Faithful 3 year lurker here - I actually used several of your suggestions when we visited Venice and Tuscany in 2011. This fall, we are returning to Italy to experience Emilia-Romanga (ER) and Piedmont for 8 nights. However, we are only spending 2 nights in ER since the main focus of our trip is truffles, chocolate and wine in Piedmont.
We have two nights booked in Castelvetro di Modena in the middle of October. I am trying to put together an itinerary that is going to include one meal reservation a day. (We don't like being tied to a completely rigid schedule when we travel without kids - we enjoy some spontaneity.) We also are not star chasers - but on special occasion, don't mind dropping $300 for meals - we are saving such a meal for Piedmont.
This is what we had in mind:
1. Arrive in Milan in the early morning. Rent car & start driving south. Stop in Zibello for lunch at La Buca & a tour of the culatello.
2. Time in Modena. Seek out balsamic vinegar tour & lunch - was thinking: (1) Pedroni tour & Osteria di Rubbiara for lunch or (2) Guisti or Villa San Donnino & Hostaria Giusti for lunch.
3. Leave Castelvetro di Modena for Piedmont early morning. We had discussed visiting Torrechiara Castle before lunch. Based on previous posts, we are considering Ai Due Platani for lunch because it is in the direction of Parma & the highway that would take us to Piedmont. If the weather is beautiful, we could drive to and stroll around Parma. If the weather is cold or rainy, we could start our drive to Piedmont.
Now, I have the following questions -
For the day in Zibello, does the culatello tour at La Buca need to be booked when you make reservations? Any other culinary items/places we should seek out when we are in that area?
For the day in Modena, any thoughts on what places that I listed that might make the better experience overall? We are torn. Also, any outstanding gelato and/or bakeries in Modena that are a must visit?
For our last day in ER, are there any other suggestions for lunch in the area? Our lunch budget - without wine - is 50 Euros.
Thank you for all your input!