Last Sunday night, we were out with the rest of the town doing the evening passiagata. It was dark and chilly but not cold by any means. We were weaving in and out of the small tunnels and archways, finding little nooks and crannies here and there. The cobblestone streets were causing the stroller to convulse, to Caroline’s delight.
One of the small archways had an old, wooden door, about 6 feet tall, with a golden plaque on the outside. It read “Confraternita dell’Aceto Balsamico di Scandiano”. We had passed by this door last autumn when we were here exploring the city, but this time it was slightly ajar and a stream of light was making its way into the darkening night. A sign on the door said that there was a Balsamic Vinegar tasting.
Not being ones to pass up free Balsamic Vinegar, we made our way through the door and up a narrow, winding staircase to the upper floor. A heavyset, smiling man met us with a booming “Buona sera!”. He spoke in slowed Italian once he found that we were from Chicago. He proceeded to take us on a small taste test of a few different vinegars that he himself prepares. One was very sweet, and he gave Vance and Caroline a spoonful to try. They have had this type of vinegar often, drizzled over gelato or ice cream, as is the custom in this region.
The man brought us up to the top floor of the building to show us the barrels in which the vinegar was being aged. There were large ones and tiny ones. He uncorked a barrel and allowed us to smell the musty, acidic fragrance of one that was fairly new.
As an added bonus, we were ushered across the hallway into an old bell tower, a tiny room that reminded me of a well kept attic made entirely of wood. We could see a mass of gears and metal, all pieced together to create a giant clock. It was built in 1400. This gentleman was apparently responsible for winding it everyday.
I was in awe to be staring at something so old. Something that had been under my nose (or more appropriately above my head) for so long as I meandered through the streets. It amazes me and makes me wonder what other treasures lie behind the doors here. History comes alive in places like Italy, where artifacts such as this one are not just sitting in a museum, but instead are still working just as they once did centuries ago.