Day 265– Two Broads in Italy Day 21 — Cheese, Ham, Vinegar, Parma Style

Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Balsamico Tradizionale to be exact. Our guide, Giulia and our driver, Pietro, picked us up at the hotel this morning at 8:30 and by 9:00 we were suited up and enveloped in the heady aromas of Parmegiano Reggiano. The facility is a cooperative owned by several farmers who provide milk twice daily to the cheese maker. Nothing goes to waste and the leftover liquid which is too acidic for use in cheese or dumping somewhere, is fed to those notorious gluttons, the pigs who will become Parma hams. We toured the factory and watched the cheese making process for a couple of hours before heading to a prosciutto factory to learn that only real Parma ham has a metal button impressed in it and other identifying factors. They even massage the exposed part of the ham with more pork fat to soften it and Linda and I are considering starting a skin care business based on it. Is the name, “Parma Fat, Sassy, and Smooth”, catchy enough?

Then off to lunch at a lambrusco winery which is produced here to cut through the fatty foods; lunch was local prosciutto, salami, a kind of cured ham not sold in the US, Parmigiana Reggiano, and ricotta stuffed ravioli with butter. That lambrusco, and a lightly sparkling white helped cut the fat but we would have devoured it all without the wine.

We ended the day at a facility that makes traditional balsamic vinegar which we learned is made from only grape juice and must be aged at least 12 years and in order to be sold as Balsamico Tradizionale, it must be bottled in a special bottle designed by a guy who designs Ferraris. In the past 30 or so years, the Italians have become very particular about the foods that represent them and they have done well.

A we drove back into Parma, Pietro pointed out the Barilla factory, but sadly, since the big Barilla push in the US a few years ago, our Barilla is made in the US and is owned by Kraft Foods.

This is our last full day in Italy. We leave by train for Zurich tomorrow and then fly to SFO Saturday.













Day 264– Two Broads in Italy Day 20 — Getting to Parma

We left Venice this morning taking one last ride on the vaporetto back to the train station. As I thought might happen, last night’s caffè doble kept me awake, the super concentrated caffeine made my heart pound long into the night. I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

Venice has no motorized land vehicles so the streets are quiet and there is a calm about it despite the hordes of tourists. We will miss Venice. We boarded a train to Bologna which was packed with tourists on their way to Florence. We were happy to exit the crowded train, even with its complimentary white wine and peanuts, to board the much emptier train to Parma.

Our guide books describe Parma as quite lovely but did not alert us to the complete remodeling of the train station which made exiting the train treacherous. We followed a very elderly man to the exit; he took so long to get down the aisle that by the time he reached the exit and opened the door, the train started to depart for Milano. The door was heavy and closed automatically and started to close on the old man halfway down the steps. I tried to keep the door open but was overpowered by the automatic system. I kept opening it and it kept snapping shut as I kept fighting it shouting that we needed help. An Italian woman on the train started shouting to someone outside who finally came to our aid, stopped the train and got the old man, and us, off at the Parma stop. Just a little excitement in an otherwise nondescript day of travel.

When we finally got to our hotel, we were unhappy that we couldn’t get the A/C to come on plus the room was small and overlooked an ugly flat asphalt roof. We complained and were moved to another room overlooking the main street. Parma seems large but the traffic is not as frenzied as other places we have visited and many people ride bicycles instead of scooters so it’s much quieter. We hadn’t eaten anything yet today so while we awaited our new room, we walked downtown to Salumeria Garibaldi, an Italan deli, where Nìcola, the cute young deli man, served us meatballs, lasagna, gnocchi and vegetable flan with red wine to ease the hunger pangs. He was thrilled when I told him my name was Carlotta because that is his girl friend’s name. He recommended several places for dinner but now that we have already eaten and drunk so much, I’m not sure when we’ll go to dinner.

Today was an uninspiring day for photos but here are a few of the deli.