My personal highlight: Discovering an enchanting pearl full of culture & extraordinary delicacies only a few hours by train from Zurich!
How much do you know about this Italian Culture & Gastronomy City located 5h by train from Zurich?
Parma has been shaped over the centuries by great painters such as Correggio & Antelami. In the national gallery of Pilotta you can find some works by Da Vinci, Barbieri, Allegri, van Dyck, and many others from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The unique piece from Leonardo da Vinci called ‘La Scapigliata’ from 1508 all made in oil on a wood panel captured my heart immediately.
For Opera lovers, it’s absolutely recommended to visit Teatro Regio. It’s one of the most renowned and high-quality opera houses in Italy. It has been associated with many great composers, such as Giuseppe Verdi and Gioachino Rossini. This venue continues to serve the great Italian musical tradition, staging four operas every season and hosting a yearly Verdi Festival in October!
Another landmark of Parma is their Teatro Farnese. The theatre is one of the most renowned examples of a wooden theatre that stands today. Created in the 1600s, at the time it was also the largest theatre in the world and could hold a crowd of 3’000 people. It’s absolutely recommended to go there for a throwback in time!
During the Middle Ages, Parma was ruled by the Franks and was part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 1800’s, the city was annexed by France under the rule of Napoleon, and then finally became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Guess why Parma has been nominated a City of Gastronomy?
On December 11th, 2015 Parma was officially invited to take part in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, becoming the first Italian Creative City of Gastronomy (The network includes more than 70 cities in 32 countries). Parma is a true Foodvalley, A. because of their king of Cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano which has its origins here and B. because of the world-famous Parma ham. More than that, Parma is home to the top school of Italian cooking called Alma!
Foodie hint: You recognize the original Parma by its 5 pointed crowns branded onto its skin.
Emilia-Romagna is the European region with the highest number of PDO and PGI products, and it is described by Forbes “Italy’s greatest gastronomic treasure.
Ever heard about the delicacy Culatello di Zibello?
It is a precious piece made from the large muscle mass in the rear leg of the pig. Creating it means destroying the possibility of making prosciutto!
Its tremendous ageing time, the fact that it’s the best part of the leg, and the expertise required to make it one of the most expensive salumi in Italy, particularly if it adheres to the DOP regulations to be a Zibello culatello.
The best way to experience the history & an exclusive tasting of the Culatello is to visit the Culatello Museum. The Museum is located in the court where the historical & gastronomic hideaway Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais has its domicile. The old fortified castle built by the Pallavicino family in 1320, is a place where love for good food and local products has always been a distinctive mark.
I suggest booking a night at their fantastic hotel for ca. 220 Euro/night.
Enjoy a typical dinner at their 1 Michelin Star Restaurant and go for a walk around the castle admiring the Po river and an impressive nature.
The ambience at the restaurant is special. The glass front gives a super special light and atmosphere and embraces the natural beauty of the Po river. The restaurant received the Michelin Guide Star in 2011 and represents the best of the refined Bassa Parmense. Chef Massimo and Luciano Spigaroli use most of the raw materials produced directly in the ancient court of Pallavicina according to traditions of the surrounded lands.
My personal highlight was the walk-in their cellar and looking at hundreds of Culatello di Zibello beautifully hanging down the ceiling. At the restaurant, I enjoyed the podium of Culatello from the “White Pig” aged over 18, 27 and over 37 months. The truffled Guinea Fowl cooked with Culatello in the Po river’s clay served with vegetables from the garden was of an outstanding tender and aromatic taste!
Book a tasty bus tour to experience the traditional production of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and Parma ham or get a customized tour!
The best way to dive into the heritage of Parma’s artisan food is to book a tasty tour. Our press trip organized by Comune di Parma and OMNIA Relations took place with the company Maestro Travel Experience. The tour takes 4 hours and brings you by bus to all production sites. The Cheese factory we visited is a small family business consisting of exactly 3 employees! It’s a unique experience to see with how much care and ability the 50 kilo heavy loaves of Parmigiano are processed all by hand! Learn how this cheese, devoid of any chemical additive, can be aged for years to improve its quality. You will recognize the various ageing stages thanks to the tasting led by an expert.
On our second stop, we visited a parma ham producer. The family-run factory presented all the steps from the meat processing to the flavours of the curing rooms. I am very happy to have learnt all facts to recognize an original Parma ham. Every tour is of course accompanied by a delicious tasting! The tours are the best stops to buy your souvenir for home. A big thank you to Elisa that explained to us so many details and included plenty of tasting occasions on the trip!
Another must-do on your program: Visit ALMA the International School of Italian Cuisine where the best Italian Chefs graduate and book one of their Masterclasses!
Welcome to the world’s leading international training centre for Italian Cuisine, founded by the Italian Master Chef Gualtiero Marchesi. Walking around in the beautiful Palazzo Ducale of Colorno makes you feel in heaven. Surrounded by an intense variety of smells that constantly stimulate my senses I feel that here is where the magic happens! We had the chance to visit a class in the first year of education learning cutting techniques, another class was creating beautiful chocolate sculptures made all by hand!
ALMA covers an area of 5’000 square metres. The classrooms are fully equipped for training professionals.
ALMA educates chefs and pastry chefs, bakery chefs, assistants for restaurants, bar managers and food & beverage managers coming from all around the world. Annually 1100 students graduate at ALMA. This is probably the best investment ever for a future as well as an extraordinary training experience.
Their events and some of the classes are open to everyone. I absolutely recommend booking one and experiencing these unique surroundings live! Get more about the available events here.
How to get to Parma
From Zurich, it’s easy to take the train to Milan. SBB offers a good timetable with attractive prices. From Milan, you can choose the Frecciabianca Train that takes you to Parma in only 1 hour. For the future new direct connections to Bologna are planned. I like to express a big thank you to SBB & Trenitalia for the excellent and smooth ride to Parma.
Where to sleep in Parma
I spent a night at a very authentic and charming B&B located in the middle of the city close to the “duomo” called Al Battistero D’oro. Patrizia is the host and a charismatic and very hearty person taking care of every wish you have. The B&B is her private home and decorated carefully with class and style reflecting the charisma and warm personality she has. The place is peaceful and quiet and located in the historic city centre.
Get in contact to ask for your quote. Price varies from ca. 100 Euro/night. Find more accommodation suggestions here.
Events to mark in your agenda this September:
Settembre Gastronomico Traiettorie
Cena dei Mille
A special thank you goes to the city of Parma and our press trip organisation OMNIA Relations/Ilaria Tortora as well as all involved person that made our trip the perfect gastronomic holiday.
In the mood for other travel stories and food trips? What about a wine tour in Piedmont? Find all you need to organize it here in my Piedmont blog story.