Charming and Delightful
A charming city renowned as Italy’s food capital, Parma is a gastronomic delight. It is located in northern Italy approximately an hour and a half drive south of Milano.
Here you will find the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Parma is also famous for Prosciutto di Parma or Parma Ham, the home of Barilla Pasta, Guiseppe Verdi (the opera composer) and loads more… It also has one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in the 10th century.
I have a particular soft spot for this place. My mother and grandparents were born here. I have visited twice as a child, so coming back here last year was a trip down memory lane for me.
Upon arrival, markets greeted us everywhere. It was a Saturday and vendors were in full swing on almost every street and alleyway. I love markets – such a frenzy of activity, and all your senses are alert. All manner of goods were for sale; from clothes, crafts, bags and shoes, to food, food and more food! A huge assortment of Italian delights were on display for your tasting pleasure, a veritable smorgasbord, including salami, prosciutto, cheese and wines. Mouthwatering stuff. Markets run every week, which is fantastic if you love the hustle and bustle, as I do.
As a big foodie, a big part of my 4 day stay was devoted to researching the food; it involves hours of laborious tasting and testing. It’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it, right?
After thorough and extensive investigations, my conclusion is that pizza in Parma is absolutely delicious everywhere you go. Without a doubt, there is no such thing as a bad pizza. And pasta is of course, absolutely exceptional here. Tortelli stuffed with ricotta and spinach are delicious and very popular in these parts. But my personal favourite, Cappelletti in Brodo, are clear winners. These little hat-shaped pasta, filled with meat and served in a delicious broth are delightful.
The local dishes from the Emilia-Romagna region are served in almost every restaurant here, which I was ecstatic about, having grown up on these at home, thanks to my Nonna who brought the tradition to Australia with her.
I was a bit disgruntled to find that restaurants were only open a few hours each day; lunch was only from 12 to 2.30pm, so if we wanted to have a late lunch on our holidays, we couldn’t because a lot of kitchens were closed. But perhaps that was due to the fact it was Winter. Similarly, in the evenings we had to wait until 7 or 7.30pm before restaurants opened. I got caught out a couple of times, missing out, which was very annoying. However, takeaway outlets were more readily open.
Two fabulous restaurants I went to are Pizzeria Orfeo in Via Giosuè Carducci and La Greppia in Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi. I thoroughly recommend both of these establishments for authentic Italian fare and excellent service, the second one being more upmarket. To top off a scrumptious meal at La Greppia, our wonderful waiter brought out a complimentary dessert platter. OMG! Unfortunately, I had to share it with my dinner companions.
The Parco Ducale is the central meeting point in the city with the pond and garden to stroll and relax around. It’s been here since 1560 and has fruit trees and fountains. I remember it as a young girl. A very peaceful spot.
However, a word of warning, watch out for the birds! We were virtually attacked by a flock of birds, dozens of them in fact, which swooped over us touching our heads. I ducked as I had my finger on the camera button and managed to get photos of this frightening ordeal. Luckily, we survived relatively unscathed.
History & Art
Touring around the city there are numerous ancient sites which I love to admire and appreciate. The Cathedral of Parma is an important historic attraction of Roman architecture from 1059. It has grand frescoes painted by Renaissance artists and sculptures of the Gothic era.
The Battistero is a very distinct building. It is an octagonally shaped medieval monument next to the Parma Cathedral and is made of pink Verona marble, dating from 1196. It is very well maintained and is one of the most important buildings in Europe. Apparently, the design aspects of the edifice have a relationship to the astronomical calendar governed by the sun, moon and planets.
When on holidays I particularly enjoy just wandering around some of the gorgeous old streets and lanes to absorb the atmosphere. They are quite enchanting and romantic and you always find interesting places.
I visited the delightful Glauco Lombardi Museum which is the former home of Napoleon’s second wife. She was made Duchess of Parma after he was defeated. Artefacts and memorabilia from their life together in Europe during the 1800’s really show you intimate details of these historical characters. Entry is only €5. Well worth the visit.
Everywhere you turn there are historic buildings. Great architecture and artwork in the form of paintings and sculptures from ancient times adorn the many galleries and churches. And that is why Parma has recently been given the title of Italy’s Capital of Culture. Truly well deserved, but of course I’m a bit biased.
There’s More …
Another feather in its cap is that Parma is the capital city of the region that designs and produces engineering masterpieces – Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. Yes indeed!
I was lucky enough to be granted an exclusive VIP tour of the Lamborghini factory. So have a look at my blog post with all the details and loads of pics.
I recommend doing either a foodies/cooking tour here, or a walking tour. Some great ones are listed below. Have fun and buon appetito.
Ciao for now.
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