Thursday started with check-out from the Idea Hotel in Modena and a short drive to Spilamberto for a visit to the Consorteria dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale - or Balsamic Vinaigrette Consortium - to learn about what is a surprisingly painstaking process to make the world's best Balsamic Vinaigrette.
We first stepped into a dimly lit movie theatre for a quite artistic video about the tradition and steps that vinaigrette makers in the Emilia Romagna region go through to produce the dressing. The drama seemed a little bit, well, over dramatic through the video's intro, but after watching how the dressing is made and the pride in the craft, there was a realization that this is one of those unique Italian things that defines thier strongest characteristic - passion.
Similar to wine, balsamic vinaigrette is an aging process as the acidity of the vinegar and the wood of the "battery," or barrel, combine over time ranging from 12-25 years. Younger vinaigrettes are just that, very vinegar-like, while older ones are thick, smooth and less tart.
With any trip to Italy, meals are going to be remembered and compared along the way - from pastas and pizzas to breads and salads. It's pretty safe to say that the vinaigrette in the States pales in comparison to the Aceto made here in Emilia Romagna, as it alone has provided some of the most memorable tastes to our meals in Italy.
Some players enjoyed their tastings, while others puckered their faces in displeasure. However, based on the number of purchases in the nearby shop, I'd say everybody and their palettes enjoyed the visit.
We then grabbed lunch close by in Spilamberto at Da Ca' Vecia - the Old House - where we had our first taste of tortellini and our typical pre-game chicken and potatoes.
An hour after lunch we arrived in Budrio for the fourth game of our tour, this time against Fortitudo Bologna or the Italian Lega Due - League 2, the second division behind only the Serie A.
With the step up in division was an expected jump in level of competition, and tonight proved to be the most difficult test of the trip. Bologna was bigger, stronger and smarter than any team GW had played in Italy to this point. Despite the difference in opponent, GW stayed close after a quarter, trailing 20-17.
However, the second and third quarters were all Bologna, as their on-ball defensive pressure and quick passing and movement on offense led to a 31-21 spurt over the second and third quarters to put GW in a 13-point hole entering the fourth quarter. Nemanja Mikic tried to spark a comeback with three second-half triples, but Bologna staved off any attempt at a rally as the Colonials suffered their first loss of the trip - 68-54. Mikic led the way with 11 points and freshman Joe McDonald scored nine in the first half, but didn't play in the second half following a mid-court collision toward the end of the second quarter.
We now travel three hours north to our final destination of the trip - the village of Cernobbio on picturesque Lake Como, a land our tour guide Nic says "is like a fairy tale. When you wake up tomorrow you will not believe where you are!"
The WiFi definitely is not a fairy tale though, so some select photos from today's adventures are posted in a photo gallery. There is also yesterday's video recap as well as today's video highlights up on the @GW_MBB TwitVid channel.
Tomorrow we'll try to bounce back from tonight's defeat when we face a select team put together by the club in nearby Varese.