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A tour of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna is more than just a stop to eat in Bologna. Parma & Modena must be on the list as well! These two small towns have exactly what you want from a trip to Italy: a fabulous Duomo, a bit of history and did I mention the food yet??
Bed…The Grand Hotel de la Ville in Parma is the most luxurious pillow in town. Make it your home base, then rent a car and explore the surroundings. Although, it’s a good ten minute walk to centro città, loads of little local shops line the Strada della Repubblica. I bought the Cypriot a huge chunk of parmigiano from the divine Salumeria Rastelli on the way home while humming a bit of Verdi.
Bite…Parma is the epicentre of two of the most important culinary biggies of Italian food: Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Needless to say there are loads of places to nibble each one of those and several more of the local salumi: Culatello, Lardo, Spalla Cruda of Palasone. Strada Farini, the most famous food street in the whole region, is home to Silvano Romani, one of the oldest delis in town for every sort of product they produce in la provincia.
Don’t forget your five-a-day includes gelato as well as pork products and cheese! A little further down from Silvano Romani on the Strada Farini is Cremeria Emilia, which is one of the best. They do have stools and benches, but you will be lucky to get a seat. We were there on a Tuesday at 3pm and the line was out the door. It’s no surprise with flavors such as Ricotta with Caramelized Figs and White Tiramisu with Mascarpone & Coffee!
Of course, there is no Italy without pasta and our lunch at Il Trovatore was fantastico. Like its neighbour Bologna, Parma excels at filled pasta (tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli), so choose one of those off the menu. Pumpkin season had just begun, so what looks like simple ravioli above had us all singing “Tacea la notte placida. Di tale amor” like Maria Callas.
In the Countryside…Driving back after exploring Busseto, we had a divine lunch at Ristorante Cavallino Bianco and a stroll around the neighboring grounds of the fantastic Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais. Take the tour of their Culatello cellar and gasp at how many are hanging from the wall. Stealing is not advised as they don’t fit so easily into your handbag!
Brew…Pignoletto and Lambrusco may be the two most well known local wines but there are so many more to try. Wherever you are drinking, ask them if they have any of the following: Bargnolino (Italian Sloe Gin), Nocino (walnut liqueur) and these fantastic wines: Rosso Del Motto del Antica Corte Pallavicina, Tamburen Sparkling rosé, Gutturnio quieto and a Sweet Malvasia white wine always delicious for dessert.
Breathe… No Italian city is complete without a Duomo and Baptistery. Parma and Modena do not disappoint. In Parma, built in the 11th C with a bell tower from the 13th, this great Romanesque structure is made glorious by its great Correggio masterpiece, The Assumption of the Virgin. The baptistery is equally as wonderful and should not to be missed either.
Casa Natale di Toscanini…Arturo Toscanini, possibly the most famous conductor of all time, was a hometown boy. Although he spent little time here, his birthplace is now a shrine to all things Toscanini, including his first piano! One wonderful bit of info I learned about il Maestro: Hitler handpicked him to run the Bayreuth Festival. Toscanini answered by return post that he would never do it while Hitler was in power.
The Palazzo della Pilotta is a must see, if only for the Teatro Farnese hidden inside. I attended, as part of the Verdi Festival, Giovanna D’Arco in this very theatre…and you can read all about it here!
Binge… The lovely flower that is the Viola Sororia and its products can be found all over the city in every form: fresh, candied, soap, perfume, cakes and others – so buy your fill.
A few hours is all we had in this little town with the Grand Canale. Like Venice, many of the streets were water-logged, but now they have been filled in for all the fancy cars that drive up and down its strade. Most of you car enthusiasts know that the headquarters of Ferrari, De Tomaso, and Maserati are all in the vicinity.
Breathe…A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral of Modena is a wonder to behold. Begun in 1099, and finished about a year later by architect Lanfranco, the Church dominates the city with its pink and white exterior. Inside, the Rose Window is itself a glory of interior design.
Bite…A little peckish after a visit to the Duomo? Then a few minutes walk away is the Mercato Albinelli, feeding the locals since 1931. We grabbed a gnocco frito or two before heading off to the home of the greatest tenor that ever was.
A few miles outside of Modena lived the opera singer who is still a household name, Luciana Pavarotti. His house is now a museum and foundation, the Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti. Listen to his music, check out his clothes, then watch him kill New York, New York with Liza! A great reminder of how his voice rang out from South Africa to The Muppet Show and then back round to Modena!
Bolt…Easyjet & British Airways fly directly to Bologna, then hop a train and you are there!