Parma & Modena, Italy
May 27 – 29, 2016
During my eight weeks on Lake Como, I decided to take a mid-break trip to eat Prosciutto di Parma and Parmesan Reggiano from the source, taste aged Balsamico di Modena, and walk the streets famously known in the love story of Romeo & Juliet in Mantua and Verona.
Parma is only 1.5 hours from Milan by train. It is the land of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmesan Reggiano cheese. While there, I embarked on an eating expedition trying everything I could fit in my belly–Lambrusco wine, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma 30 Mesi Leporati, Culatello di Zibello DOP, Strolghino di Culatello, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese which I usually cannot eat in the states. I swear I have never tasted anything so delicious, the different cured meats felt like silk in my mouth and the chesse didn’t make me break out in a ton of rashes. I grew up being “allergic” to dairy but last year I discovered I could actually eat it in Italy! Makes me wonder about our processing here in the states.
After my experience booking hotels on the fly in Portugal, I decided to take the less planned approach and booked my hotel while I was on the train to Parma from Como. I ended up staying at Hotel Torino which was centrally located to everything I wanted to see: Teatro Regio, Galleria Nazionale, Parma Cathedral, Battistero, and Piazza Garibaldi.
The Parma Cathedral was one of the most beautiful and stunning cathedrals I have ever seen by far. I don’t know what it was but for some reason I was completely drawn to the intricacies of the Renaissance art housed inside it. Although quite large compared to its neighbors, Parma’s historical center is easily walkable. I spent my afternoon sightseeing and then luckily stumbled upon Degusteria, the restaurant of the famed La Prosciutteria, and savored every bite of my battistero plate of cured meats and cheese. I even returned the next morning to purchase some Prosciutto di Parma for my friends back on the lake and some Parmesan Reggiano for my family back home–cured meats will not get past US Customs.
Modena is only 30 mins from Parma by train and this time I didn’t even book a hotel prior to arriving! I’ve heard of travelers doing this and always wondered why they didn’t just plan ahead but now I know why, flexibility! I didn’t know if I was going to go to Modena or straight to Mantua the day before so I based my travels purely on the weather!
I’ll admit that I did look online beforehand to understand my options, but it was as simple as walking up to the Best Western in the city and asking if they had a room available. I enjoyed the flexibility because I was trying to escape the bad weather in the region and decided I would stay wherever it wasn’t raining. The hotel was in the center of the old city and right across the street was a fancy Balsamico store where I was fortunate enough to taste 90 year old aged Balsamico di Modena–the 2 oz. bottles ranged from 50-120 euros! The older it was, the more expensive the price tag.
The best part of Modena for me was continuing my food tour! I happened to visit on the day of a city-wide food festival called Stuzzica Gente, so I paid 18 euros for a ticket and I stopped at 10 different places trying various treats local to the region:
1. Gelato al lardo con tigella raldo a Aceto Balsamico
2. Focaccia ligure e Focaccia ai pomodorini
4. Cous cous con menta e limone
5. Polpo con crema di patate, terra di taggiasche e datterini grigliati
6. Gnocco fritto
7. Bicchierino di cialda con gelato al gustro “Piemontese”
8. Dolce Sorpresa
9. Dolcetto della Nonna
10. Duroni Vignola
Doing this reminded me of this wine tasting tour I did in Florence with my sister in 2007, but instead of having a wine buzz afterwards, I had a sugar high with all the desserts I tried. Nonetheless, it was a great way to explore the city as it gave me something to do while exploring the streets of Modena.