It was organised a little bit at the last minute, but that day ended up being a very special one.
I had never been in Parma before, but the special charm of the city has already caught my attention during the art lessons while attending college.
I was hosting Paco and Juliette at my place and Parma was the perfect spot to meet my dear Laura and her friends while their holidays in Cinque Terre. So basically, we were a very international group and people were amazed about it: an Italian, two French and three Germans.
Let's discover the highlights of the city and the production of the delicious Parma ham!
Our day started early in the morning. It takes about 3h30 to reach Parma from the place where I live in the province of Cuneo. I made some researches the day before to look for the places where we could do a visit to a ''Prosciuttificio'', which is the place where the ham is treated before being sold. I found (by chance) a small company that caught my attention in Langhirano which is about 40minutes from Parma by car on the so called Strada del Prosciutto (Ham Road).
I called Postal Salumi Langhirano in the morning while on the road to confirm the reservation and asked for a visit and tasting. They don't actually have a prosciuttificio, but they said that they could organise everything for us and this it what they did in collaboration with Salumifico La Cascinabosco, which is only 5 minutes walk from their company.
The visit of the Salumificio
A ''Salumificio'' is more general compared to a ''Prosciuttificio'', it means that not only ham is produced, but also other kinds of cold meat such as speck and normal ham. Salumifico La Cascinabosco immediately looked like a family-run business very attached to local traditions and savoir-faire. Our guide was a kind employee that accompanied us along the various steps of the production of the Parma ham: the arrival of the delivered pieces of meat from various farms, the addition of the salt, the cold room, the drying phase and the final storage in the cellars. An extremely important step is the addition of the Sugna in the bottom part of the haunch which is a particular mixture of pig fat, rice flour - which makes the Parma ham gluten-free - salt and pepper.
It was very interesting to see the process behind a prestigious product that we eat a lot in Italy and which is appreciated all over the world for its quality. The Parma ham, in fact, is characterised by a specific schedule in the various steps of the production, the meat must come from pigs that are bred according to detailed procedures and the supply chain traceability constitutes a fundamental element. In addition, Parma ham is given a particular shape and it is kept for 12 or 24 months in the cellars before being sold. The Parma ham trademark with the symbol of the crown is given by expert inspectors with the aim of certifying its quality.
A curious fact is that a horse bone stick put into five different points of the haunch makes it possible to understand its quality through the smell of the stick. It was incredible to visit the cellar with all these Parma hams hanged on the walls. In that moment, an employee of the company was weighting some Parma hams with a specific size to sell to a client.
After stimulating our senses through the sight and the incredible smell of the Parma hams, we went back to Postal Salumi for the tasting, obviously it was mouthwatering!
We visited their warehouse containing different varieties of local cold meat - including Parma ham - that they export in Italy and abroad, especially in France, Spain and Germany.
The tasting took place in a special tasting room decorated in a traditional way. We chose to have a complete tasting with cheese and cold meat in order to try all the local specialities accompanied by great bottles of red wine. Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma ham, culatta, culatello, coppa, smoked pancetta to savour with the warm Tigelle (typical bread). Our visit and tasting costed us a total of 19euro par person which is very cheap compared to the excellent service and quality of the food.
Gastronomy & wine are not only an important component of tourism linked to the territory, its traditions and inhabitants, but also a special experience to share with great people while discovering a new place.
If you're interested in Gastronomy & Wine tourism you can't miss this issue of the magazine!
Highlights of Parma
Parma is a fascinating city full of historical monuments and churches. We had a wonderful time strolling in its streets while admiring the warm colours of the houses in the historic center.
Parma Cathedral: Located in the main square of the city right next to the Battistero, the Parma Cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Italy. Its origins are Romanic - Longobard and it contributes to the creation of a special harmony of history and arts in this wonderful square.
Parma Battistero: built around 1100, this majestic monument catches immediately your attention for its incredible octagonal shape and the pink marble. It contains the main baptismal font which was originally fuelled with the water of a local river. The exterior walls are decorated with images from the Bible.
San Giovanni Evangelista Church: a fascinating church dominated by a great dome.
Palazzo della Pilotta: a monumental complex dating 1583 which takes its name from the game ''Pelota''. Its gardens are now a meeting point for families and young people.
Parco Ducale: a green lung in the city center for a relaxing walk.
The Galleria Nazionale of Parma: located in the Palazzo Pilotta, it's the perfect place for an artistic immersion starting with artworks of the Middle Age.
Teatro Regio: a charming temple for the Italian and international music inaugurated in 1829.
The Camera di San Paolo: located in the Monastero, it's a special room painted by Caravaggio in 1519 who took inspiration from the Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo.
And just before living, a delicious ice cream which is considered as one of the best in Parma: Ciacco Lab.
This trip reminded me the beautiful feeling of discovering new corners of my dear Italy through the eyes of my foreigner friends.
And this is so special to me.