I’m SO excited to finally be sharing a recap of our whirlwind Italy trip! I hope this trip shows you that having limited vacation days is no excuse not to travel! Michael and I originally booked a much longer trip (12 days to be exact), but because of my limited number of vacation days, we had to cut our trip short. We left DC on a Wednesday afternoon (connected through JFK) and landed in Venice at 11 AM on Thursday morning. We spent Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Italy. We left Rome and flew back to DC (through Detroit) on Monday morning. I only took 3 vacation days (Thursday, Friday, Monday)! So lack of vacation days is no longer an excuse for YOU not to go!
Since we were short on time, we decided to tag along with our friends Louise and Steven who live in Italy for a four day food tour in Italy! You’ll see that we were able to do so many cities in such a short amount of time because all of the cities are very close to one another. Let’s jump right in!
Tip: If you’re planning on doing a similar type trip, I highly recommend renting a car or van upon arrival at the Venice airport. Making sure you have the right insurance is essential. If you are planning on taking this advice, it may benefit you to look into something like one sure van insurance, just to protect you and your family while on the road. You want to know that you are protected at all costs, in case anything was to happen. We lucked out because Louise and Steven had a car, but if we would have been on our own, we definitely would have grabbed one. Although there are trains to get you to/from each of the cities that we visited, having a car made the trip infinitely easier.
Four Day Food Tour Italy
Day 1 // Prosecco Road & Sacile
When we landed in Venice, around 11:30 am, Louise picked us up from the airport and we made the 45ish minute drive from the Venice airport to Prosecco Road. If you couldn’t guess, Prosecco Road is filled with vineyards that specialize in prosecco! This area is not touristy at all! I’d even go so far as to say that we didn’t see a single tourist at the two spots that we stopped in.
Our first stop was alla Cima for lunch, and it did not disappoint! I highly recommend this spot! We sat on the covered patio and enjoyed breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards (pictured below). The house prosecco was better than any I’ve ever tasted in the States. We each had a pasta dish, sipped on prosecco, and plotted out the next few days ahead on our trip!
After lunch, we headed to an off the map, family run prosecco vineyard, Ca’ dei Zago, where we were greeted by the mother of the family. The family lives right next to the vineyard! We soon met her husband, the grown children, the little kids, and even the grandparents. The mother served us fresh salami and bread along with one of the last bottles of their 2016 prosecco. It happened to be bottling day on the vineyard so we got to see the family business in action! Louise happened to have stumbled upon this place before, which is the only way we ended up here. We were the only people there besides the family. It was a super cool experience chatting with the family, who only spoke Italian (there was a LOT of hand motioning, but we made do), and seeing them work together to get the 2017 prosecco bottled.
After finishing up on Prosecco Road, we made our way to Sacile, a small town about a 45ish minute drive from the Venice airport. If you’re visiting Italy and want to experience a small Italian town, I can’t recommend Sacile enough! It’s the cutest town with a main piazza and tons of restaurants, bars, and shops. There’s a river that runs through the city so there are cute pedestrian overpass bridges sprinkled throughout the city.
After wandering through the streets a bit, we stopped at a restaurant, Weiss Cafe, along one of the canals and had an Aperol Spritz (so delish!). That night, we had a special treat when Chef Teresa from Teresa Colors arrived at Louise and Steven’s house to host a homemade pasta cooking lesson. We had the MOST fun with Theresa that night! She taught us how to make pasta and pasta sauce from scratch (we used less than 10 ingredients, total!), and it was the best pasta I’ve ever had!
If you find yourself in Sacile for a night, booking Teresa’s cooking class is a must! She’s working on starting up her own bed and breakfast as well so definitely keep an eye out for that too! Her email address for inquiries and bookings: email@example.com
Check out Michael’s VLOG that I linked below to get a feel for what Teresa’s cooking classes are like!
Michael videoed our entire trip, check out his Sacile VLOG here:
Day 2 // Sacile, Parma, Modena
On Day 2 of our trip, we woke up in Sacile. We wandered around town that morning and popped in Pasticcerie Berardi for a brioche and coffee (in Sacile, order a macchiatone coffee, similar to macchiato, but better!). Once we had our fuel, we packed up the car and made the three hour drive south to Parma!
If you find yourself on a road trip in Italy, you MUST stop at a gas station along the way. Italians know how to do gas stations! The one we stopped at was insane! There was an espresso bar, a fresh sandwich counter, people drinking wine at a few of the sit-down tables … it was incredible! We sipped a quick macchiatone (out of ceramic espresso cups, in the gas station), and we were on our way!
Parma is a larger city than Sacile, but still there were minimal tourists. I don’t think we encountered another American while there. Our first stop upon arrival was lunch! We scoured out a top rated (thanks Google Maps!) pasta joint, Tratorria Corrieri, which was a perfectly delicious way to be introduced to the Parma food scene.
Parma is the one and only place where true Parmigiano Regianno cheese is made. After wandering around the city a bit, we met Davide of Bike Food Stories (@bikefoodstories – our photo with Davide!). Davide runs a bike tour company that meshes biking with exploring the food scene in Parma! Bike and eat, my kind of company! We hopped on bikes and rode about 30 minutes outside of town, all guided by Davide, to the Parmigiano Regianno facility where the cheese is made! Davide took us on a walk through tour of the facility, which was incredible. I had no idea what all goes into making one wheel of cheese! To this day, the process for making true parmesan cheese is so hands on and so much care and meticulousness goes into each wheel. You’ll notice in the photos below that the wheels have to be hand flipped in their salt baths and the storage room, where the cheese ages, has no electronic or machine facets to it at all. The cheese also has to be inspected on a regular basis. That’s what all of the stamps indicate on the outside of the cheese wheels. So fascinating!
After touring the Parmigiano Regianno facility, we biked back to town and Davide gave us a quick bike tour of the city. We ended the afternoon (evening by this point) with meat, cheese, and wine at a local deli with Davide and the two friends that we met on the bike tour (they were South African, but one of the ladies happened to have lived right outside of Philadelphia where Michael’s office is located at one point! small world!).
After a fun filled day in Parma, we hoped in the car and made the 45 minute drive to Modena!
If you followed along with the trip on my Instagram Stories, you may remember that we were running WAY late getting on the road to Modena. We had reservations at Massimo’s restaurant, Franceschetta 58, that night. We were just a cool hour and a half late. To Massimo’s restaurant! After a quick change in the car (after riding bikes all day), we made it! I have to say that the staff was incredibly gracious and the restaurant did not disappoint! If you’re in Modena and can’t get in Massimo’s famed Osteria Francescana (we tried, unsuccessfully), I HIGHLY recommend checking out Franceschetta 58. The service was outstanding, the atmosphere was just perfect (laid back, cool, not stuffy at all), and the food was to die for! I indulged in the tasting menu, and I’m still thinking about how delicious the dessert was that night!
Michael’s Parma VLOG!
Day 3 // Modena
We stayed in Modena for two nights. We used booking.com and stayed at Emilia Suites, which I HIGHLY recommend, if you can find availability. We had a two bedroom, two bathroom condo that was perfect for our stay. The suite was super modern and clean. Although we essentially just slept there, it was a nice place to come home to after being out and about all day.
We spent the entire Day 3 of our trip in Modena, which was a nice change of pace. Modena is such a fantastic little Italian town. Again, hardly any tourists, and virtually no Americans.
We wondered around the city, popped in a cafe for morning coffee, stopped in the fresh market (where Massimo gets all of his foods for his restaurants – if you haven’t seen the Chef’s Table episode featuring Massimo, definitely check it out!), and then found a spot with outdoor seating for pizza and spritzes for lunch.
After a leisurely lunch, we made our way to our balsamic vinegar tour! We walked about a mile outside of the city center to Acetaia di Giorgio, the most fairytale-esque home that doubles as a family operated balsamic vinegar production facility. The matriarch of the family led our tour (the tours are free!) and explained the history of their home and the process of balsamic vinegar aging. The aging process is incredible. Again, as with the Parmigiano Reggiano process, every step in the process is done by hand and with such care. It’s something that you don’t see often in the States.
Like I mentioned, the tour itself is free, but at the end you have the opportunity to buy a bottle or two of the balsamic, which after tasting them all, you’re bound to do! I snagged a bottle to bring home!
We ended our stay in Modena with a lovely dinner at Trattoria Bianca. This spot is a little off the beaten path, but very local! The service was outstanding, the covered patio was lovely, and the food was delicious.
Michael’s Modena VLOG!
Day 4 // Bologna & Rome
We woke up on our last full day in Modena and quickly hopped in the car to make the 45ish minute drive to Bologna where we spent the first half of the day. Bologna is famous for Bolognese sauce and Boloney (yep, I steered clear of the boloney, too many childhood memories). We spent the morning at a cafe on the piazza (pictured below) sipping coffee and people watching. Bologna seemed to have a bit more tourists than the other cities, but still, it was manageable.
The main site in Bologna is the two towers (pictured below). If you’re on your game (we were not), you can purchase tickets to go to the top of the towers for what sounds like a spectacular view of the city. We just took in the sites from the ground. We didn’t have much time in Bologna, but it was worth the pitstop.
Louise and Steven dropped Michael and I off at the Bologna train station around noon that day and we headed to Rome!
The train ride from Bologna to Rome is about 2.5 hours. It’s a really beautiful train ride though so it’s not so bad. We stayed at the Rome Marriott Park Hotel (on points) since it’s close to the airport – we only stayed one night and had to catch our flight home the next morning so we opted for this spot instead of somewhere closer to the city center. After freshening up a bit, we caught an Uber into the city, which was about a 20 minute ride.
Our first stop was St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City. We happened to be there just as the sun was setting behind the Basilica, which made for a really incredible view. There also weren’t that many tourists around when we stopped by, which was around 4:00 pm. After wandering around Vatican City, we walked back across the river into Rome’s city center.
Rome, as opposed to all of the other cities on our trip, was full of tourists. It was extremely crowded everywhere we went. Perhaps that’s why I did such a bad job at documenting where all we went …
We made good use of the few hours of daylight we had. We stopped by the Spanish Steps, which were incredible, but extremely crowded (like you could barely even see the steps there were so many people on them), then the Trevi Fountain, which was beautiful, but equally as crowded.
We opted for an early dinner at Osteria de Fortunata. I highly recommend popping over to this spot a little early. It’s off the beaten path, but it still got quite crowded as the evening went on. We grabbed a table outside and enjoyed an Aperol Spritz and the most delicious pasta dinner accompanied by the perfect bottle of red wine!
After dinner we made our way to the Pantheon because we heard it’s beautiful at nighttime. We grabbed gelato and a bottle of wine (from the same shop) and spent the rest of the night sitting on the steps in front of the Pantheon, chatting, people watching, and sipping wine.
Michael’s Bologna & Rome VLOG!
We had the most fantastic four days in Italy! If you’re wanting to avoid the big cities and do a unique food tour of Italy, I highly recommend taking our route of Sacile, Parma, Modena, and Bologna!
If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!