Dominating Piazza Duomo in Parma is the immense Romanesque cathedral and the medieval baptistery, which contains frescoes with the incredible colours from 13th and 14th-century paintings.
Most visitors do not discover the 10th-century Monastero di San Giovanni, just behind the cathedral, and the vast Palazzo della Pilotta, which houses a jewel of baroque architecture and the wooden Farnese theater.
The octagonal medieval baptistery in the Piazza Duomo, Parma.
South of the city, the Langhirano valley is home to some 500 authorised producers of the famous prosciutto crudo di Parma. Most are open to the public for tastings and purchases. A guide from one of Parma’s many specialist food tours takes me up into the hills to Salumificio Conti (Strada Fontana 2/A, Langhirano, contiprosciutti.it), for a behind-the-scenes look at the unique salting and ageing process.
And on the plains north of Parma we visit a cheese-making co-operative, CPL Parma, near Baganzola village (Via Puppiola, 15, cplparma.it) that makes 25 cheeses a day. Individuals can’t visit, but as I’m with a guide I get to pull on plastic overalls and follow the whole process, from the churning of the milk to tasting cheeses that have been aged for 36 months (guided trips from Food Valley Travel, +39 0521 798515).
Inside The Catherdal Photo: 123rf
The serious eating, though, is further north on the grassy banks of the Po in villages such as Zibello, home of the prized, ultra-lean culatello hams. The formidable Signora Miriam has presided over Trattoria La Buca di Zibello (Via Ghizzi 6, +39 0524 99214) for 50 years, and most diners simply end up eating what she tells them to. She cures her ham in the cellar, and her dish of handmade tagliatelle with silky slices of culatello is unforgettable.
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Parma has plenty of simple B&Bs such as Pio (doubles from €80, +39 3477 769065, piorooms.it) There is a wide choice of rustic agriturismi in the Langhirano valley, and Azienda Agricola Cardinali (doubles €70, +39 0521 861465, agricolacardinali.it) also has a lively restaurant.
Amongst the backstreets of Parma is Oste Magno the place to meet a colourful slice of local life and taste the wines from the Parma hills, such as a generous tumbler of sparkling malvasia with a hefty roast pork panino for less than €3. Parma has plenty of simple B&Bs we would recommend: Pio (doubles from €80, +39 3477 769065, piorooms.it)
It is worth splashing out on a sumptuous suite in Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati (doubles starting from €90, suites €130, +39 0521 386429, palazzodallarosaprati.it) for the view over Piazza Duomo.
About Emilia Romagna
Emilia-Romagna stretches from the wetlands of the Po delta down to the beach resorts of the Adriatic coast, and across fertile plains where the signature ingredients of Italian cuisine are produced. This is the ultimate foodie destination, where travellers can organise a whole gourmet tour around artisan producers of prosciutto crudo and mortadella, intense balsamic vinegar and Italy’s king of cheeses, parmesan.
And in between eating and drinking, the magnificent cities of Bologna, Parma, Ferrara and Ravenna boast sumptuous Renaissance palaces, frescoed medieval and Romanesque churches, and unique Byzantine artworks which can all usually be enjoyed without queues or crowds.
Recommended Place To Stay in Parma