September and October are usually “down” months for me in my professional life. There is a seasonal slow down at Memphis BBQ Company, there’s not a ton of shopping at The BBQ Allstars, and we’re in the shoulder season between summer and winter in the South (some may call the 2 weeks we get of decent weather “Fall,” but I’m not sure we really know what that is around here.) So, I usually schedule trips around this time of year. I booked a family trip to Italy and Paris early in the year, not knowing the huge amount of work we would be heading into during this normally slow season (more on that later.) My daughter Lauren, who studied in Italy for a year, has always been a fan of Massimo Battura, but had never been able to secure a reservation at Osteria Francescana while she (or we) were going to be there. When a reservation was available at his hotel, Casa Maria Luigi, during our vacay, we had to book it.
It. Was. Amazing.
The availability at Casa Maria when we were traveling was for the cottage. The three bedroom “cottage” was more similar to a villa, with a professional kitchen, swimming pool, and grounds area. Truly amazing. To get to the main building was a 2-3 minute stroll, which included a walk through the gardens, where the chefs gather many of the ingredients for snacks and meals on a daily basis. I am upset that I didn’t do a walk-through video, though I do have some pics I’ll share below. In addition to the interesting and fun quirks through the whole hotel, the book selection in the cottage alone was enough to inspire one. Landscaping was pristine, with perennial herbs such as rosemary and sage interlaced with other shrubbery, adding a distinct style to the grounds. It was, for two short days, nothing short of a paradise to release your mind from the mundane.
Staying at the cottage comes with some more perks, in addition to the wonderful room. “Snacks,” and a variety of drinks were available every day. More fun, staying in the cottage allowed us to have dinner in a private room for just the four of us.
Drinks included plenty of still or “water with gas,” Pellegrino flavors of orange, lemon, and more, and small bottles of Lambrusco- the lightly sparkling red wine. Also included, amazing snacks every day! The fridge was definitely our go-to point in the cottage.
Osteria Francescana has consistently been rated as one of the best restaurants in the world, and reservations are very, very hard to get. At Casa Maria, they have a satellite restaurant of that serves almost a “best of” Massimo’s dishes. So, while you’re not at the restaurant, you’re kind of at the restaurant. Massimo’s wife xx came by the table to say hi, and our staff was amazing. Read more about the wonderful dinner here.
Breakfast at the Cottage
Breakfast was included in the stay at the Casa. The first morning (after our amazing dinner) we had decided to have a rest-up morning, so we skipped breakfast. When we wandered out from the cottage at about 11:30 am, the hosts still asked if we wanted breakfast (even though their serving time was well-over.) We had decided to go into Modena for a lunch and shopping.
The second morning, we were going to have breakfast, and it was very good. It was served in the main dining room. The chef came by and explained the dishes they would be bringing out, and we also had fresh juice, water, and perfect coffee.
Emilia-Romagna, Modena, and Balsamic Vinegar
Casa Maria Luigi is just a few minutes outside of the old town of Modena, and very close to the suburbs. Modena is most famous for the amazing acetaia’s, or balsamic vinegar manufacturers, from the area. True Balsamic is not sold in the supermarket, it is sold is small bottles, and labeled with a D.O.G.C. stamp to ensure authenticity. For more information on a visit to a real Acetaia, check out my post here. As a personal proclamation, 36 month aged parmigiana reggiano with a drop of 25 year balsamic is as close to heaven as you can experience on this corporeal world.
Like many Italian cities, it is an old town surrounded by modern suburbs. A Ferrari dealership is just outside the city (Ferrari’s are built nearby,) near modern restaurants and stores. Inside the old city are wonderful shops and restaurants. We had a wonderful late lunch at a restaurant called Il Fontina on our second day, even though we were still full from the wonderful dinner at Osteria Francescana at the Hotel.
Emilia Romagna, where Modena is located, is the “food centric” region of Italy. It boasts true Balsamic from Modena; Parma Ham (prosciutto and the king of all cured meats, culatello, from Parma, and Bologna is not know as “the fat one” for no reason!) So if you’re visiting Italy, I highly recommend a stay at Casa Maria Luigi, or just in the Emilia-Romagna area. A tour of this region will certainly educate you on some amazing foods. Another recommendation is for you to book Emilia Storytellers as a guide service- we didn’t book them this time, but have on our previous visits to the region, and have always been overly impressed! Ciao!