Hey everybody, I don’t know if you noticed that these maps I include are interactive. You can zoom in, zoom out, move the frame and other things to get a better feel for where we are and where we have been. Sometimes you can even get Google’s Streetscenes pictures to get a view of the actual location. Play with it and have some fun.
Thanks again to Lisa, whose pictures are better than mine. Many of the shots in today’s post are hers also.
We were having lots of fun in Busseto at the Carnevale Parade when last we talked. From there, we piled into the car to get Spin to her train in Parma so she could head back home. Had a lovely drive on back country roads to get there, thanks to our GPS. Got there about 6PM and the train was at 7:30, so as the sun went down we all got a brief stroll on Via Garibaldi during passeggiata before having to drop Spin at the station. It was crazy crowded there, so without a lot of fanfare we said a quick goodbye and she disappeared into the crowd.
Parma, population 200,000, is a city of elegance. Founded as a Roman outpost on the Via Emilia, the city grew as a center of agriculture and trade. Over time it was ruled by the Farnese family, which produced Popes in its lineage, and later the French. In the first half of the 19th century the region was ruled by Maria Louisa, wife of Napoleon, who was a major patron of the arts. Under all these influences, the city embraced painting and sculpture, opera and architecture. Today it is a city of spotless squares, museums, monuments and beautiful buildings. The people of Parma are arguably the wealthiest in Italy.
Our hotel and its surroundings are examples of the beauty of the city’s structures. The hotel, the Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati was begun perhaps in the 1200’s on the Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo (Cathedral) and its Battistero (Baptistry) are adjacent, and these two buildings are considered the heart of the City. The Palazzo is in a pedestrian zone, so we parked the car and walked with our bags to the hotel. We had reserved a suite with a double for Sally and me and a separate bedroom for Lisa. We shared a bath, and the rooms had a small kitchenette as well. Nice digs. We settled in before dinner, which we had prearranged for 8:30.
The Parma region is also, in many ways, the center of the culinary world in Italy. Just consider Prosciutto di Parma, Parmiggiano Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, culatello from Zibello, and a variety of wines and sausages produced there for centuries. Parma is home to Barilla, Italy’s largest pasta factory. Its streets are filled with beautiful markets and its restaurants preserve the ancient recipes and methods of the past.
This was Valentine’s Day and we had something special planned. Our dinner reservation was at La Greppia, perhaps the most touted of Parma’s restaurants and former training ground for a young Mario Battali. The restaurant presents just a modest doorway on the street, but the inside was crisp and modern, with tuxedoed waiters. We were seated promptly and ordered wine. Lisa ordered tortelli with meat sauce, Sally stuffed artichokes in a cream sauce, and I ordered rabbit in a spicy chocolate sauce. Service was impeccable and we were toasting ourselves when things began to turn bad. Sally began to feel queasy. By the time the waitress was spooning cream sauce over the artichokes she felt the need to excuse herself. She went back to the hotel, leaving Lisa and I to finish our meals and hers.
Not long after Lisa and I returned to our room, Lisa was having similar distress. Little did we know that Spin, now on a train to Milan with 24 hours of travel ahead of her, was undergoing the same symptoms. We traced the problem back to Busetto, most likely the warm eggplant condiment served with the bread at Salsamentaria Verdi. I didn’t like the flavor and left it alone. I was fine.
I’ll spare you the details. Spin’s trip was absolute hell. I’ll let her tell you about it if whe wants to.
We had scheduled tours of prosciutto, parmiggiano and Balsamico plants for the next day. Fortunately we were able to reschedule.
Sally and Lisa were out of commission for days and may never try salami again. They said their only consolation was being able to drive the porcelain bus in the opulent surroundings of the Palazzo.
I took the next day to walk the city streets a bit, had a great lunch at Trattoria del Tribunale , a haven for the traditional dishes of Parma. Lunch was a sampling of local sausages, tortellini in sugo (meat sauce) and braised guanciale (hog jowl) with balsamic vinegar.
Found an Irish Pub that night where no one spoke English, not to mention Gaelic. It was like a strange dream, and a reminder of what my beer buddy Dave said, “In Italy, when given the choice between beer and wine, always choose the wine.”
Next morning was the rescheduled tours of food makers. I was hoping the ladies would be much improved…