Photo du Jour: Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese on the Move – Modena, Italy

A man pushes 6 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at the Hombre Farm near Modena, Italy.

A Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-maker transports approximately 230 kilos (500 pounds) of the prized cheese at the Hombre Farm outside of Modena, Italy. An organic wheel of this magnificent cheese sells for approximately 700 Euros ($975 USD), and is typically aged for 24 months. Hombre is able to produce about twelve of these wheels a day.

We were fortunate to have toured parts of the Hombre Farm yesterday, savoring several pieces of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, and mingling with the pampered Friesian cows that produce the milk that goes into making it.

I’ll be sharing many more gastronomical tales and Shawn’s videos from Emilia-Romagna in the near future. We’re thrilled to be exploring this lesser-known, but culturally-rich region of Italy, thanks to the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board which is hosting us in Modena. Here in Modena, locals smile and laugh easily – even ask you to take their picture. We’ve found that an authentic surprise awaits at nearly every turn onto a new street.

The tourist board has become well-known in the blogging community for its BlogVille campaign. If you’re a blogger and would like to also experience la dolce vita along with them, be sure to read more about BlogVille on their site.

Where in the World?

Disclosure & Thanks:

Our Modena visit was supported by the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board, to which we extend thanks.

An extra special thank you to Nick and Francesca for coordinating all the details and making us feel so welcome in Emilia-Romagna.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

55 thoughts on “Photo du Jour: Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese on the Move – Modena, Italy

  1. eh eh .. i know very well this kind of scene… i live there, in Emilia Romagna, and I can assure it’s a rich region of Italy… I live in Piacenza, located on the road to Milan, about 1.15-1.30 from Modena.Hoping that you had a gret time here discovering and tasting many products!Cris

    1. Ciao, Cris, lucky you to be so close to Modena! We have been eating formaggio, gelato and panne to our heart’s content here. :) Piacenza sounds like it has a lot of character too – have you always lived in Emilia-Romagna? We’ve found it to be an extremely-friendly region!

      1. Hello Tricia, glad that you spent some lovely day in my region! Yes, i still live in Piacenza, which is a small town 60 km from Milan. Piacenza is sourrended by beautiful Hills, and we too have some typical products, like coppa, pancetta and salame (cold cut, served in thin slices), pisarei e faso (similar to gnocchi) and the “gnocco fritto”, a fried bread served with salume. These are the good things that you must try :)

      2. I had to look up pisarei e faso and coppa. Having just made homemade gnocchi yesterday, I’m curious how the pisarei e faso differs from gnocchi? Ah, you have me longing for Italy again, Cris!

      3. Cris, thanks for sharing your pisarei e faso recipe, and for explaining the difference between it and gnocchi. As our Italian friend joked, a diet before a visit to Italy is in order. :)

    1. Hi Gerard, it’s nice to hear from you following my brief hiatus here. The combination of Parmigiano-Reggiano and traditional balsamic vinegar was quite unique and special – waking up our tastebuds. We also appreciated all that goes into making these quality products – from taking good care of the cows, to having regular inspections. Did you ever have the chance to do any cheese-making tours in France?

      1. Gerard, I would enjoy doing one in either country the next time I’m there. Having been away from the United States for a while, we are longing for cheddar cheese in particular. :)

      2. There’s plenty of great cheddar cheese in the United States. New York State, Vermont and Wisconsin make excellent cheddar and so do some other states. Canadian cheddar is very good too.

        Cheddar goes very well with apple.

      3. Gerard, if only you could teleport some our way. A nice, sharp cheddar would go brilliantly with our omelette this morning. :)

        My parents grew up in Wisconsin, so I’m definitely familiar with that cheeseland. Here in Europe, we rarely find it, but when we do it’s most often from Ireland or England.

    1. After tasting it, I would certainly love to have a Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel in our kitchen. :) Today at a fresh produce market, a cheese stall had 3 of these wheels on reserve to sell. I’m guessing restaurants are also regular bulk customers, but that the average consumer just buys a few wedges week to week.

    1. Ciao Virginia :) We have been inhaling cheese at a feverish pace – Sicilian cheese with black pepper today, the Parmigiano-Reggiano yesterday, Ricotta Gelato, and the list goes on and on. The favorite tidbit of info. that we learned yesterday is that the Fresian cows at this Parmigiano-Reggiano farm are treated to classical music each morning as they are being milked by the machines. No humans go inside so the cows stay relaxed. I wonder who their favorite composers are? :)

  2. Hi Trish,
    Nice to hear you’re in Italy tasting cheese. It’s nice to know that this delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano is made with local organic milk. I’ll be flying to Venice tomorrow, visiting my mom in Padova. How is your cultural journey coming along? Hope to see you soon.

    1. Ciao, Silvana! We’ll be rather close to each other then. If it looks as though we’ll be coming to your region, I’ll definitely touch base with you via e-mail as it would be quite fun to link up. :)

      I didn’t know you have family in Padova – is that where you’re originally from? I visited there about 3 years ago. I remember the famous Basilica, and regretted I hadn’t made reservations to see the Cappella degli Scrovegni in advance. How long will you be there? We’ve fallen madly in love with Emilia-Romagna and don’t want to leave Italy. So nice to hear from you!

  3. Hi Tricia, I guess we all had missed your postings for a while, so you made it to the most beautiful region of Italy. Last year I spend time close to Piacenza, oh all those cheeses, I feel in cheese heaven…………. Italian Gelato…… is a very kind and soft “killer”!!!! You are there at the right time of the year, now, being among all the locals. If I had a magic carpet… I would sit on it and just fly through the clouds and be there, where you are. Ciao Bella!

    1. Buongiorno Cornelia, ah, that’s thoughtful of you to say. I’ve missed being here as well. Internet has been patchy and Shawn’s laptop became a very bad Apple a few weeks ago, thus our productivity was cut in half. But the broken computer led us to come to Italy’s Apple Store, and I’m quite happy for that excuse to be in this very special part of the world.

      “Cheese heaven” is an apt description. We’ve eaten peppered cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano with great gusto. Knowing that you have an interest in ice cream (and also since I remember you inquiring about Croatia’s typical ice cream) I must confess to have shared 3 ice cream scoops yesterday – ricotta with honey & nuts, fig, and cinnamon and pear. Mamma mia!

      I had never been to the region of Emilia-Romagna before, but have been pleasantly surprised by how warm strangers are. We joked that it feels like something out of a movie – happiness abounds. How much time did you spend here? Any recommendations for off-the-beaten-path towns or villages in the area? And finally, feel free to hop aboard that magic carpet and join us. :)

      1. Be sure to bring your snow gear, Cornelia. :) We’ve changed course and are now in wintry Bavaria. Though we’d heard they had unusually warm weather the past month or so, the snow decided to greet us upon our return from Italy. Guess we can make gelato out of the snow that’s accumulating outside!

  4. Tricia, what a great post! You have totally changed our plans for visiting Italy next year. We planned to do some wine & cooking classes in and around San Gimignano, but now we need to rethink our plans! I love this dilemma… Thanks for such a wonderful endorsement of Emilia- Romagna!

    1. Jonelle, glad you enjoyed it. I’d been to more well-known Italian cities such as Florence, Rome, Venice and Naples before, but didn’t experience the same kind of authentic experiences that we did in Emilia-Romagna. In Modena, for example, people seemed very curious about us and eager to strike up a conversation on seemingly every corner. It was nice being welcomed into the locals’ conversations, if only for a few moments.

      The post of this scrumptious cheese is only the tip of the iceberg as I’ll be sharing many more in-depth features showing Modena’s fresh market, a cooking class, the architecture, and the food. Ah, the food.

      I haven’t been to San Gimignano, but you’ve piqued my curiosity about it. There’s much to see in Italy. In Emilia-Romagna we only got to explore a bit of Bologna and Modena. Parma awaits the next time we’re in the country!

      1. Likewise, Tricia! You’ve given me reason to expand our trip research, which is a good thing. I love learning about new cities and regions, especially quirky places that are off the beaten path. Totally by accident we arrived in Sienna during a festival- but no tourists to speak of, just locals… It was heaven!

      2. Since I couldn’t add another level to the thread, this is a reply to your comment: March 23, 2014
        “That sounds like something that we would enjoy. What time of year was the festival in Siena, Jonelle?”

        Tricia, we were there just before the Olympics began in Greece, so mid-May-ish. I looked up the website and here’s a link to this year’s festival… . The Olympics may have diverted some tourist traffic but it was a lovely time to be there. I hope it’s something you’ll enjoy as much as we did.

      3. Jonelle, I just perused the details about this year’s festival, and it certainly looks like something we would enjoy; thank you for making the effort to share the link. When we were in Italy a few weeks ago, we also stopped by the Republic of San Marino. Though its fortresses and architecture were quite attractive, we kept saying how fun it would be to be there during one of the festivals. Seeing the re-enactors as you did in Siena really makes a place come alive.

  5. Wow, that is such a great shot Tricia! Super jealous that you are so close to SOO much amazing cheese. I need a wheel all to myself.

    1. Greetings Sara! Our waistlines were rapidly growing as a result. With your culinary skills, I bet you could make some magic with it.

      The man who makes it at this farm has done so for more than 50 years. They didn’t allow us to walk into the massive aisles where it’s aged, due to earthquake concerns, but it was still pretty incredible.

      Wish you a splendid weekend in sunny Split! Here in Germany we’re anticipating snow. I’m missing the palm-lined Riva… :)

  6. A super post, as ever. I really like the blogville project. If I didn’t have kids I’d be signing up for that without delay. One for the future perhaps. I love the chap pushing those big cheeses past a Hombre sign. Very Macho. :)

    1. Rachael, the idea seems to be spreading (I heard Milano and Malta are the next places to embrace the concept) so you just might get your chance once your children are out of the nest. :)

      As I snapped the shot of the Hombre sign, I originally lamented that one of the pampered cows was no longer scratching his neck there. And then this fellow popped out with this cartful of delightful cheese. We were in the right place at the right time!

    1. Carol, we sure did – not only at the cheese farm but also at a balsamic vinegar producer’s. At the latter spot the cheese had delicate drops of traditional balsamic vinegar drizzled on top of it. How I wish we’d had a kitchen for I would’ve loved to have bought some and incorporated it into our dishes while we were in Italy.

    1. Bespoke Traveler, may I cite them all? :) Actually, the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pepato (hard cheese with black pepper from Sicily) were some of my favorites. I see you were just reminiscing about your travels to Italy – what were your favorite culinary encounters?

      1. Yum, the Pepato sounds delicious and one I have yet to try. So far my favorite culinary experience has been the delectable coffee, the simple yet fresh ingredients, and the wine. The wines of Tuscany are amazing and going on a wine tour followed by an afternoon feast looking out on the golden hills was the most memorable.

      2. The visual that you painted of Tuscany is wonderful, and brought back a memory of my hours there with friends several years ago… What were some of your favorite types of wine? We didn’t get a chance to do a wine tour while in Tuscany, but if I remember correctly, we were near Chianti. Instead, we sampled olive oil at a small plantation.

      3. We were actually at a small winery in Chianti as well! The chianti there was very bold and while I enjoyed it, so far my favorite is the Montepulciano. I would have loved to also have time for olive oil sampling! How was yours?

      4. Our paths have criss-crossed at different times, haven’t they? How fun it would be if they intersect in the future. :)

        The olive oil was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The plantation’s production is so small that they generally only allow locals to purchase the oil, but since there were only three of us on this excursion, they allowed us to bring a bottle home. I do recall them saying it was possible to return someday and help during the olive harvest too. Sounds like hard work, but it sure would be fun to see!

      5. Don’t you love it when as a traveler you get to do something only locals do? It is rare but I always jump at the chance! It WOULD be really fun to bump into each other in the future. Who knows, they say that it’s a small world…. :D

      6. Absolutely – travel simultaneously shows how large & small the world is. On one hand, it makes me ponder how much more I have to see and learn, and on the other hand, serendipitous meetings make me realize how small it is.

    1. Juliann, being there has spoiled us when it comes to cheese! One of the men that we met who makes the cheese has been doing so for more than 50 years. He jokes that he used to eat 1 kg. of bread a day, but in recent years has had to consume less to look out for his waistline. :)

      Definitely check out Blogville. This year, it sounds like they’ll be based out of Milano and Bologna.

  7. Now that’s a beautiful sight, Tricia! I would be happy with just a nice big chunk! :) And now you’re in Italy – have you moved on from Croatia or are you heading back? ~Terri

    1. Hi Terri & James, we’ve been a bit out of the loop here. You know how it is when you’re on the road :) and we also had problems with Shawn’s computer. Now, just to keep you guessing, we’ve hopped from Croatia to Italy and now to Germany. The road calls in a few weeks though.

      After spending time in the Mediterranean, we’re surprised to be encountering snow again. That’s a concept that probably sounds foreign to you as well since you’re wintering in Mexico. How long do you think you’ll be there?

      Re: the cheese, perhaps we can all pool our pennies together and buy an entire wheel of it. :)

    1. Hi Virginia, so nice to catch up again following an unintentional hiatus here. :) Indeed, we spent 3 wonderful nights in Modena a few weeks ago – this post on the magnificent cheese is only the beginning. It’s cliché I know, but 2 weeks on, we are still dreaming of the food. I loved the fresh market in particular.

      What a perfect place to call home for six months. Really, that’s what Shawn and I kept saying as we strolled the streets. Everyone was incredibly friendly, curious, very willing to engage us. I’m sure you encountered the same thing when you filmed your video, which I enjoyed, by the way. Were you able to get pretty comfortable with speaking Italian while you were there? (I’m still using French Flashcards, by the way, and in fact, I referred a few family & friends there. Thanks again for that pointer.)

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