Culatello Ham: Where To Taste And Tour in Parma

Culatello is an exclusive type of meat found in the Italian regions. With an origin dating back to the 15th century, this dish is one of the crown jewels of the Italian cuisine. The flatlands to the north of the Parma province of Italy serve as the production house for culatello. The Po River flowing nearby adds to the development and growth of the dish.

With the perfect climate for breeding and aging the meat, Zibello City is strategically placed as the production factory for culatello. The aroma and the sweetness in the meat comes from the thick fogs over River Po and the nail biting winters of Zibello, making it quite exclusive.

Culatello is basically the hind legs of pigs who are specially bred in the Emilia Romagna and the Lombardy regions of Italy. After the meat is processed, it is wrapped in twine which gives it its iconic pear shape. The meat is then wrapped as pork bladder and is stored away in a cool place. The secret of Culatello is based on the fact that it is washed in white wine before serving, putting the dish on the top of the Italian cuisine card.

Antica corte Pallavincina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Antica corte Pallavincina is a castle estate in the Polesine Parmese province of Italy. Housed on the Parma lowlands, this estate is one of the best places in Italy where you can take a quick bite of Cutello. The magnificent estate with its kitchen gardens, ancient castle cellars and the vast lands for grazing are a treat to the eyes and an experience to remember.

Apart from the kitchen gardens and the grazing farmlands, a visit to Cremona will set you adrift on memory lanes. It is a city where street dwellers will mesmerize you with their violins and melodious music, soft enough to cool your restless nerves. Musical maestro G.Verdi’s house and the parish church are some of the must visit spots if you wish to relive the olden times. There is also a museum dedicated in the honour of G.Guareschi, the famous writer of Don Camillo stories.

The highlight of the trip still remains the visit to the cellars of the ancient castle. The cellars have been in operation since 1320, where they were used to mature cheese obtained from the farm and to cure the salami produce. The dukes of Milan and the highest ranking nobles were treated to the famous salami from the cellars of Corte. The cellars also hold cookery classes as well as candle light dinners and a briefing about the local heritage.

Al Vedel (Podere-Cadassa)

Al Vedel is located in the Colorno region of the Parma farmlands. This site in the PO valley is also known as the Italian food valley and dates back to the 18th century. The farmhouse was converted into a meat processing centre and a restaurant by the Bergonzi family, so as to highlight the gastronomical culture of Parma. The area is famous for its culinary culture as is evidenced by its creativity in making traditional dishes like the Cutello.

Podere Cadassa offers a tour of this ancient gastronomy centre. There’s a restaurant, a ham storage section as well as the beautiful cottage gardens, culatello cellars, outdoor sittings, meat processing area etc. The place offers an insight about the age old traditions and the recipes of the region. They believe in always adding flair something that is already excellent.

The culatello cellars are lined from the floor to the ceilings with the twinned hams. There is also a mention of the date and the quality on each and every meat present in the cellar. The processing and the making of the fine Culatello is indeed a visual treat for anyone present there. The cellars also boast of a live tasting section of the fresh culatello mixed wand dried with the wine.

Bre del Gallo

Bre del Gallo lies on the banks of river Po in the small village of Fontanelle di Roccabianca. It is managed by the Magnani family, a family whose generations have farmed on the Parma land. Their primary duty is to safeguard the ancient flavours of the region. Today, Bre del Gallo uses modern technology and the highest standards of food tasting in its management of regional dishes.

Termed as the slow food capital of the world, this Parma territory is home to one of the finest meat processing centres as well as vast farms, Culatello cellars and even the wine tasting cellars. The processing done here is of the highest standards, using modern machinery and traditional expertise. The farmlands, cottage and the Po River are all visible from this estate. The best season to visit and experience the true beauty of the farm is the Winter season from November to January.

The Culatello cellars focus on quality using modern methods. From meat cutting to twinning, from wrapping in pork to washing with wine, every process is explained and demonstrated in detail in the cellars. The tasting of the iconic dish follows these processes, making it an on-the-go cookery master session.

La Fattoria

La fattoria di Parma lies between Parma and Fidenza on the Via Emilia. It is one of the training centres and production factories for the salami and culatello dishes. It regularly conducts educational workshops for nutrition students so as to enlighten them about the techniques of mass production for preserving the local flavours. There are also factory tours for industry professionals.

The territory includes meat processing centres, salami factories, farmlands, culatello tasting-centre, as well as culatello cellars among the other facilities. There is also a gift wrapping section where visitors can view the wrapping of processed ham into packages. From the breeding section of the pigs to the butchery, everything is well-maintained on the farm grounds. The quality of culatello at the La fattoria factory comes from their specially bred pigs of the local farms.

A visit to the culatello cellars is unlike a visit to any other farm in the Parma region. The selection of pigs, butchery and the quality marking process describe how the ham selected is made into culatello. The final dish, served with wine, is to be enjoyed in the cool weather of the farm. These cellars offer a glimpse in the art of making the culatello as one of Italy’s most sought after dishes.

Conclusion:
Some of the most iconic dishes taste best when they are prepared in their original habitat. Culatello is one such dish; a dish which can be best experienced in the Parma province of Italy, the original place of the Italian gastronomical marvel. The fact that it is prepared with the traditional techniques, the original ingredients and the ancient processes makes Culatello one of Italy’s culinary wonder dishes.

A day around Parma between ham, culatello and castles

Parma is a town in the north west of Italy, not far from Milan and the Cinque Terre. Parma is well connected via train links, motorway and recently even by air with the newly opened Verdi airport which connects the town with London Stansted. Thanking to this new possibility it is now possible to spend a long weekend to explore the best food in Italy, medieval castles and aristocratic palazzoes.

culatello in Parma
Culatello hanging from the humid cellars

The Castle of Torrechiara and Parma ham.

Heading  south just   30 minutes by car from central Parma, we will find the Castle of Torrechiara. An important manor overlooking the Parma river valley. Once belonging to the Rossi family is now a museum open to everyone interested in visiting this splendid example of medieval architecture.  The highlight of the visit is the magnificent “bedroom” once dedicated to Pier Maria Rossi’s lover: Bianca. But this is not all. The Torrechiara castle is only part of the fun. The castle’s adjacent town is the centre of the Parma ham production. In Langhirano you can sample the best prosciutto that you can find around, and directly from the producers too. The best of all comes when you can stay at the castle b&b and have your dinner right at Locanda del Castello a restuarant providing excellent and  typical Parma style dishes.

Farm stay with Parmesan production.

To make things more interesting you could stay a selected farm and wake up in the morning with an amazing breakfast followed with a tour of parmesan cheese production. This is possible in Lesignano Bagni not far from the Parma ham production area and it also close to a balsamic vinegar producer. In fact you can visit all 3 products in just one one day with a 2 night stay.

Colorno, little Paris, and culatello ham.

The Parma province has a lot to offer and maybe you need to start to make choices in your long weekend. The area once under the French control was named the little Paris, due to the charming resemblance of the river side of the two cities. But another important guest was living in the small town of Colorno. Marie Luise duchess of Parma and wife of Napolon. She made Colorno her home and she had a whole palazzo for herself. The ducal palace of Colorno is a splendid example of renaissance architecture. Not to be missed is the hourly tour inside the palace. Do not forget to walk in the English style palace garden that is always accessible during daylight.
But Colorno is home of another delicacy: Culatello ham. Probably it is the first location making the ham heading north from Parma. Remember that many producers are happy to do guided visits inside their cellars, so just follow the culatello road sign and ask.

Polesine Parmense and the Antica Corte Pallavicina.

Heading north from Parma towards the great Po’ river we will encounter an unpretentious village called  Polesine. The highlight here is the building named after the noble parmense family: the Pallavicini. While the village has been moved from the shores for the river, remarkably the Antica Corte still sits next to to the banks of Po’. The Antica Corte Pallavicina has been completely restored by Massimo Spigaroli, who is the keeper of the secrets of culatello. He will oblige to show you the massive brick cellars of the palace literally filled with the precious ham. Massimo also organises cooking lessons, and ham making sessions. Cycling and boat tours of the Po’ river. Of course you can also stay at the palace by renting one of the modern and comfortable room.

Roccabianca.

Roccabianca literally the white castles lies in the flat of the Parma province just few kilometres from the Po’ River. Pier Maria Rossi not satisfied with Torrechiara castle builds another palace for Bianca (his lover) here in the foggy and marshy lands north of Parma. Roccabianca is simply spectacular, the external walls of the inner courts are completely covered in ivy. Here it is easy to imagine tales of knights and dames. But Roccabianca is also the home of the Italian author Giovannino Guareschi, maybe known more familiar to the Italians than the foreign visitors. It is still worth to mention that you can visit his house and discover this stories of Don Camillo and Peppone. Of course Roccabianca is one of the homes of Culatello, so enjoy it while you are there.

Zibello.

The home of the famous culatello and also the headquarters of the consortium. In November there is the culatello festival called Novemberpork. The local fiesta is totally dedicated to swine delicacies. Their tagline is: speriamo che ci sia la nebbia, it translates as we hope that it is going to be foggy. For many might sound strange but the producers claim that they need to open the windows of their cellars to let the fog. Apparently you will need that sort of humidity to cure the ham correctly.

Soragna.

Needless to say that here in Soragna you will find 2 things: a castle and culatello ham. It is a tiny comune with a characteristic porticoed town centre. While you are here you should visit the Rocca di Soragna, another magnificent castle with the advantage of still being inhabited by its prince descending from the Lupi family. English guided visits can be organised and culatello producers are in range.

San Secondo Parmense.

San Secondo is the home of spalla di San Secondo. A pork speciality made with the front shoulders of the animal. The cooked version is served warm with torta fritta (a earthy fried bread) coupled together it is a mind blowing experience  The flat land around Parma do not produce great wines but if you come across the Fortana wine, or Fortanina you should not miss the chance to try it, light and fruity is heart-warming in those foggy nights.

 Cycling Activities from Parma – Discover the great river from Polesine Parmense.

The Po’ river offers plenty of opportunities for those wanting to cycle or walk. In fact it is possible to rent bicycles locally and go on cycling tour of the area. The activities require some sort of fitness but they are considered easy trails as they are in the flat. The day can be also combined with the navigation of the Po’ river and a stop in Cremona. Of course we will include a gourmet visit to a culatello producer.

The art and architecture of Parma

by Marcelo Pinto November 3rd 2012

Parma stands austere and sophisticated in the territory bounded on the east by the Enza river and to the west by the river Stírane. The city lies among hillsides and rolling green hills that inspired Verdi’s melodies and atmospheres of the nineteenth-century such as La Certosa di Parma by Stendhal. Parma is in fact like a queen with its role of prima donna at the time of Marie Louise of Austria.

To explore the city, it is like to take a trip down memory lane. You will find yourself in the aristocratic and the magic atmosphere of the glories of the Lordship and prosperity of the Farnese Duchy.

The starting point of this journey in time is the Palazzo Ducale (Tel. 0521.282861, hours: Mon Sat 9.30~12; Admission: € 3, reduced € 2).

Palazzo ducale is located north of the city; the beautiful building is built by Vignola in 1564 on the behalf of Ottavio Farnese, but today’s appearance is due to numerous alterations of Bibiena first and then Ennemond Petitot.

Inside, a spectacular staircase leads to several rooms in which we have mythological representations. In the large park, the trees are alternating marble statues creating a perfect “French Style” backdrop, distinguished by the temple of Arcadia and the Fountain of Trianon, which represent the rivers Taro and Parma. The main entrance is dominated by Silenus, a marble made complex created by the Parisian Jean Baptiste Boudard copy of the original sculpture. Along the hallway there is a line up of numerous mythological statues.

A lovely example of architecture and geometry of late fifteenth century. Il Palazzo Eucherio Sanvitale (info: Tel 0521.230267; opening hours: winter 10~13 and 14~16, entrance free).

Often used for exhibitions and cultural initiatives, the building has a quadrilateral plant of which the four towers are joined by two arcades and frescoed interiors. Some of the art work is attributed to the Parmigianino. In the former Serra degli Aranci, has now been turned into a café and a bookshop.

In the vicinity of the Ducal Park on Via Borgo Tanzi 13, we find the the birthplace and museum of Arturo Toscanini (Tel. 0521.285499). Here you will find the collected memories and the main collections of the great conductor.

While leaving the Parco Ducale in a straight line and crossing Ponte Verdi you will reach the Palazzo della Pilotta (tel. 0521.233309, time: 8.30~14 Closed Monday and Sunday). It is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city. It has been  conceived as a place of service and linked to the Duke Palace. It has been concevied in 1583 by Ottavio Farnese as a  connecting link to the  Palazzo Ducale over the bank of the river. In reality it is a complex of several buildings, which has  remained unfinished. The  name derives from the Basque game of ball (Pelota) which was taking place in one of the courtyards.

In the interior of the complex you will find  the National Gallery,  National Archaeological Museum,
ta in 1752 by Don Philip of Bourbon, the, the Palatine Library,  the Teatro Farnese and museo Bodoni, the first museum of Printed art in Italy. The complex has  been renovated in the eighties, and you will find work of Italian masters such as  Fra Angelico, Correggio, Parmigianino, Guercino, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Tiepolo.

The National Archaeological Museum, established in the eighteenth century to accommodate Roman artefacts found in Parma. It was enriched later by the collections
Farnese and Gonzaga families. However  it was Maria Luigia to increase collections with rare coins and ceramics from different backgrounds.

The Farnese Theatre (info tel. 0521.233309) Located on the first floor
the palace of Pilotta and built in 1618 by of Ranuccio Farnese it had  scenic innovation for its time, such as the possibility of flooding the Cavea during performances. The interior reveals a large theater hall completely made of wood painted with imitation of marble. It has been refurbished and partly rebuilt after the bombings of World War II, according to the project of the Ferrarese architect  Aleotti. l’Argenta.