Experiencing Balsamic Vinegar at Le Dimore del Borgo
My husband and I walked out of the Reggio Emilia train station and approached the first taxi we saw. I showed the driver the address, he threw our bags in the car, and we hopped in. Easy. Then it became evident that our taxi driver did not speak English and had no idea where we were going. He pulled over. I showed him my phone with directions, and he pulled out a map. A physical map! We were at an impasse. He was not about to figure out Google Maps, and I was not about to learn how to read a map. In broken English and Italian gestures, we agree that he is going to drive, and I am going to call out "Left!" "Right!" or "Straight!" on a 6.8-mile drive dotted with roundabouts. The driver either yelled at me for giving him directions too late or sighed heavily at giving directions too soon. I clearly was an imperfect version of Google Maps, but within a dicey 15 minutes, we made it to Le Dimore del Borgo.
Le Dimore del Borgo is located on a quiet residential street and is comprised of a guesthouse and a separate villa, each with four rooms, an Italian-style garden, and a pool. Staying at Le Dimore is a quiet experience; a chance to be still and experience the phrase 'La vita e bella.' If you're like me, you like to take part in the culture of a place without the rush, long lines, and tour groups, which is why I love that this place offers you a place to stay while showing you how balsamic vinegar is made. Le Dimore intends to provide a unique and original experience guided by three principles: space, silence, and time. Each room, decorated with one-of-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and without a television, is a reflection of this intention.
Robes and a tote are provided in each room for the pool. Soap is the only bathroom amenity provided. You're asked to not eat or drink in the rooms (there's a communal area downstairs) and be out of your room by 10 am if you want your room cleaned. Breakfast is served from 8:30 am - 10 am and consists of tarts, jams, cheeses, bread, yogurts, fresh juices, and of course, balsamic vinegar. I learned quickly that balsamic vinegar is absolutely a breakfast condiment. Lunch and dinner are not served, but you are provided with a map of places to eat within a 10-20 minute drive. Our first night at Le Dimore, we walked about 20 minutes to Ristorante L'Eco Del Mare, a clean and bright pizza place that fills up quickly with big Italian families (and their dogs!). Since we had to walk, we had an early dinner so we could make it back to Le Dimore by sundown. This is a detail I want to share because I would not recommend walking this route at night since there is minimal lighting. If you plan to stay at Le Dimore del Borgo, I recommend having a car, although the staff was more than happy to arrange transportation for us.
The guesthouse is attached to an ancient acetaia of the family-owned and award-winning Il Borgo del Balsamico. A tour and tasting typically takes place in the morning where you can see the barrels, known as badessas, learn the history of Il Borgo, the process of making balsamic vinegar, and, more importantly, taste the different variations of balsamic. Il Borgo del Balsamic is run by two sisters, Silvia and Cristina, who sold their fashion business 15 years ago to take over their father's hobby and turn it into a business. Silvia and Cristina's fashion background is likely why their bottles stand out. Their branding communicates time and use. Their Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia D.O.P. line is categorized as Orange, Silver, and Gold to indicate 12 years, 15 years, and 25 years of aging. Their Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP line is categorized as Yellow for salads and marinades, Orange for salads and marinades, meat, fish, and vegetables, and Red for special dishes like cheese, strawberries, or ice cream.
If you're looking for a unique way to learn about and experience balsamic vinegar while in Italy, I highly recommend you visit Il Borgo del Balsamico. While you’re there, might as well stay the night.