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Part Two: The Beauty of Tuscany
Massimo’s Modena!
  • Writer's picturesbcrosby .

Is This a Food Blog??

Staying at a small inn while in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy is definitely the way to go (especially when said inn is owned by a world renowned chef)! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a breakfast spread that compares! This three-day stay is fast becoming a foodie tour unlike any other for sure.

We sampled several dishes inspired by the breakfasts Massimo’s mom would serve on Sundays and special occasions, including gnocco fritto with fresh ricotta, mortadella, and balsamic, roasted peaches, pears, and apricots, frittata filled with fresh vegetables from their garden, and erbazzone – a classic Modenese double pastry with spinach, ricotta, and sage.

After tackling public parking on the crowded streets of Modena (and seeing the Mavs game on a TV monitor at a local outdoor bar!), we spent several hours walking around this charming town. We were reminded of our fantastic visit two years ago as we retraced many of the same steps.

We returned to Casa Maria Luigia, changed into our swimsuits, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon poolside. Prior to dinner, we visited Acetaia Maria Luigia, Massimo’s latest purchase of a balsamic vinegar cellar in an adjacent property. Purchased three years ago, the cellar came with 1,200 barrels – some dating back to the early 1900s. On our way, we ran into Massimo carrying a leaf blower and yelling something about, “If I want it done right, I must do it myself!” With his Italian accent, this sounded altogether charming and not the least bit off-putting!

Dinner at Al Gatto Verde, Massimo’s newest on-property restaurant operated by executive chef Jessica Rosval, proved to be yet another culinary experience. Jessica was the executive chef who hosted our dinner at Francescana at Maria Luigia two years ago (and still the best meal of our lives). The restaurant is a collaboration between her and Massimo’s wife, Lara, and is fire-inspired; every menu item contains wood-fired, roasted, smoked, or burnt elements. Once again, we entered with the intention of not selecting the nine-course tasting menu. However, one look at this innovative menu changed our minds. We are so glad we did! Enter a meal that easily ranks in the top five! Unbelievable – my description will not do it justice. While we loved every single dish, I’ll highlight three that stood out for taste, presentation, and innovative technique and hopefully the photos will do them justice.

Adriatic Bouillabaisse: scallop, blue crab, sea trout, saffron, and orange. Note how the broth was poured into the bowl!

Au Vin: vine leaf ravioli, stuffed with rooster thigh, tarragon, and grape caviar. The star dish of the meal for both of us. The delicate, crispiness of the leaves combined with the richness of the stuffing – seriously delicious.

Cielo Terra Mare: charcoal infused panna cotta, with a seaweed biscuit base, raspberry, rose, caviar, and sea water. If I saw this on a menu, I can promise you I would not order it. And I would miss out on one of the most spectacular desserts I’ve ever tasted. Seriously – caviar?! Charcoal?! Sea water?! All I can say is it works and it was incredible.

Thursday began with lighter selections from the breakfast spread, and then we headed to Acetaia Sereni – the balsamic vinegar vineyard we toured two years ago. Our return to replenish our stock should speak to the quality of this liquid gold! We had another lovely visit with Francesco, who offered a few new varieties for us to sample, and placed our order to be shipped to us. We also left with a couple of bottles to enjoy during our week in Tuscany.

After our balsamic tasting, we ventured to the small hill town of Castelvetro and walked around this lovely town.

We then headed to Bologna, where we ended up driving into the city center (on streets marked as “limited traffic zone!”), where we thankfully stumbled upon a parking lot! We took in the sights and sounds of the city, walking along the streets, and ended at an outdoor cafe on a side street for a late afternoon meal. When in Bologna, you must have bolognese! And we did!

Back at Casa Maria Luigia, we checked out Massimo’s “playground” – an indoor building filled with three Ferraris (including an electric one and a race car), multiple Ducati motorcycles, a billiard table, bar area, and surrounded by massive installations of contemporary art. Quite the display!

After walking the property once more, we relaxed with our books, took a nap, and enjoyed a laid back evening of backgammon in the living room area of the inn (I won – 3 out of 5 games). All in all, a perfect ending to a perfect stay in this charming place.

After a light breakfast (ok, perhaps it wasn’t so light), we said our goodbyes to the warm staff, and hit the road for Tuscany. Part three of our adventure begins today! Caio!


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