Arts + Culture

The Dream List: Once-in-a-Lifetime Trips

by Brook Wilkinson

Italy: Art in Asti, vinegar in Modena

The specialist: Andrea Grisdale, IC Bellagio; Bellagio, Italy

The Dream Trip: "Italian culture is all about celebrating some of the greatest artists to have ever lived. If you ask Italians what they love about being Italian, they'll tell you about works of art created hundreds of years ago. A lot of the most treasured pieces were commissioned by the Church, and their preservation is of the utmost importance. I can arrange for a member of the Nicola family—internationally acclaimed for their restoration of the Sistine Chapel—to take you into their workshop. It's in a tiny hamlet in Asti Province, in the Piedmont region, but you have millions and millions of dollars' worth of relics from the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican laid out, stacked up, suspended from the ceiling—literally a breath away from you. You'll meet the workers and watch as they clean and retouch paintings or reapply gold to ornate frames. One of the most interesting things for me was the X-ray machine that can see multiple paintings on the same canvas. You're in the heart of truffle country, so if you visit in October, we could arrange a truffle hunt for the afternoon [$1,050 for two, including transportation from the city of Asti].

"Traditional balsamic vinegar is up there with the most prized elements of Italian culture. The syrupy brown liquid can only be produced in a particular microclimate around Modena, in Emilia-Romagna (pictured). You can go behind the scenes at one of the smaller high-end producers, which has passed down both the technique and the prized barrels in which the vinegar slowly matures for almost a century. Not only will you see where and how the vinegar is made but you'll be invited into the family's private villa—where the film Novecento was shot—and enjoy ice cream topped with balsamic vinegar. You'll never look at salad dressing the same way again [$840 for two, including lunch and transportation from Bologna]."

Andrea Grisdale
Tel: 39 031 952 059

Next: Draw your own whisky in Scotland ›

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