Sometimes you gotta sleep in…then go to Parma.

from a store’s window in Parma

Our plan for today was a simple day trip to Parma, home of Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.  It’s not so much that these products come from the city…there aren’t pigs and cows wandering around.  These products come from this general region, which also includes Reggio-Emilia (Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) and Modena (balsamic vinegar).

To start off the day, we decided to sleep in late.  I think you should be able to sleep more during vacations that during the work week….so we took advantage of this freedom, getting out of bed around 10am.  We weren’t concerned about missing any experiences, however, because Parma is a short 52 minute train ride away.

train observations: Unlike Hungary, the trains here look relatively new. The slower, local trains cost about the same as in Hungary, I think.  However, slow trains here go at 80 mph, not 30-40 like in Hungary.  The ride is smooth, and trains have video screens showing the route, next stop, time to arrival, temperature inside and out, and speed. The seats are much more comfortable, too.  When you purchase a ticket here, you validate it in a little yellow machine before boarding the train. The control people have only checked our tickets on 2 of 6 routes.  In Hungary, there is basically a person assigned to every train who checks everyone’s ticket. I’m sure there is a massive fine in Italy for not validating your ticket, but I’m guessing Hungary has its own way as a communist leftover…. everyone has a job!  The platforms in Italian stations have video boards so you know you are in the right place and the exterior of trains (near the doors) have video screens so you know you’re getting on the right train.  The Hungarian train system looks like no money has been invested for 50 years, and that’s not an exaggeration…even in Budapest.

We got off the train in Parma at about 1pm and made our way toward the main pedestrian area.  The train station was a few blocks over and we had the map packed up, but I brought along my GPS, and it had a successful initial use in southern Europe.  Parma is a city of 170,000 (I’m finding that lots of Italian cities which I thought were small have 150,000+ people).  It had a pedestrian area several blocks long, with some churches and historical sights in the vicinity.  There were definitely more people window shopping, but the shops were clearly more normal…regular products, semi-regular prices, and we even went in a couple shops.  We spent several hours in Parma.  It was another enjoyable day trip, though we clearly liked the attractions and small-town feel of Ravenna better.  Again, the pictures will tell the story:

Palazzo Ducale. a MASSIVE building which seems to have been neglected. It is heavily damaged from US bombs in WWII, and now houses some museums, but it could be so much more. This photo shows about 10% of the building

Sundial, astronomy chart, etc. from the mid 1800s

A pond within Giardino Ducale. I think a physics or fluid dynamics teacher could use this photo for a lesson on waves

Where we ate lunch. Two espressos + 2 panini + 1  of something that started with an “e”

another beautiful church ceiling

This local coffee shop had beans for sale (USA style). We went in, chatted with the barista whose English was perfectly acceptable, and we purchased 450g of Santos beans. He told us the India beans were strongest, gave me a free espresso shot to taste it, and said it will keep you up at night. We chose the next strongest instead and he ground them for us. It was about $14 US a pound.

In the last 24 hours I have tried grappa (like the Hungarian palinka in strength) and limoncello.  I must say that the limoncello I tried here is not nearly as tasty as the stuff Suzan Porter (Black Cat liqueurs and vinegars – Olympia, WA) makes.

Tomorrow: On to fair Verona, where we lay our scene (thanks to Bill Shakespeare for that line).

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One thought on “Sometimes you gotta sleep in…then go to Parma.

  1. How much did a shot of grappa cost there? Whenever I go on work trips, the owners always order grappa & boast about the cost of it (ridiculous & completely unnecessary), I’ve taken a whiff & have NO interest in trying something that smells so strongly of lighter fluid!
    The detail and artwork of the ceilings and architecture you keep seeing and photographing is so astounding. And to think that people pay thousands (millions?) for “art” that just looks like some paint splashes. To me, what you show here is real art.
    Palazzo Ducale is simply enormous! holy cow.
    “From ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny”… I think. or it’s close to that. Weird, I was just thinking about that movie yesterday & wanting to see it again (yes, the Claire Danes, Leonardo DiCaprio version)!

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