Just 40 mins from Milan by train, Carpi is a quiet town off the tourist radar in the Emilia-Romagna region. My friend Hong picked me up at Reggio Emilia railway station on a damp and cloudy afternoon and drove us straight to a meeting with his business partners. It’s been years since we last met in Vietnam.

“Welcome to the homeland of Italian Lambrusco wine”, Hong said to me as we passed by immense fields of grape arbors lining both sides of the country road. In Emilia-Romagna, grapes are usually harvested in the fall, I was told, just in time for tasty grape and wine festivals during September. These were probably the last crops of this season..

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Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine with a mixture of sweet and bubbly, tasting perfectly with pizza and rich food like salumi and cheese. It is often made of different grape varieties, and the quality may significantly vary from one vineyard to another. Lambrusco wine is inexpensive (no more than €5 for a bottle) although it’s not really appreciated by serious wine lovers. It is a humble, everyday wine that everyone adores, mostly used to serve big parties. Still, it’s not impossible to pick out some of the good ones.

The following day, we went to visit some made-in-Italy factory outlets in the Carpi district with another friend from Russia. Hong told me that wholesalers through out Europe usually flock here to source the latest clothing and knitwear samples. This town, in fact, plays a key role on the Italian fashion scene, with more than two thousand firms, over a thousand of workers and a turnover of EUR 1 billion, half of which accounted for by exports.

Over the past decades Carpi has grown from a small agricultural centre to the world’s knitwear capital. Back in the 1950s, local female agricultural laborers only worked in the farm for about 75 days a year, so they started producing clothes, especially knitwear for extra income. “It is a very rare town in Italy with zero per cent of unemployment rate “, Hong said  in a proud voice“Everyone has a job. No crime. Life here is therefore very peaceful”.

Want more stories from Italy? Click here.

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