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:
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).