Parma is not simply the name of a medium-sized, charming city in the heart of the Po Plains, it is rather the watchword that opens the gate to the paradise of food, music and art. Because Parma is a unique place where you can hardly distinguish where art blends into the way food products are crafted as masterpieces to be enjoyed first with the eyes, then in the mouth.
WHERE FOOD IS EXCELLENCE
Discover excellence in various forms - products and producers, intimate trattorias and Michelin starred restaurants, housewives expert in cooking called “rezdora” and chefs - each specialist a master in their field, all of them champions of tradition, commitment and quality, and passionate about sharing their knowledge with their guests.
You can start with air, salt and time: these are the three magic ingredients of PDO Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, known worldwide as the King of cheeses. You can visit a farm encompassing the whole production chain, from rearing the animals to processing the cheese. Meet the dairymen passing down their expertise to the next generation. Taste the product at its various maturations, surrounded by towering shelves of cheese wheels. At the dairy, you will discover why the world’s most famous products from Italy, namely Parmesan and Prosciutto, come from the same city: the whey remaining from the production of cheese is fed to the pigs that will be used to make Parma ham! Today, this is called sustainability, whereas our ancestors simply tried to make the most of what they had, without wasting anything.
The ham factories are nestled in the hills, where the air creates the ideal climate for naturally air-curing Prosciutto di Parma PDO as well as its unmistakeable flavour. Here, the hams are processed by true artisans - custodians of a thousand-year heritage passed from father to son - and left in the tender care of sea breezes from the Ligurian coast to cure in peaceful repose. Also in this case three is the magic number: pork, salt and time are the ingredients used to turn a piece of meat into a gastronomic delight. Whether carved by hand or cut on a Berkel slicer, the slices of Prosciutto should be as thin as a silk scarf, and silkiness is what will strike you when tasting the true Prosciutto di Parma.
WHEN FOG CREATES MASTERPIECES
Moving towards the north, the so called “low lands” are no less pleasure for foodies: the Bassa Parmense on the banks of the River Po with its long, cold, foggy winters and hot summers creates the ideal microclimate for producing Culatello di Zibello PDO. We like to remember what Maestro Giuseppe Verdi wrote in his letters to friends: “My best travelling companions are salami, Culatello, cooked pork shoulder ham and wine.” Verdi's Culatello must have been perfect: plump and round, made from large, well-nourished pigs, fattened to just the right degree, butchered in winter when the days were short and cold and, most importantly, old enough to have felt the heat of one summer and the fogs of two autumns. And the foggy winters are cheered up by Culatello’s best companion: a lively, vivacious and sparkling Malvasia, if you prefer whites, or Lambrusco, if red is your choice. So take a ride in a Tesla to reach the vineyards and local historic wineries. Take a cellar tour and learn about wine from producers, oenologists and sommeliers. And taste the wine, of course!
MASTERCLASS WITH THE CHEFS OF ALMA
But you can take a step forward. You may not know that Italy’s most prestigious cooking school is located in the palace that used to be the summer house of Marie Louise, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, and that it is just 20 minutes away from Parma. Here you can enjoy a truly immersive taste of Italy with a lesson from the world-class chefs at the ALMA School of Italian Cuisine: roll up your sleeves for hands-on food and wine training experiences, from tastings to master classes and advanced courses even for Food Professionals. And the ultimate Emilian experience is… pasta! Pasta is the beloved heart of Emilia Romagna's culinary heritage. Anolini, tortelli, passatelli, tagliatelle… There are at least 23 types of fresh pasta from this region, each expertly combined with authentic, local ingredients to make delicious dishes. You will be in expert hands: from making and kneading the dough, to the different local techniques for rolling out the pasta and finally cooking traditional sauces and fillings. You will discover pasta in its various shapes and textures for every season.
In the lofts of almost every family country house in Modena and Reggio Emilia, there is a treasure. It is a set of barrels, called “batteria”, each one made from a different type of wood to give a specific flavour touch to the cooked must that will turn into Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Tradition teaches us that one generation prepares balsamic vinegar for the next: the older the barrel, the better the product. Its dense, deep claret colour, intense flavour and almost syrupy consistency make for an unforgettable sensory experience: the black nectar of minimum 12 years of ageing.
THE DREAM OF CAR FANS: FERRARI AND DALLARA
Passion is probably what runs in the veins of the people from the Emilia Romagna region. So, less than one hour’s drive away from Parma’s city centre, the roaring engines of a Ferrari or a Dallara car will be waiting for you for a test drive on a racing track. The Ferrari Museum in Maranello invites you to live first-hand the Prancing Horse dream. It offers a unique and thrilling voyage of discovery, a story told through cars that have made automotive history on streets and circuits the world over.
THE IDEAL LOCATION TO DISCOVER ITALY
Thanks to Parma’s ideal location, you can reach many of Italy’s most famous tourist destinations in a fast and comfortable way. More romantic souls may certainly enjoy an unforgettable sail-boat tour at the picturesque Cinque Terre with their breath-taking views or explore the fish markets there. You may prefer going truffle hunting with dogs or discover the world of rice in Piedmont, unveil the secrets of Espresso coffee vising the University of Coffee or find out, quite unexpectedly, that Italy is home to the world’s largest producer of caviar.
The magic of travelling here is that no two journeys are ever the same, every moment must be savoured, making time for the small, wonderful details that only experience and expert local knowledge can reveal. This is what leaves you counting down the days until you return: it’s never “good bye”, but Arrivederci Parma! Arrivederci Italy!