God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfect Parma

We have fallen in love with Parma--for a few days anyway. What a delightful town to visit and explore--not too big, not too small, quiet, no motorcycles, sophisticated, confident--not to mention phenomenal food, the best gelato ever and a wonderful masseuse.

We were there last week for too brief of time and so have every intention of returning. Why?

Palazzo della Rosa Prati: Thanks to a friend on Slow Travel, we stayed at this perfect place in its perfect location. The palazzo
is situated on the Piazza Duomo with wonderful views of the Duomo and Baptistry; it has been the Rosa Prati's family home since the 15th century. Vittorio Rosa Prati, who fortunately is quite bilingual for those of us who are linguistically impaired, provides gracious and warm assistance beginning with the first e-mail.

The room we were in was Ortensia which is beautiful with a wonderful view of the piazza . The other rooms I saw were quite nice, but Ortensia is the prize--if you can get it. The Palazzo does not serve breakfast but there is a bar two doors down.

The Baptistery, which is said to be "the most important and advanced monument of the middle ages in Italy," sits right next to Palazzo Rosa Prati. It is breathtaking to see this space as you step through the door. Incredibly well-preserved, beautiful tempera paintings from the 13th century seem to cover every inch of its walls and vault.

Adjacent to the Baptistery is the cathedral which we entered when there were only 15 minutes until lunch closure. One look and we knew that it would take much longer than a quarter hour to try to appreciate the richness of the art and architecture. So--off we went to our first meal in Parma at Osteria della Zingaro across from San Giovanni Evangelista. As in all good places, it was fortunate that we arrived early because 10 minutes later, there were no empty tables--filled by locals, not tourists

Having been told by Vittorio that horse meat is a common and appreciated food in Parma, I decided to have--carpaccio of cavallo. It was sweet, good and I would not have guessed what it was had I not known. After lunch we returned to the cathedral. And--we had been right; it took focused, concentrated time to be amazed by all that is there including a cupola frescoed by Correggio.

In back of the cathedral's apse is the Church and Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista--another place with frescoes and art which you will not want to miss. And--across from the church is K2 gelateria--arguably the best gelato I've had (in close competition with Gianni's in Bologna.) Truth be told, gelato in Parma is good--we tried 3 places but K2 wins hands down. If you like gelato, be sure to find this place.

Vittorio arranged a visit for us to a Parmigiano Reggiano producer which is an excursion I highly recommend. Although it may not sound like something particularly special, it actually is. Did you know that the master cheese maker works 7 days a week, 365 days a year, year after year after year--on his wedding day, Christmas, the days his children are born--always. Why? Take the tour and you'll know this and other fascinating tidbits. Learn about one of Parma's culinary contributions to the world!

The Farnese Theater provides a fascinating architectural glimpse into theater construction in the 15th century. It was built in short order for a visit to Parma by Cosimo d'Medici--who never showed up. In WWII it was destroyed by Allied bombs but has since been restored according to original plans and photographs. It is inside the Palace of the Pilotta along with the Archeological Museum, National Gallery and Palatina Library.

Of course, there is much more in Parma--some of which we did see and some that we will see--next time. Parma is a walking place--window shopping is delightful and beckons one through the doors. I could shop here very easily--much more so than in Firenze which I find confusing and overwhelming.

Oh--Margherita, the incredibly good masseuse! The New Beauty Center Due is located in the Rosa Prati courtyard --0521-23-46-28. And--if you are staying at the Palazzo there is a 20% discount. Having had massages many places, many times, I can say this was just about the best ever.

Two other places we ate and can recommend are:
Trattoria del Tribunale and Trattoria Correieri

I look forward to all that is left to see and do in Parma. It enchants me.