Posts Tagged With: Emilia Romagna

Italia – Getting Organized

TuscanyI spent the last couple of days day dreaming categorizing all the Italian posts, filing them in the proper locations.  On the left side you can now see the five categories under Italy…

Florence

Rome

Tuscany

Emilia-Romagna

Piedmont

Venice, the lakes, and other parts are not there because I dont have enough blog posts on them (at the moment the count is about 0).  Here are all the tips you need on Venice:  The greatest museum in the world:  Rialto market.  The greatest bite post the greatest museum in the world:  Antiche Carampane.  That is it.  Once I come back, I will start writing on Venice and the rest of them.

But I must say, out of the 290 posts published so far since I started this blog, the Italy posts are by far my favorite.  Sure its nice to write about my home town, my adapted home town, and even New Orleans once in a while which produced the most viewed post on EWZ (571 shares on Facebook alone).  But the Italy posts, while not much in the way of generating traffic for some reason, are the reason why it took me two days to do this.  A lot of staring and day dreaming.  Italy is the reason I have a hard time getting overly excited about our trip next month to Prague, Salzburg, Vienna.  It spoiled me forever

Gattavecchi

Gattavecchi crew in Montepulciano

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Top 10 Things We Ate in Emilia Romagna

Italy 2014 1668Culatello at Antica Corte Pallavicina – When life gives you a pig, you make Culatello.  Prosciutto so prized it has a different name.  And the best Culatello in the world can be found in this old castle perfectly situated by the foggy Po.  After you visit their legendary cellar, ride their bikes, and play hide and seek with their black pigs, you are ready for this “Podium”.  Three Culatello aged 18, 27, and a black pig beauty aged 37 months sitting on top like miss universe.Italy 2014 781

Eggs with Black Truffles at Locanda Mariella – An hour south of Parma in the hamlet of Calestano in the mountains, there’s this foodie paradise.  Mariella is at the helm, and will take care of you like no other woman.  She knows her wine, and she knows how to make eggs, among many other things.  Richness and creaminess levels I have yet to discover out of eggs.  And Black Truffles, mightier than some whites we’ve had days before, were the icing on the pan.  Quite possibly the best egg dish I ever had.Locanda Mariella eggs

Tagliata Fassone at Cocchi in Parma.  The star of a fine meal at this Parma legend was not surprisingly the all too dependent Fassone.  This Piedmontese cattle continues to surprise me with its lean, but sharp flavors.  Add some artichokes, aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil and of course Parma cheese and you got yourself a major crowd pleaser.  Cocchi, albeit a bit touristy, felt like one of those local institutions one needs to experience, with its ancient menu, and old timers that even speak English.  Try the terrific Sformatino as well.Italy 2014 1077

Minestrone Fritters at Hosteria Giusti in Modena– Perhaps the biggest taste/look ratio of the trip as those fritters didn’t look very hot, but after tasting them they looked rather perfect.  They add to Minestrone soup that is thickened overnight, Parma cheese, flour, egg, and deep fry a spoonful at a time.  Sprinkle some of their own ultra aged “Traditional” balsamic vinegar and the result is outstanding.  Mario Batali’s favorite restaurant in Italy delivered quite a few punches that afternoon.Hosteria Giusti Minestrone Fritters

Salumi at Salumeria Garibaldi in Parma – At this busy Salumeria in Parma, grab one of the two little tables on the right, and watch the locals do their thing.  Try the prosciutto of course, the wonderful Felino dubbed “King of Salami”, and the Strolghino, a fresh thin Salami made out of the lean leg of the pig and the “prosciutto” of Culatello, among other leftovers.  They dont throw out anything in ItalyItaly 2014 1028

Burrata with Bottarga at Sale Grosso in Bologna – Yes, there’s also great seafood in Italy’s food capital.  Hidden in a quiet alley near the university, this newish joint dishes out quality Puglia inspired Seafood day after day.  And some dishes fairly unique, like this Bottarga, sticks of salted dried tuna roe, coupled with creamy Burrata that was oozing with deliciousness. Sale Grosso Buratta

Tortellini in Brodo at All’Osteria Bottega in Bologna.  “I live here all my life, and this is best in Bologna” our trusted waitress warned us.  Who are we to argue.  After sampling Tortellini in Brodo on a daily basis in the region, we saved the best for last turned out.  Done the traditional way, but with an added oomph, or “Love” according to the happy owner.  While I haven’t written a post about All’Osteria Bottega, I highly recommend spending an evening there.

Picture taken elsewhere, but they all look about the same

Picture taken elsewhere, but they all look about the same

Pork Ribs at Vicolo Colombina in Bologna – Another no brainer here.  Ribs are slow cooked for 40 hours Sous Vide style (I used my regular “I cant wait that long, we have a flight tomorrow” joke.  Didn’t work too well here).  Great texture, not too fatty, crispy where needed but mostly tender, wonderfully juicy, flavorful meat.  Here in NYC we pay a lot more for similar and less successful dishes than the 15 euros we shelled out for this.  This particular dish was a recommendation by Carmelita Caruana who runs a popular local cooking school http://www.cookitaly.com/Italy 2014 1725

Piada at Trattoria Via Serra in Bologna – There were quite a few memorable items from this Slow Food gem, including the outstanding organic house red.  But this dish stood out for several reasons.  Piada or Piadina is a flatbread typically made with lard, a delicious traditional snack normally associated with the coastal Romagna towns.  Here it was a Sunday special served with fresh eye popping Squacquerone cheese from the nearby Castel San Pietro, and prosciutto.  There was something about enjoying this fun snack on a lazy Sunday afternoon with local families at that moment that its hard to put into words.Trattoria di Via Serra Piada

Parmigiano Reggiano at CiaoLatte in Noceto – Best 10 euros I spent in the region was at this dairy producer near Parma.  You get a tour with Serena who speaks English, almost unheard of in the Parma dairy producer universe.  She will guide you through the entire process if you show up early enough, and let you spend some quality time your camera in the ageing room.  And the tasting of the various aged Parmigiano Reggiano will make you go straight to Eataly when you get home.Italy 2014 808

Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hosteria Giusti – A Hidden Legend in Modena

Hosteria GiustiIts taken me over three months to write about our food adventures in Piedmont and Emilia Romagna over the fall.  And I can easily write for another month or so as it was that kind of a trip.  But I think its time to wrap this up, and I cant think of a better way than with one of Italy’s true icons, considered by many one of Italy’s greatest.  I will also have a post about our top dishes in the region later this week.

Giusti is a Salumeria in the center of Modena, not too far from one of the most celebrated Duomos in the country, and not too far from another famous church, Osteria Francescana, considered one of the best restaurants in the world.  But when you arrive at this Salumeria Monday-Friday between 11-5, you notice a peculiar thing, its closed.  That’s because they are busy making all sorts of magic in the back, to those lucky enough to snag one of the 4 tables that one needs to reserve weeks, sometimes months in advance. 

Hosteria Giusti dining roomHosteria Giusti also happens to be Mario Batali’s favorite restaurant in Italy.  Baltali’s dad was a close friend with the late Adriano Morandi who opened the Hosteria in 1989.  The shop itself however is over 400 years old.  400 years!  I’m no historian, but this sounds like pre-texting to me.  Most folks come to Modena with their little Trip Advisor rankings miss out on this jewel.

To get to Giusti, you don’t got to through the store, but to this quiet back alley off Via Emilia.  Walk until you reach a gate where you wait for someone to show up to hear the secret password.. “Ummmm Jewsty?” Bamm!  You are in.  Cecilia, Adriano’s daughter served us and spoke better English than some of my relatives living in NYC.  I was suffering from a cold (I only get sick on vacations, becoming quite comical), and this was the worst day.  But taste buds were intact, though no wine for me, homemade Lambrusco for her which she enjoyed.Hosteria Giusti Gnoccho frito salumi

We started with some Gnoccho frito salumi. Every town off Via Emilia makes these little buns differently it seems with different sizes, degree of puffiness and different names. Here are the large puffy ones that pop on the first bite into this nice marriage with the various salumi sitting on top. The lardo in particular was of the rich, buttery, high quality variety.

Minestrone Fritters – Perhaps the most interesting thing we ate here. They take a Minestrone soup that thickened overnight, mix in Parma cheese, flour, egg, and deep fry a spoonful worth and voila.. but wait… there’s more… sprinkle some of their own ultra aged Traditional balsamic vinegar and Voila!  I now know what “Traditional” means after visiting a Balsamic producer in the area earlier that day. Those fritters don’t look very exciting, but carry a lot of punchHosteria Giusti Minestrone Fritters

More excellence followed with the Maccheroni with Zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter, a Modena specialty) sauce.  Tagliatelle with veal ragu was even better. More of that scrumptious, robust ragu we’ve come to expect throughout the trip, and this was perhaps the best one

Cecilia recognizing my pain when I was choosing our lone secondi to share and offered half portions.  Another exceptional veal cheek that we just couldn’t get enough on this trip. This one, no frills, smothered with its own juices, just melt in your fork deliciousness.  And I had to try the Cotechino, another Modena specialty served normally during Christmas time.  It comes coated with a rich, sweet Zabaione sauce made with Lambrusco.  Cotechino is a very tender slow boiled fresh sausage made with pork meat, skin, plenty of fat and is very nicely spiced.  And together with the Zabaione you got some very nice contrasting flavors.  Marry Christmas to us.  Sorry, no picture for this one.

Overall, an extremely memorable, top 10 of the year meal.  Hosteria Giusti and Modena is another strong reason to stay an extra day in Bologna.

Maccheroni Hosteria Giusti veal cheek Hosteria Giusti Salumi Hosteria Giusti prosciutto Hosteria Giusti cut Hosteria Giusti

Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Emilia Romagna – The Producers!

Italy 2014 797Suppose you are really into Hummus.  You eat it almost daily, you feed it to your family every other day, and you live in an area that is known for it. Hummusville, Kentucky, the birthplace of Hummus!  Many moons ago it was established that the 30 mile radius that surrounds Hummusville, Kentucky has the perfect terroir for growing the most perfect organic Chickpeas.  And some time later, the formula for Hummus was created, only to be challenged by less than perfect Hummus from imitators all over the world.

Fearing sudden danger from those pesky imitators, and a slip in quality from some producers who opted for second grade ingredients in order to increase their margins (a scandal dubbed Tehini-Gate), a Hummus Consortium was established to protect the integrity of its product.  A Hummus Czar was appointed, and Hummus cops are dispatched daily to inspect the producer’s daily production.  They inject a special strip made by HumTech that determines the quality of the product.  The items that pass make it to the market as “Hummus”.  Those that fail make it as well, but labeled “Sabra Hummus” as a more affordable item that should be eaten immediately.

You get the idea, right?  Because if not I can go on and on and talk about the Annual Hummus Festival that includes the famous Hummus donkey race, the tossing of the chickpea game, and the famous Hummus Bucket Challenge.Italy 2014 1147

Such is the food culture in Italy, and especially in Emilia Romagna.  I visited Eataly in NYC the other day and I saw this “Felino Salami – Made in Utah” Is there Felino in Utah?  I asked the girl.  Because as far as I know Felino is a small town south of Parma, famous for its Felino Salami, dubbed King of Salami in Italy and US.  How can it be made in Utah.  “Its just the style” she says.  Hmm, “Parmesan” is a style as well.  EU Courts have been banging heads for years trying to determine whether “Parmesan” is a generic name that can be sold in other countries.  I’m no expert but “Felino” resembles “Felino” name more than “Parmesan” resembling “Parmigiano Reggiano”

Emilia Romagna is the home to the famous Prosciutto di Parma, Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), and Parmigiano Reggiano, king of cheese.  If these items dont excite you than most likely your home country did a masterful job selling you poor imitations.  All three are protected by governing bodies that protect the authenticity and integrity of their products.  The point of this post is to highlight some of the area producers that accept English speaking  visitors.  If you dont have a car there are tours you can take from Bologna, Modena, and Parma, some of which will take you to all three in one day.  But I recommend renting a car in order to do it at your own pace, visit some castles, and eat something delicious while doing so.  The challenge is to find producers that Speak English…

Italy 2014 737Prosciutto

I dont have Prosciutto producer recommendations (Bravo Ziggy, what a start).  Instead I got something similar but much more prized.  The creme de la creme of cured hams, the Culatello di Zibello.  Prosciutto so good it has a different name.  And the place most known for it is Antica Corte Pallavicina which I already discussed in full length.  A visit to this old Castle/farm and its world famous Culatello cellar, preferably over night, will leave a lasting memory and a plethora of wet dreams.

http://www.acpallavicina.com/

But if you rather visit another producer, you can contact the consortium.  I’m aware of one member that is open for English speaking visitors and that is Terre Ducali which you may contact at export@terreducali.it

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Italy 2014 817Parmigiano Reggiano

CiaoLatte is a small family producer located between Parma and Fidenza.  For 10 euros per person, you get a private (unless other show up) tour with young Serena who speaks English well and is a wealth of information.  But you will need to be there early (8 am if I recall) in order to see the entire process that lasts about two hours.  Well, not the whole process.  For that you will need to spend the night in their Agriturismo and help milk the cows early in the morning.  The farm is very popular with local schools, mainly due to efforts of Serena’s mom who is quite a character (she turned into Liza Minnelli as soon as we mentioned NYC).  Also included is a tasting of various aged Parmigiano, jams and other homemade goodies.  Well worth a visit

http://www.ciaolatte.it/chisiamoi.htm

ciaolatte@libero.it

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Italy 2014 1158Balsamic Vinegar

Forget everything you know about Balsamic Vinegar.  Unless you already know what you are supposed to know.  Know what I mean?  Out of the three amigos (Parma cheese, ham and balsamic), this one may completely change your buying habits, and the way you use Balsamic.  Ice cream anyone?  Don’t leave Villa San Donnino, just outside Modena without having some ice cream with Traditional 18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar.  “Traditional” has an entirely different meaning in the Balsamic Vinegar universe.  You will learn all about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, its much younger, hence more affordable cousins, and the eye opening process.  An absolute must.  Free of charge.  After that, a power lunch at the legendary Hosteria Giusti in Modena is in order.

http://www.villasandonnino.it/index.html

Buon Appetito my friends!

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Locanda Mariella {Calestano} – The Perfect Meal

Locanda Mariella eggsWhy are we here?  How did we get here?  What exactly made Kim Kardashian famous?  When is an egg no longer an egg?  I feel like starting this one like Anthony Bourdain starts some of his shows, with deep, philosophical nonsensicalness that grabs your attention and never lets go… until commercials.  Its the perfect prelude to what’s to come, whether its “The best soup in the world” (Vietnam – last episode), “Best Duck Feet I ever had” (Beijing), or “Best Meal I ever had” (French Laundry).  Because somehow “The Perfect Meal” or “Best Egg Dish I ever had” would simply get lost in the shuffle of this blog if I dont start with a deep Kim Kardashian question.  Makes sense?  I thought so

Locanda Mariella OutsideWhat makes a perfect meal?  When you are hard-pressed to find any little detail that worked against your enjoyment of the meal.  From the food, the host, the wine, the room, the environment, there is absolutely nothing negative I can say about Locanda Mariella.  And while I usually ignore any imperfections in meals I greatly enjoy, its hard not to notice when everything goes right.  Sure someone may be bothered by its location, 1 hour south of Parma, in the North Apennine Mountains.  But to us the location just added to the fun and intrigue.  Especially considering it allowed us to visit the town of Felino, the home of “King of Salami” where the Italian version of Rick Steves tried to sell his entire Salumeria to us.  And on the way back, it was the magnificent Torrechiara castle which deserves its own post.Locanda Mariella - Strolghino and Cheese

Mariella is Slow Food at its finest.  In a way it reminded me of the one man show of Roberto in the village of Montisi, while the two got almost nothing in common except for their true Slow Foodness and that passion to deliver to you the finest ingredients available to them.  It almost felt like you are visiting a three Michelin star chef who retired in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and cooks to those brave and willing souls simple mountain food

Alloooora! At Mariella all this melodramatic stuff came from sampling just 5 dishes, with wine pairing and dessert, with each dish making me shake my head with hand gestures Andrew Zimmern style.  Mariella had a white truffle menu, black truffle menu, and a regular menu that included black truffle filled classics which we mostly took advantage of.  Did I use “Allora” there correctly?  Two hours into the meal I still did not have the heart to tell Mariella that we don’t speak Italian.  She explained every single detail of the meal in Italian. My entire Italian is solely based on menu Italian, so when I wanted to ask if the egg was baked at some point, I said “Umm.. Uovo..Al Forno?” Mrs Ziggy had a “Fish Called Wanda” moment, and now I occasionally have to speak Italian to herLocanda Mariella - Sformatino

Started with a very nice Strolghino salami with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano.  And continued with some of the staples on the menu, potato Sformatino with pumpkin cream, and polenta with cheese fondue and black truffles.  Both outstanding!  A great start aided by a fine Sauvignon Blanc/Gewürztraminer blend from Le Fate Furbe (Tuscany).  Mariella, I find out later from my host in Parma what I suspected all along, is a great sommelier

Two sunny side up eggs with black truffles would have been the best egg dish I ever ate even without the truffles.  It hits you like a smack in the face as soon as you taste the whites.  So rich, so creamy, so good I didn’t want to share.  I believe with my menu Italian understanding that she blends cheese instead of butter with the eggs.  A truly remarkable dish in every way, aided by black truffles which had more flavor than some whites we had on this trip. Gnochetti with light cream and black truffles, by far best Gnocchi of a few gnocchi dished we enjoyed on this trip.  Mariella matched a beautiful Nebbiolo with this course

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For the third course we shared another outstanding veal cheek with mashed potatoes (since we had polenta in the first course, she suggested mashed instead), along with a Voerzio Barolo 08.  I say “another cheek” as this was about the 4th of the trip.  Another thing we couldnt get enough of on this trip was Cachi (Perssimon).  We like eating it and we liked saying it.  Here it was a splendid chestnut mousse with a cachi purée, along with an excellent preserved sour cherries with ice cream

Simply Perfect!

Locanda Mariella - Polenta Locanda Mariella Beef cheeks Locanda Mariella Hezelnut cake Locanda Mariella Ice Cream Locanda Mariella road Locanda Mariella

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Emilia Romagna – The Final Leg

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Moving on to the final leg.  Without kids, 10 days is just about all we can stretch it these days.  First leg is here, next here.  This one features mostly Bologna where we settled down for 3 nights

Day 8 – Traffic, Vignola, Balsamic, Modena, Traffic

Left our B&B in Parma and started the day with a bang, as in a crash on the highway resulting in a standstill for close to an hour.  We were lucky enough then to meet with our new friend from Vignola who showed us his hometown including the striking castle of Vignola which we had for ourselves pretty much.

Villa San Donnino, a balsamic vinegar producer was the next stop and this was a real eye opener.  Essentially we quickly realized that we knew nothing about Balsamic Vinegar, and the tedious process of making  “Traditional” vinegar.  The icing on the cake was sampling traditional balsamic with ice cream.

Modena, another beautiful walkable city was the next stop.  The famous Modena Duomo was everything we imagined and more thanks to the guidance of our friend.  But not quite as emotional as the church we went to next, the entrance to Osteria Francescana, considered top 5 in the world.  But the highlight for us this day was lunch at Hosteria Giusti, one of the toughest tables in Italy.  Drove to out last B&B in Bologna in more heavy traffic and all sorts of Hertz drop-off adventures.  An ok dinner at Osteria La Traviata

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Day 9 – Bologna

We fell for Bologna fairly quickly.  The porticos, the door knobs, the people, the PORTICOS!   Everywhere you turn, porticos, porticos and more porticos all completely different.  We pretty much walked all over the historic center checking out the sites

Lunch was a good one at Sale Grosso, a newish popular seafood joint.  We try to make it to at least one seafood meal on every trip to Italy even in cities not particularly known for seafood.  Dinner was even better at Slow Food pick Osteria Bottega where we finally got  solid tasting of the local cuisine.

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Day 10 – Bologna

Started the day with a church and a special prayer for no earthquakes for the next 2 hours.  I dont ask for much.  We then climbed the the tower, Bologna’s symbol for magnificent views of the city.  Explored a bit more and settled for another long lunch at Via Serra outside of the center.  Our best meal in Bologna.  After that we just walked around, did some last minute food shopping in the area where Eataly is located and said goodbye.  Zero complaints about our B&B Antica Residenza d’Azeglio

Day 11 –  Fly home

Day 12 – Denial and Isolation

Day 13-15 – Depression

Day 16 – Calling in sick, feeding pigeons in the park

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Emilia Romagna – Little Miss Black Piggy

Italy 2014 868Moving on to the region I like to call Emilia Romagna, because that is what its called.  This is the middle leg of the trip, First leg is here, last still to come.  This is the most eclectic leg, featuring a variety of food filled fun…  Culatello, Prosciutto, Parma Cheese, Parma, castles, AT&T misadventures, wife finding out that all the shoes you packed have holes in them, and some of the underwear, mountains, black truffles, more great food including another “one of those meals”, and much more.

Day 5 – Cremona and Corte Pallavicina

We drove the two hours from our hotel in Piedmont to Cremona, a town (just outside ER) renowned for its Violin making.  Violins, violins and more violins everywhere you turn, workshops, Violin Museums, chocolates shapes like violins. A very interesting, clean, super bike friendly town.  As a New Yorker I was staring at old ladies riding bikes with great fascination in particular.  This could also be the home to the most underrated Duomo in Italy.  But all this fun came to a crushing halt after I called AT&T to upgrade my data service, only to have them disconnect everything completely.  Thankfully, I pre-programmed the GPS with most of the sites so we could get to the next destination.

Rest of the day was one of the highlights of the trip, Antica Corte Pallavicina where we spent the night.  The entire stay was like a dream, a very good one, and I will have a blog post when the time comes.  Corte Pallavicina is renowned for their Culatello, essentially prosciutto on crack, which can only be produced in that area in/near the town of Zibello.  Food lovers detour to visit their famous cellar featuring their black pig Culatello aged for Price Albert, Prince Charles, René Redzepi of Noma, Osteria Francescana in Modena and more.  Each one comes with a sticker who it belongs to.  We used their bikes to ride along the Po river, visited their famous black pigs, white cows, and had a wonderful dinner at their Michelin Starred restaurant, before a friend I met on Trip Advisor Forum joined us for the meetup we’ve been planning for a year

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Day 6 – The cheese producer, the meal, the castle

I arranged an early morning visit to CiaoLatte in Noceto, one of many Parmigiano-Reggiano producers in the area.  For a mere 10 euros we got a tour and witnessed the entire process of cheese making, along with a tasting of some of their products.  This is a small family producer that is very popular with local schools partly due to the efforts of the mother who turned into a Liza Minnelli song and dance routine when she just met us and found out we are from NYC.  More on CiaoLatte later

We then visited the town of Felino, known for the Felino Salami, dubbed “King of Salami”.  We had a little Felino tasting at a small Salumeria by the Rick Steves of Salumi salesmen who tried to sell us his entire store.  We wanted to visit the salami museum in the nearby castle of Felino but it was closed.  Although the splendid views from that castle didnt make us feel too bad.

Lunch was probably the most memorable meal of the trip at Locanda Mariella in the mountains.  A culinary ecstasy by a Slow Food legend.  If you understand Slow Food and seek it in your travels to Italy, it doesnt get any better than this.  After lunch, the magnificent Castle of Torrechiara was the obvious choice smack in the middle between Mariella and our B&B.  Dinner at Ai Due Platani was good but pales in comparison to lunch and other meals on the trip.

Villino Di Porporano, our B&B for the next two nights did the trick and more.  Highly recommend it

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Day 7 – Parma

Spent an entire day touring Parma.  Visited the magnificent Duomo, Farnese theater and the attached museum where we couldnt for the life of us find the exit when we were done.  The stunning Teatro Regio was unfortunately closed due to the Verdi festival rehearsals.  Salumeria Garibaldi treated us to a nice light lunch at one of their 3 tables.  Then we explored the big park and the city outside of the historic center which we found equally as fascinating.  Dinner was a good one at the ancient Cocchi

More to come soon.  Going shoe shopping….

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