Back in the fall we took a trip with the kids to Italy. Exploring this country has been on our bucket list since moving to London, and after my trip to Genoa, Sestri Levante and Milan in May, I basically made it my mission that we’d go to explore the famous “food valley” region in Emilia-Romagna, home to the famed food cities of Bologna, Parma and Modena.
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We actually started our trip in the northern seaside city of Genoa because we’d found really inexpensive flights for around £30 roundtrip through Ryanair. Genoa is a major port city and the jumping off point for several large cruise lines, so it’s well-suited for tourists looking for a convenient entry point to explore more of the coastline in Cinque Terre. The airport also has several rental car options, which makes it easy to grab a car and go.
And boy, did we go. After a night at the AC Marriott Hotel Genova, we hopped in the car and wound through mountain roads to just outside Parma, arriving at B&B Daina Bianca, a bed and breakfast and agriturismo (an Italian term for a farmhouse that hosts tourists) in the early afternoon. The bed and breakfast’s owner, Tiziana Calzetti, greeted us at the main building, and it quickly became clear that Tiziana is a woman-of-all-trades.
Tiziana grew up at Daina Bianca before leaving, as did most of her relatives, to study and work elsewhere, including abroad. She returned to Daina Bianca to restore the farmhouse and reopen it as a bed and breakfast and working farm. Today, Daina Bianca is also known for hosting school groups, educating children about the value of Italian farming and a rural way of life.
Our kids were immediately enthralled, especially when Giuseppe, a local truffle hunter, arrived with his truffle hunting dogs to give us all a lesson on how truffles are sourced and discovered in this food-rich region.
We wandered into the hills behind the farm, the dogs leading the way. Earlier in the day, Giuseppe had found a few black truffles in some hills not far from where we were, and the dogs were eager to demonstrate their ability to sniff out truffles and bring them back to their owner.
Then, it was off to explore the rest of the farm. B&B Daina Bianca runs horse riding lessons in the summer, and we spent a few minutes feeding and petting them.
Tiziana also raises cashmere goats, which were delightfully shy animals. They scurried away from our animated kids and only creeped back once they discovered that these chatty, small humans actually wanted to feed them.
Back at the main farmhouse, where Tiziana showed our kids how to grind wheat into flour for hot flatbreads grilled on on outside flour. The breads are made out of a simple flour and water batter, which is poured into special terracotta dishes that are heated directly over an open flame.
The flatbreads came out crisp on the outside and doughy in the middle — an ideal snack when paired with local fresh sheep’s cheese and cured meats. We snacked until our bellies were full. When it was time to go, our kids followed us reluctantly down the dirt path.
“I want to live here forever,” sighed Meimei happily.
“Do you think Miss Tiziana will let me have a goat?” asked Ge Ge.
We all have our dreams, I guess.
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