, biodynamic vineyard. Here two perfect wines - one white Famoso “Serenaro” and one red Sangiovese “Primo Segno” were tasted. Delicious. As was the local flatbread hand made from Villa Venti wheat, the local “Savor” made from Villa Venti wine, nuts and fruits and the local cheeses and meats. Time for a sunset photo and a lovely night’s rest in the country.
Walking and sea air stimulates the appetite, luckily, as our pair were off to lunch somewhere really, specially Romagnolo. Valentina Valentini presides over an amazing establishment where pretty much everything comes from her surrounding family farm.
Great platters of warm breads, prosciuttos, cheeses, toasts were replaced by even greater platters of freshly made pastas - all before the main courses of chargrilled meats. Naturally great Valentini wines washed down this feast. Naturally it was followed by delicious desserts, digestivos and strong espresso coffees.
This feast was necessary to set up our girls for the life-changing experience ahead. A feast of 1700 year old art awaited them at some of the world’s most dramatic heritage sites - the mosaic-encrusted glory that is Empress Galla Placidia’s Roman imperial capital - Ravenna.
Time for the very best gelato ever before driving home to the country.
Then off to cook under tutelage of Carla Brigliadori, one of Italy’s best known chef/sommeliers. Hard work but it was worth it! The girls made a full range of pastas - with only eggs, flour, rolling pin and knife (and a lot of effort!)
Their reward? A slap up 5 course fabulous dinner in Casa Artusi’s own stylish restaurant.
We got off at Ca d’Oro (Gold Roof) and took a gondola (Susannna and Marta nearly decided to take the handsome gondolier with them as a souvenir!). Then over the Rialto Bridge into a little doorway and up high to a private viewing terrace for an exclusive view all over Venice. The fantastic visit was rounded off with an al fresco lunch by the canal, opposite one of Venice’s most painted sights in the exclusive Bienale restaurant. Bit of shopping naturally and back to our Romagna home on the hill
Roncofreddo, the little hilltop village by where the girls were staying, has a special part in WW2 history, where allied forces (including Americans, Canadians, British, Ghurkas and Indians) breached the German Gothic Line. The Salvini collection is the work of one man whose life work was to put together everything he could find - a vast collection of war memorabilia - now closed but specially opened for Susanna and Marta. They were awestruck. A fitting end to their tour.
On Friday we were off to Bologna and home. Sadly, because Romagna makes you sorrowful to leave.
But for two American lady travel agents their road trip had exceeded their wildest expectations, Susanna and Marta would go back to Missouri knowing that they would return to Romagna - now they'd crossed the Rubicon.
If you are a travel agent or a group organiser maybe you'd like to find out about Romaga too!