From Cesena to Rimini

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The driving distance between the town of Cesena and the town of Rimini is insignificant, about 27 kilometers or 17 miles. But as far as the making of piadina, Emilia Romagna’s iconic unleavened flat bread, there is a significant measurable difference between the  making of this Italian flatbread sandwich between the two. Although Cesena piadina and Rimini piadina both share the same ingredients (O or OO wheat flour, lard (sometimes olive oil), a pinch of salt, baking soda or mother yeast and water) and both are cooked on a traditional testo (teglia), or griddle, the thickness of the piadina between Cesena and Rimini becomes thinner. 5 mm thick in Cesena to 3 mm (1/8″ thick) in Rimini.

This unique creation filled with local greens, salumi and cheeses layered onto a simple flatbread of freshly cooked dough is served at family tables and from small carts throughout the towns and villages of Romagna and neighboring cities (I have had it in Ferrara). The thickness and size is a function of the locale – softer, thicker and smaller inland, thinner and larger toward the coast. Extra virgin olive oil makes a lighter and crispier piadina. Lard from rendered pork fat or strutto makes a richer and softer piadina. The piadina is a staple of Italian street food and its regional variations are one of many that make seeing and savoring Italy such a gastronomic delight.

At Montetiffi, a village near Sogliano, 90 kilometres (56 mi) southeast of Bologna , original clay pots are still made to cook piadina. This craft dates back to 1527 when the pot makers of Montetiffi are mentioned in historical documents.

The Wise Men of Ravenna

three wise men san apollinare nuovo and ravennaTraditionally on January 6th, the Three Wise men or Magi visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna an early 6th century Byzantine style mosaic pictures their arrival from the East in stunning, exotic colors and intricate costumes.

One of the main reasons for going to Ravenna is to see some of the finest and most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the world. In 330 AD the Christian Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the west to Byzantium in the east. From 500 to 700AD, the Adriatic Sea town of Ravenna flourished as an early Christian center influenced by the culture and art of Byzantium, decorating its church ceilings and walls with mosaics.

Visiting Ravenna is like looking into a jewel box and discovering a hidden treasure. Behind the somber basilica exteriors are shimmering mosaics of such quality that Ravenna has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the “outstanding universal value and remarkable significance” of the mosaics.

The Three Wise Men from the East  can also be found on the mosaic image of Byzantine Empress Theodora in Ravenna’s Basilica of San Vitale. The hem oftheodora her imperial cloak of is embroidered  with the figure of the three Magi.  While visiting the sites of Ravenna you’ll want to stop for a piadina, an Italian flatbread filled with Parma ham, sausage, cheese or vegetables. Cooked on a low-rimmed  terracotta or cast iron pan called a “testo“, it is typical of Ravenna and the Romgana region of the eastern Adriatic.  A hand-held street food paired with a glass of Trebbiano or Sangiovese di Romagna perfect for discovering the mosaic beauty of Ravenna.