Italy - Modena

Modena to Poggioraso

We left the Modena area at about 10am and travelled into Modena itself (we had been staying in Manerello – 19km from Modena)

We got into Modena at approx 11am and found a car park on a street with no parking lines – we saw no signs about no parking so we assumed it was ok. Then when I left the car I saw a set of letters ZTL and wondered what they meant. I took a look at some cars and they all had signed with ZTL on them. We got back into our car and went to a car park building – lucky else we may have returned to a towed away vehicle!

UPDATE : August 7, 2009

Well I found out today what ZTL means - It means ZONE TRAFFIC LIMITED

What does that mean?

Well it means in my case:

  • 74 EURO Fine for the City Of Modena
  • 17 EURO Admin Fee from the Police
  • 48 EURO Admin Fee By EuropCar (the car rental agency)


141 EURO or just over $300 NZD for driving down a street where I never saw anything that said you could not drive down there.

Welcome to the City Of Modena.

This bill turned up on the 7th of August 2009 over 3 months after the time Pam and I drove there and out of the blue.

We were directed by the TOMTOM to drive down this street so there is another limitation with TOMTOMs.

Well I guess I won’t be visiting this city again in a hurry – and even worse I have no idea how to pay the fine!

EUROPCAR knows how to hit me for 48 EURO (charged their fee directly to my credit card) but left me with no information on how to pay the fine to the City Of Modena.

We found a car park building not too far away – 1 EURO 50 cents for the first hour and 50 cents per 1/2 hour after that. We then found ourselves a coffee, which now seems to cost 1 EURO where in Milan it was 80 cents and generally everywhere else 90 cents. Also Gelato is more expensive here than even the Cinque Terre where it was 1 EUR0 50 cents and in Modena 2 EURO (maybe they are slightly bigger)

We walked down a nice cobbled street – I did not see any tourists with a camera around their neck (unlike me). We found a church with Pam thought was the Doumo but I did not. We took a couple of snaps and then wondered around and Pam found a sign talking about the Doumo so yes it was it.

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There was a large restoration process going on in the bell tower which means that you could not see the bell tower at all it was covered in a fabric probably to stop dust going over everything.

We went in side and took a couple of photos and then a Mass started which was unexpected. It was in Latin and we stayed for a couple of minutes and then left.

We wondered along some shops and Pam checked out some bags, but did not buy anything. It was no getting on for 12:40 and we had arranged to meet the owner of the house in Poggioraso at 3pm. The house is only 65 km from Modena but it takes 1.5 hours to get there.

We stop to buy some Focaccia in the same shop we had the coffee and left Modena. The drive was very easy and pleasant, the Focaccia was not as nice as we had had in Vernazza.

We stopped along the way at a village since it looked nice and I took some photos.


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We arrived at the Supermarket in Poggioraso at about 2:45 and waited for 20 minutes for the owner Roberto to show up. Even though we were at 900 meters you would not know as the area was quite lovely with rolling hills around you.

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We followed Roberto to his house, Pam was worried when we went down another small windey road but I was now use to the roads. When we got to the house Roberto’s parents were there cleaning it. They live next door and do not speak English – they are very nice and helpful.

The house was cold as the heating had only been just turned on – I saw a big fireplace and decided that we would have a lovely cosy fire (as well as the GAS heating).

Pam and I left to buy some food from the supermarket and drove through Sestola which is about 100 meters higher up the hills. We drove around to see if there was a supermarket there but did not find one – we then drove out of town – took a wrong turn and went down a very very steep road (width of the car) – the Alfa Romeo is very low to the ground and I thought I would scrape the bottom but we took it very slow and it was ok.

We went to the supermarket which looked closed since the doors were shut and the lights were turned off but it was open and we went in. The vegetables looked pretty sad so we bought some Pasta, Tomato Sauce, Anchovies, drinks (a couple of wines) and a tin of beans. Dinner was sorted.

We drove back to the house which was warming up and I went and got some wood for the fire. I have not had an open fire for years probably 15 years…..

Roberto showed me where the wood was and we got the fire going and I cooked dinner. We had 3 sausages so I skinned them and cooked the meat with Onion, Garlic and Anchovies, adding Tomato Sauce (Pasta Sauce) and a bit of olive oil. Near the end of the cooking I threw in 1/2 a tin of beans and we had a meal. A few gratings of Parmigiano Reggiano (24 month old) and we were sorted with a glass of wine.

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We had a pretty relaxed night in front of the fire…

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Of Modena

Pam and I went to a Balsamic Vinegar Acetaia called La Noce – we were shown around and tasted some of their wonderful products. The oldest I got to try was 30 year old but he did show us some of their 75 year old – very thick and syrupy.

The man explained how the system worked and showed us his barrel room (always at the top of the property).

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BalsamicBalsamic vinegar is a thick, sweet smelling vinegar made from the pure and unfermented juice of grape called the "must." Although different varieties of grapes can be used to create balsamic vinegar, the Trebbiano grape, native to Modena, Italy, is the most common (this is what was used where we went). Other varieties of grapes sometimes used to make balsamic vinegar include the Ancellotta, Lumbrusco, and Sauvignon.

True, traditional balsamic vinegar is slowly aged in wooden barrels. Each manufacturer has its own process and formula for aging  the vinegar, moving it from one type of wood barrel to another to create its own signature flavour. Some of the more commonly used woods to make the barrels are ash, cherry, oak, juniper, and chestnut.

The process of making balsamic vinegar begins by boiling the grape juice until it becomes a thick syrup – a 50% reduction. It is then transferred to the wooden barrels to start the aging process.


With the combination of barrels above you take 1 litre of the smallest barrel to keep and then take one litre from the previous barrel and place it into the smaller barrel.

When you have removed 1 litre from the largest you fill it with one litre of the fresh reduced must from cooking.

So in the case above, it would take 5 years for 1 litre to move from the largest to the smallest barrel.

We were told that Balsamic Vinegar evaporates in the summer and cone traces in the winter.

100 KG of grapes will produce about 1-2 litres of vinegar after 25 years.

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The stones have been eaten away by the acids in the vinegar. Generally stones are no longer used to seal the hole at the top of the barrel.

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The barrel above called “David” was created when this mans son was born in 1986 – this is his legacy. His daughter also has a set of barrels.

The barrels can last 100 years, the middle barrel in the middle photo is more than 100 years old. The man told us they will build a new barrel around the outside of the old barrel to preserve it as the wood has such a rich style they want to keep.


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After the barrel room we saw a museum that he had created with tools from yesteryear. We also saw his private wine collection. Some of the bottles went back to 1928.

We then had a tasting of a different set of vinegars (not traditional) and then some traditional at different ages including a 30 year old.

I bought a small bottle of the so called 12 year old – the statement means that the minimum age is 12 years old. Hence the 25 year old is 25 year old minimum, but could contain 40 year old (but I bet not much).


The bottle I bought is very syrupy and was told that it was actually 24 years old – as he had ran out of younger product.

I paid 50 EURO for 100 ml – so in KIWI dollars about$120 or $1200 for a litre.

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The stone building were we tasted the vinegar was across the road from this nice building, both are 300 years old. The one above is his restaurant which looked stunning -  a meal is about 75 euro per head there.

Modena - Ca Penelope

We stayed at an Agriturismo e B&B called Ca Penelope - while we were in the Modena region.

We arrived in the rain and it rained more than once while we were there but we did have a nice day out in the sunshine having a gin or two.

The farm has lots of animals: Chickens, Donkeys, Goose, Dogs and even Turtles in a pond. I am not sure what they do on the farm but they had grape vines and a large ploughed paddock for vegetables. 

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Leaving Vernazza

We left Vernazza after two nights thinking we had seen all we wanted to see and would find some where to stay between Vernazza and Modena. We decided to not take the autostrada and drive by old roads which is a lot slower but we were not in a hurry.

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We thought that about 1/2 way to Modena would be good and we could find somewhere to stay the night. We drove for about two hours working our way up the mountains until the top of a mountain pass at 1100 meters. The weather was closing in and as we got to the top there was thick mist covering the mountain.

There was a shop and a bar with accommodation so we got out and had a coffee and asked about the room. The room was 35 EURO per night and we asked to see it.

We took the room, it was cold and were told the heating would take 20 minutes to heat the room up. Pam then decided that she hated the room and had a little sulk. So I has to go back to the lady who spoke almost no English and told here we no longer wanted the room and we left the mountain. I quite liked the idea of waking up at the top of a mountain, but it was not to be.

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We drove down the mountain and there was nothing that looked like accommodation at all close by. We kept driving and at about 80 km to Modena we decided we needed to find something soon,  so we entered HOTELS in the TOMTOM and followed its route.

We found the village but there was no parking signs everywhere and it was raining quite hard by then. We flagged that one after trying to find how to drive there with the TOMTOM wanting us to drive down footpaths. I guess they are called “via something” which translates to “something road” hence why it was wanting us to drive down there.  We left that town and kept on driving. We drove past a B&B sign on the main road 400 meters so we looked for that and could not find an entrance, so we did a u-turn and drove back and found a bridge about 400 meters before the sign. The sign said 400 meters both ways – da!  We drove over the bridge and followed the track for ages, up very windy hills. We never found the B&B and turned around after about 3 KM.

We then selected another name in the TOMTOM and drove there. Up a small windy road, and then up a very steep drive way but it was closed. We pulled another from the TOMTOM and drove to it, but it did not exist. This went on for ages, we found one in a village that Pam said looked nice, but it was closed on Mondays.

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We then gave up and phoned the place where we were going to be staying (Ca Penelope) for the next 6 nights and asked if we could come 1 day earlier – they said yes so we at least had somewhere to go.

The rain was very very hard, and the roads entering Modena were very very busy with people probably going home, the visibility was bad.

The roads into Modena also gave me a bad feeling about this place in that it is just a large city, something I can’t be bothered with. We drove off towards Maranello which also looked like a major city and found the farm where we are staying – right on the edge of town. The rain kept coming down, and we drove in and got out of the car.

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I did something like 6 hours driving when I was only planning on 2 hours, I was very buggered after the drive.

We checked in and were shown the apartment, really a room with a small kitchenette. It was clean and inviting. Pam cooked some pasta with the small amount of ingredients we had and we opened a wine out of a milk carton – 1 EURO 39 cents – it was crap but we had to see what it was like.

A pretty quiet night and out like a light.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena


100ml of the real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar 25 year old can easily cost 200 €, that means it could cost you 2000 € per litre, or in NZD $5000 per litre.

Lets put that in perspective:

  • 25 Year old Single Malt Scotch – maybe 120 €  or approx $300 NZD per 700ml and up
  • 25 Year old French Cognac – maybe 220 € or approx $550 NZD per 700ml and up

Is vinegar really better than Single Malt or Cognac – hopefully I will try some of the real produce while in Italy and can give an answer in a short time from now.

Copyright © Chris & Pam - 2020