Written by Marcelo Pinto June 10th 2012
Science and poetry, craftsmanship and industry, sophistication and authenticity. Parma is an admirable synthesis of these apparent opposites, as revealed in its history, and is still true today.
Parma was the capital of the Duchy, and at one time was ruled by royalty – Marie Louise – the second wife of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It is a city of affluence and sophistication, famous nowadays for its culinary specialties. It is the only place in the world where the strict rules of an age-old tradition have become the driving force of economic development. The Ducal Palace, offered as headquarters to the European Food Safety Authority, is an emblem of this complex personality. Built in the 16th century by the second Duke of Parma, Ottavio Farnese, it stands in a splendid park, surrounded by exotic tree species. The very name of Parma fascinated Stendhal and Proust.
High on the list of desirable places to live, Parma has been admirably shaped by the hand of history. There is the square containing the Romanesque cathedral, Duomo, with frescoes by Correggio, and the pale-coloured Baptistery, designed by Benedetto Antelami, that are silent witnesses to a great architectural heritage, preserved in the very heart of the city. Piazzale della Pace, redesigned by Mario Botta to show off the massive proportions of Palazzo della Pilotta, houses a theatre built by the Farnese family, and entirely of wood, unique in that it could be filled with water for staging naval battles, to the delight of the court. The grandiose building now hosts the Galleria Nazionale, and features paintings by Correggio, Parmigianino, and Leonardo. The Teatro Regio – Royal Theatre – elegant in its neoclassical simplicity, is a temple dedicated to the music in the city of Verdi and Toscanini. Facing it stands the imposing Church of the Steccata, with precious works by Parmi
gianino. A short stroll away is Piazza Garibaldi, the real centre of the city, an elegant showcase of buildings reflecting different historical periods.
The love of good food, reflected in products famous all over the world, is more a matter of art than an industry. Discover our unique local products, with their bewitching flavours. Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Culatello di Zibello, and other exquisite foods – tomatoes, Parma’s Red Gold; mushrooms from the Valtaro; black truffles from Fragno; and sparkling aromatic wines. The genius of this city has been in inventing ways of transforming these fruits of the earth. It has conquered an international market by maintaining the authentic flavours of farm-made preserves and hand-rolled pasta, even when producing them in large quantities – a decision based on policy rather than marketing. And it has proved to be a winning formula, because it is deep-rooted, drawing on the history and the traditions of this fertile land.
Parma has succeeded in combining taste and technology, developing a culture of food and its production. Of course, everyone has heard of Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Throughout the world, hams marked with the five-pointed crown symbol are a benchmark of quality. For cheese to lay claim to the Parmigiano appellation, the milk must have come from cows bred in the region, and been processed using a method dating back to Etruscan times. Then, it is left to mature for at least a year.
It was here that the humble macaroni first became an international business. 1870 saw the founding in Parma of the firm Barilla, the first in Italy to produce pasta on an industrial scale. Here in Food Valley, the statistics say it all – a turnover of €10 billion, 25,000 employees, and exports worth €3 billion.
Culture is synonymous with the University of Parma, founded in the 10th century, and one of the oldest in Italy. The new campus offers a wide range of specialisations, including food science.
But Parma’s story is not only about food and technology. Parma also has important clothing and leatherworking industries, reflecting an ancient tradition of craftsmanship, dependent on skilled labour and top-quality raw materials.
Just outside the city walls stands the Reggia di Colorno, once known as the “little Versailles” on account of its gardens. Only one word adequately describes it – a marvel. It now houses the ALMA, the International School of Italian Cuisine, interpreting Italy’s gastronomic tradition to the wider world.
Castles in the Countryside
This is a fertile, generous land, bisected by the ancient Roman highway of the Via Emilia, and peppered with castles erected to defend the estates and vaunt the fortunes of its feudal lords. Torrechiara was built by Pier Maria Rossi in honour of his lover. The couple would meet in the sumptuous golden chamber, whose terrace dominates the whole of Food Valley. The fortress of Fontanellato, built by the counts of Sanvitale, boasts some magnificent frescoes by Parmigianino. The Meli Lupi Castle at Soragna is another splendid aristocratic residence, with magnificent gilded interiors.
This is the province which, in the 19th century, produced the operatic genius of Giuseppe Verdi. It was also the home of Arturo Toscanini, whose house is now a museum, and of humorist Giovannino Guareschi – creator of Don Camillo – whose books have delighted millions all over the world.
It also boasts the invigorating waters of Salsomaggiore, one of Italy’s oldest spa resorts, already popular with the Romans 2,000 years ago.
The quality produce, research, investment, hospitality, and general sense of well-being associated with Parma, are also explained by its favourable geographical location. Parma is right at the heart of the Po Valley, just an hour’s drive from the international airports of Milan and Bologna. From its own airport, named not surprisingly after Giuseppe Verdi, there are daily connections with Rome Fiumicino and several European capitals. Parma is within easy reach of some of the most beautiful parts of Italy. An hour’s drive up over the Cisa Pass, and you are at the seaside – Lerici, Cinque Terre, Portofino. In the opposite direction, passing through a string of splendid medieval towns, you arrive at the world’s most beautiful city – Venice. Strategically placed between middle Europe and the Mediterranean, Parma has been able to blend the two different culinary cultures throughout its history, refining it through scientific research, a heritage now widely recognized and shared with the rest of Europe.
Science and charm, industry and tradition, business and culinary excellence. Parma already has all these things. Rich in history and timeless wisdom, this is a city waiting to be explored.
The text has been extracted from the Parma chamber of commerce video
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I visited the Food Tours with my wife, we were looking forward to this some time ago and I can state that this tour bring to us very interesting time and experience in spite of the fact that we departed from Milano by morning train at 5,50 am. Our guide was young man and we enjoyed all morning together talking not only about the parmazan, balsamic and parma ham. I really appreciate it. He was very communicate, his driving was safety, very polite. Parmazan farm - amazing, balsamic farm -
My boyfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Tour, which included stops at producers of cheese, balsamic vinegar and cured meat. Paolo was an amazing tour guide – he's extremely knowledgeable, kind and a great communicator. We learned so much! It was really nice to be in a smaller group and most of the producers we visited were small so we were able to get a close up view of the processes. We'd highly recommend Emilia Delizia as this tour was truly authentic and a highlight of our trip!
thank you for the kind review
The tour of the Parmesan Reggiano cheese dairy, Balsamic Vinegar farm, the Parma ham and lunch at the organic vineyard was thoroughly enjoyed by our family of 4. Paolo was a gracious and knowledgeable host for the day and provided us with insights to the production of the cheese and balsamic vinegar which was enhanced due to his chemistry background. We would thoroughly recommend this tour to those interested in the specialities produced in the Modena region.
We had a wonderful tour, best part about visiting the Modena region!
The tour was perfect. I think Paolo would be a splendid ambassador for Italy in the EU. He knows how excellent Italian food and eating together can solve many major problems, and can stop aggressive behavior. Not the hunt for more money, but the well being of family and friends counts. Paolo shows us the products of ages of civilization and he did this like an artist. So after the tour we really love Italia more and we'll come back. We will call you Paolo, Thanks!
Following two tours with your guides this week I would like to express my thanks for some wonderful experiences.
Monday we did the tour of cheese making, balsamic and Salami which was very good and the guide Paolo was very knowledgeable.
The truffle hunt tour today was absolutely amazing, the guide Stefano is pure gold and the tour was built with much thought. Our best experience so far, by far.
Looking forward to more tours and fun next time we are in Italy.
The group (and me) was VERY satisfied. We really enjoyed the Parmegiano Regiano which was interesting and we got to buy some delicate and cheap cheese, the same with the balsamico. The Ferrari driving was off course an experience for life. The Winery lunch felt very genuine and the people there was really welcoming and nice people. The genuine feeling there was however the big plus for us.
Paolo was excellent as our guide. He also felt very genuine. He did not talk just for the sake of talking, but when he had something to say he did it in a respectful and nice way. Everyone in the group really liked him.
I wanted to let you know what a great day we had this past Friday on our tour with Jacamo. (Probably not spelling it right) He was very nice and explained everything to us. It sure gives you a new appreciation when you are slicing cheese. 🙂 Our tour ended with him taking us to the vineyard for a tour and lunch and there, Paolo, the owner could not have been more nicer. It was a perfect ending.
Please let Jacamo know what a great job he did and how much we really appreciated it and his knowledge
The website is well structured and we received a prompt answer to all questions. Gabriele supported us with all information we needed and the organization before the trip was excellent.
We had an air conditioned van, which was very relaxing through the whole tour. The first stop was the parmigiano production, which was very impressive and interesting. We could learn and especially see all the different steps and even taste the various aged parmigiano. The second step was the balsamic vinegar tasting. Finally the meat part was interesting in the museum but we hoped that we also could see more about the production and their work, but the tasting was delicious. In overall we had a very informative and well accommodated half day with our guide
It was great experience! We visited Parmesan cheese production, Balsamic vinegar farm, Ham museum and Farmer's lunch. Our guide gave us a detailed explanation, we were very satisfied. An excellent tour for a reasonable price, highly recommended.