From Milan to Modena: top 5 culinary experiences

Milan and Modena are two culinary gems, located just a 3 hour drive from each other – perfect for a long weekend for food lovers. From the simple yet divine ‘Italian colazione’ consisting of a coffee and freshly baked ‘cornetto’ at pastry institution Pave, to aperitivo at Terrazza Aperol and homemade food deliciousness courtesy of EatWith, Milan is full of culinary wonders to prepare you for one of the most incredible food journeys – a tasting menu at Osteria Francescana in Modena, currently ranked as the second best restaurant in the world after Eleven Madison Park.

Pave

Breakfast in Milan can be a bit underwhelming – most Italians won’t eat more than a croissant, which they call ‘cornetto’ and a coffee before noon. That’s why if you want to follow the Italian way, you should go to the best bakery and coffeeshop in Milan – Pave.

This place is a pastry lover’s paradise – when entering the shop you can see and smell the baking process through a window behind the counter where they serve a sublime range of breakfast favourites from Treccia al Caffe, a coffee braided pastry, to Focaccina dolce, a sweet version of the famous focaccia bread.

Terrazza Aperol

To experience a real Milanese moment, go for aperitivo at Terrazza Aperol and indulge in a drink on the terrace, which has one of the best views of the city onto the Duomo. Featuring a range of delicious cocktails using Aperol as a base, waiters come and surprise you with a range of gourmet little tapas dishes, to get your taste buds going for dinner.

I suggest going for the classic Aperol Spritz – it just tastes so superior when you have it in Milan – the proportions are decided by the barman: if he’s from Padova, expect a “shot” of Aperol, if you’re in Treviso or Venice, it will more likely be a “squirt”.

Gluten-free fine dining with Valentina

Restaurants are great, but sometimes all you want when travelling is a homemade meal. There is also no better way to get a true understanding of the way people eat in a city like Milan, than to enjoy a dinner cooked by a local chef at his/her home.

EatWith offers a range of such experiences in Milan from Marcello & Hana’s Sardinian food workshop to an Italian dinner with design lover Valentina. I tried Valentina’s gluten-free feast which was a beautiful experience – for once you don’t come out of an Italian meal with a food coma, but rather light and satisfied with having sampled lots of new and unusual flavours. Valentina is a design writer for Vogue and food lover – she can arrange all kinds of experiences in Milan including a food and architecture tour.

Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana is the ultimate gastronomic experience you could have in Italy, and, some would argue, in the world. Make sure to book months in advance – this restaurant tends to get fully booked 30 seconds after booking lines open. If you watched Chef’s table or Master of None, you would be familiar with Massimo Bottura’s creative approach to reinventing traditional Italian cuisine.

Each plate is a work of art – let’s take ‘Five different ages of parmigiano reggiano in five different textures and temperatures’ as an example. In Massimo Bottura’s words, this dish has two ingredients: parmigiano and time. You also get to try the famous ‘Oops! I dropped the lemon tart’ dessert which is a representation of how culinary accidents can turn into the tastiest discoveries.

Balsamic vinegar tasting

The Modena region also happens to be the home of balsamic vinegar. For many centuries, the production of balsamic vinegar (in dry vinegar farms in the attics inherited from one generation to the next) was the prerogative of many families in the region.

I visited this kind of attic in Massa Finalese at the workshop of Giorgio Boschetti (known around town as Bosco) in the province of Modena on via 14 Galli Amintore. You get to try various different balsamic vinegars, some of them so cherished that they are named after family members. Watch out though, it gets very hot in these attics in the summer! Ask your host to get you to try gelato with balsamic vinegar, it’s delicious!

Comments (5)

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  1. Ashy says:

    Those pastries look divine, what a way to start the day and I’m sure it just keeps getting better and better. Osteria Francescana is an amazing experience – or so I’m told. I hope that I will be lucky to experience it one day. Having watched Chef’s Table, I know I would love it. Food as art is an experience not to be missed.

  2. Lizzie says:

    Great post. So many tips that we will need to try out. I definitely agree about the Aperol too! Had it in Venice and it definitely felt like there wasn’t too much in there. I guess we will have to try it the “right way” in Milan.

  3. Charlie says:

    I’ve been to Milan (albeit only for a couple of nights) but never to Modena. In fact, I hadn’t heard of Modena but it definitely sounds like somewhere that I need to look up next time I’m in Italy. I’d definitely be looking to take some top quality balsamic home with me if I could…

  4. Jimmy says:

    Is it me or do some of those pastries look a little over-done? Maybe they’re meant to be like that?

    Aperitivo with a great view of the Duomo sounds delightful. And I’m sure Osteria Francescana is a real gem if it’s booking up that far in advance (although I have to say that in that example dish it just looks as though someone has thrown an egg at a plate!!!)

  5. Liz says:

    Weirdly I haven’t actually heard of Modena before! This seems like a great trip, I’m certainly a coffee lover as well as a food lover. Although Italy is a place full of lots of animal products in foods I feel like there could be some good options for a Vegan. I’d be happy if there was just soy milk for some coffees!!
    Do you think these places are good for Vegans?

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