Parma, city of art, charm and food, is the Italian Capital of Culture 2020. So, never like this year, is the right time to go there.
Parma, the Italian Capital of Culture 2020
Parma is the city of Verdi and Toscanini and the domes of Correggio. It is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and is the home of Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto and Culatello. Surrounded by villages and castles, it is the romantic heart of Emilia which, together with Romagna, means home to me. But now there is more. After Matera, in 2019, Parma is the Italian Capital of Culture 2020. So, here are five good reasons to go to Parma this year and fall in love with it.
5 things you can’t miss in Parma
Visit a church that used to be a prison
In the historic center of Parma, in addition to the Cathedral, the pink marble Baptistery, the former monastery of San Paolo, the wonderful Teatro Regio and the museum complex of Palazzo della Pilotta, there is also the church of San Francesco del Prato. It is unique because, at one time, it was transformed and converted into a prison (and its grates are still preserved today). It was reborn thanks to a collective fundraiser that made it possible to start the restoration. The railings that protected its temporary function as a prison have now been eliminated and show the original Gothic style architecture. Now, precisely because of its history of rebirth, it has become the symbol of Parma 2020. Anyone can decide to help support the recovery of this artistic heritage by participating in a guided tour, for example, or in one of the many bookable cultural and musical initiatives. easily even online.
Eat the DOP culatello and learn about its ancient secrets
Did you know that Gabriele D’Annunzio called culatello the prince of cured meats for its sweetness and soft compactness? The first official mention of culatello (1735) is found right inside a document of the Municipality of Parma and, today, the Antica Corte Pallavicina in Polesine Parmense is the reign of culatello. Inside this fourteenth-century castle, once inhabited by the Marquises Pallavicino, great admirers of culatello, there are the aging cellars of this beloved salami, the oldest in the world and there is also the Culatello and Masalén Museum. If you want to know all the secrets of culatello, its history, iconography, the bond with characters such as Giuseppe Verdi, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giovannino Guareschi, this is the right place. For such an original museum itinerary, even the guide is very special, it is the chef Massimo Spigaroli. He is the one who tells you about the art of making cured meats, a precious inheritance received from great-grandfather Carlo, and who tells you about the recovery of the typical black pig of Parma, a unique and precious breed reared in the Po valley that inspires his starred menu as much as that of the Hosteria del Maiale. Both are perfect addresses if you are looking for good places to eat culatello in Parma. In the Spigaroli menu, among other things, I point out, you will also find a recipe by the famous Giovannino Guareschi.
Parmigiano Reggiano as you have never imagined it
Come on, you can’t go to Parma and go home without Parmigiano Reggiano !. Yes, but where to buy it? There are of course various possibilities, but I would like to point out the two dairies of the Agrinascente Dairy Cooperative where, in collaboration with local family-run farms, Parmigiano Reggiano – Parma2064 is produced. They are respectively the Caseificio San Michele Campagna, in Fidenza (info 0524520958), and the Caseificio Pongennaro, in Soragna (info 0524597065). Here, in addition to choosing between the different seasonings of Parmigiano Reggiano, you can also taste some rather unusual “variations on the theme” such as organic, kosher (ie produced according to the rules of the Jewish religion in food matters) or veggie obtained using only rennet of vegetable origin. Alternatively, another valid address is the shop inside the Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano, in Soragna (Via Volta, 5).
Pedaling, pedaling and pedaling again
The people of Parma, like most of us from Emilia Romagna, love to travel by bicycle. If cycling is also a real lifestyle for you, then in Parma it is exactly for you! (you can rent the bicycle from Cicletteria, in the station area). You can start from the historic center by following in the footsteps of the Duchess of Habsburg, who reigned over the city. Always remaining in the saddle you can instead choose to take a little longer walks exploring the surroundings of the city. There are many cycling routes, of different lengths and difficulties, it depends only on you. For example, by bicycle you can go to the Torrechiara Castle (40 km from Parma) or to the Colorno Palace (34 km) or, again, you can decide to spend a whole day out and go to see the villages and castles of the Bassa ( but in this case you must be ready to pedal for 75 km). If, on the other hand, you love to immerse yourself in nature, I recommend the cycle path that follows the bed of the Po for 50 km. Finally, if you have time, take three days and go cycling in the footsteps of Giuseppe Verdi.
Discover the Parma that you like
What is your great passion? I mean, what is it that drives you to travel? The food? The art? The nature? In reality, it doesn’t make much difference in this case, because Parma is a magical combo of all of this. In Parma you are in the UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy in Italy, but you are also in the city of theater and music. To be clear, while you are eating anolini and platters of Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto and Culatello, here you hear the notes of Giuseppe Verdi. The Apennines? It is right there a few steps away. In short, you can plan a weekend in Parma by choosing to do exactly what you like. Culture, food or landscape, you will find many experiences online to personalize your weekend. This year, then, a busy cultural calendar is added with exhibitions, concerts and reviews, scheduled until December. One more reason to go there.
An extra tip: where to sleep in Parma
There are seven facilities of the INC Hotel group that have come together in the idea of spreading the literary, artistic, gastronomic and landscape culture of the city of Parma. Together, they have created the path of the “Talking Statues” with the specific intent of making better known to those who come from outside the great characters who have made the history of this place. Who I am? Arturo Toscanini, Correggio and Giuseppe Verdi, for example. It will be they themselves, or rather their respective sculptural reproductions, who will literally tell you more. All you have to do is approach the statues, along the path created, and activate an APP on your smartphone that will be communicated to you upon check-in in one of the 7 hotels. If you prefer instead to hide in the Parma Apennines, in the Regional Park of the Boschi di Carrega (15 km from Parma) there is Il call del Bosco, a charming bed & breakfast immersed in silence so much that, during your stay, you can also be lucky enough to meet fawns and other shy woodland animals. Keep your smartphone handy!