We spent one full day and two nights in Parma. Obviously, the first night didn't really count, as we arrived at 12:30 am, and pretty much fell into bed.
As I said in my last post, our hotel was really lovely. It was not in the center of Parma though, and I was so thankful that we had our car, as the trek into the city sans auto would have been tough.
All I knew about Parma before our trip was prusciutto. Turns out that Parma is incredibly well-off, mostly based on the food industry, which spans much farther than just ham. Before we went into the city center, we drove around the outskirts, which Joern loves to do when we travel. Here's what we found:
It was my first view of the hugeness of the food industry in Parma.
We also found dairy automats all over the outskirts. Dairy is hugely important in northern Italy, and the automats contained cheeses, yogurts, and of course fresh milk. I was a bit skeptical at first, but Joern was more than excited to try it.
We later found out that the automats are really popular for people in the city, they can drive out to the automats on Sunday or Monday morning when the stores are closed. They also have high standards for the cleaning of the machines, which was what was important to me.
Once we had our fill of driving and sightseeing, it was time to park and explore the center. As we walked into the center, we were greeted with some of the many delights for which Italy is famous.
The center is wonderful, and large. We first stumbled upon the Palazzo della Pilotta, which was huge! It was built in the 1500s as a public buidling serving the Ducal Palace. Unfortunately, in 1611, work was directed to cease, and the building was left unfinished. The Palazzo was also bombed during World War II, and part was rebuilt. It houses museums and the Teatro Farnese today.
From the Palazzo della Pilotta, we headed into the center.
Another beautiful area is the quiet, large, Piazza Duomo, containing the Duomo, or cathedral. The cathedral and bell tower were beautiful, but also the pink marble baptistry that lies in the same area.
The baptistry and Duomo are known for containing some incredible art, including a fresco completed by Corregio. Normally, I do not visit churches, but really wanted to see the interior of the Duomo and baptistry. Since it was Good Friday though, the church was not open to visitors.
Joern and I were really tired, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a nap and to decide where to head for dinner.
Once we got ready, we headed out to Fontanellato, a small town north of Parma. The highlight of the town is the medieval castle surrounded by a moat. Even at night, it was quite an imposing sight!
Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy, so our hopes of a lovely dinner al fresco with the castle in the background were out of the question. We decided to head back, and found a lovely pizzaria along the way home. No, it wasn't Michelin starred, but it was simple, good food. The wine was delicious too!
We wearily made our way back to the hotel. Over dinner, we discussed the fact that even though we were leaving in the morning, I really wanted to see the interior of the Duomo. We decided that we would head back to Parma for our last night of our trip. This made parting with the charming city much easier.