The Almost Local Food Tour Parma (Italy) with Food Valley is absolutely one of the best city walking tours I’ve ever taken. I cannot recommend Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati Hotel enough. It is a beautiful, historic and memorable place to stay to explore Parma and the surrounding region.
After leaving Ferrara, once we’d been given the coppia bread making tour, Mum and I jumped on the autostrada for Parma.
We were graciously hosted by the Emilia Romagna Region Tourist Board at Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati and an Almost Local walking tour, All opinions are my own
It was only a one and a half hour drive, but it was almost painful to drive past signs for Bologna and Modena without stopping! This is the problem with traveling in Europe: everything is close and you simply cannot go everywhere.
In fact, part of the road we were on was the Via Emilia. It goes from Rimini to Piacenza, right through the “Food Valley” of Northern Italy. In this area alone, there are 44 PDO (protected designation of origina) foods, including porcini mushrooms and Culatello di Zibello. Emilia Romagna is a fantastic place for so many reasons and fabulous food is just one of them.
Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati Hotel
Our very special hotel was actually one that I had admired when I was first doing my work on our Italian itinerary. As you’ll see, it seems that all the stars were in alignment, so to speak, with Mum and I staying at this hotel.
Although Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati is in the very center of Parma (also a restricted car area), it was much easier to find than our hotel in Ferrara. I parked the car in front of the hotel and once we went inside, were essentially treated like royalty. Alessandro was there to help with our luggage, in fact, he wouldn’t let us touch it. We went inside and checked in (I also didn’t have to worry about moving the car).
Check in & lobby of the Palazzo
When I first went inside, I was a bit confused, and didn’t know if I’d gone to the right place. I had walked through this arched entry (see photo above) and turned into the entrance on the right. Once I stepped up, there was a room to the right filled with prosciutti (!) and to the left was a lovely little shop selling all things “violet”. I continued straight into the largest area and saw that there was in fact a check in desk, however there was art and displays in this large room, too.
Alessandro assured me I was in the right place and greeted me warmly. He showed Mum and me to our suite which was simply perfect! Alessandro explained all we needed to know about the suite, and the hotel, and told us he and Elena were downstairs if we had any further questions.
Coincidence, or something more?
Before I describe the suite to you, I have to tell you what transpired next. It’s very personal to me, but everyone with whom I have shared this story has loved hearing it, so I’d like to share it with you, too.
After Alessandro left, I realized I needed something else so I told Mum that I was popping downstairs for a minute and would be right back. On my way back upstairs in the elevator, I got my camera ready for my Instagram story and started recording as I walked down the hall toward our room, narrating where I was going. When I reached our door, I looked at the name plate on the door which I hadn’t seen when Alessandro took us up, as he had opened the door for us. It read, “SCIPIONE”.
I was speechless and got a little choked up, and stopped recording. Looking at the door again, I then looked down the hallway to make sure I was at the right door. I tried the key. It worked, and I opened the door.
Mum was standing in the middle of the room, so I beckoned to her and asked her to come to the door. She must have noticed that I didn’t sound quite normal and asked, “What’s wrong?” I then I pointed to the name plate. She looked at it, turned to look at me, and we both burst into tears.
You see, Scipione was my Nonno’s (maternal grandfather) name. We were both incredibly close to him, and I’ve felt that many times he’s been “looking out for me”. I’ve even wondered if he’s the reason I’ve had such an unbelievable streak of good luck for years. I also don’t think I need to tell you how rare the name Scipione (or Scipio, in English), is. Later, I asked at the front desk how many named suites were in the hotel. The answer was 14.
The Scipione Suite
We loved our suite before learning of its name, but we adored it even more afterwards!
It was decorated with family antiques, was spacious, and had full views of the Piazza Duomo. This is a partial view, but see the photo below for a shot of the piazza.
The piazza view from the front of the hotel. The building on the right with the scaffolding is The Baptistry, right next door to the Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati.
While Mum decided she needed a bit of a rest before taking our Almost Local Food Tour Parma that afternoon, I popped across the piazza to have a look inside the cathedral.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo di Parma)
I was lucky because the sun was shining when I first visited the cathedral. It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous inside. Lots of cathedrals across Europe can be awe-inspiring, and this one is definitely on that list!
Part of me wanted to run back to the hotel to go get my mother, but then I thought she can come to see the cathedral before we go on the food tour Parma. What I didn’t know is that the weather was about to change completely.
As you can see, the cathedral was stunning. So much detail everywhere I looked, it was overwhelming.
This is just part of the ceiling over the main part of the cathedral.
I could add so many more photos of the cathedral alone, but I think you understand that I’d highly recommend that you visit the Duomo in Parma if you visit the city. (The cathedral is also called the duomo.)
I went back to our hotel to get ready for our walking and food tour Parma, but told Mum that she simply HAD to go to the cathedral.
Almost Local Food Tour Parma
When it was almost time to leave for our walking and food tour Parma, the heavens opened and a thunderstorm began. Mum made it over to the cathedral ahead of me and just missed the rain. I attempted to wait, but then realized I had to just do it. I was the only person in the piazza as everyone else had already taken cover! (See the Instagram video story at the bottom.)
Unfortunately, the cathedral looked nothing like it had about an hour earlier as it was so dark because of the storm. We didn’t stay too long and started the short 5 minute walk to the Comune di Parma and Tourist Information Center. Fortunately, the rain began to subside quite quickly.
We met Georgia, our tour guide at the office and there was another couple who joined us, also. It is always nice to be in a smaller, more intimate group.
Georgia wasted no time in taking us to our first stop: Pepen Panini. It’s a well known spot for locals, and their most famous dish isn’t even on the menu! Carciofa in Italian means artichoke, but this “carciofa” is different.
Putting Pepen as the first stop on the food and city tour of Parma is brilliant! Carciofa is heavenly and you can only imagine how good the rest of the tour will be! If you like spinach artichoke dip, think of this as 100 times tastier. It was so cheesy and flavorful, I could easily have eaten another slice on the spot!
All of us agreed: two thumbs up for carciofa! (You know I’m dying to re-create it at home now.)
Georgia told us all about Parma’s history and architecture as we walked from place to place. She was very thorough, yet not at all boring. Our next stop was the cathedral where Georgia explained some of the sculptures as being symbols for a Roman calendar on the exterior front of the building. It shows a figure doing work that would normally be done during that month. For example, July is harvesting wheat with a sickle.
At this point, it had stopped raining. The storm passed as quickly as it came.
San Giovanni Evangelista Church
This church is behind the cathedral of Parma. Georgia took us inside to show us one main feature: the dome with a fresco of the Return of Christ. She lit the dome so that we could truly appreciate it. It was beautiful.
Prosciutto di Parma & Parmigiano Reggiano
What trip to Parma would be complete without Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano? Our next stop was at Caseificio di Montagna Parma where they were expecting us. Platters of Prosciutto, pancetta, chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and baskets of bread were placed in front of us!
Nota Bene: in English speaking countries, there are two ways to pronounce the cheese in the photo above.
It’s either Parmigiano (Reggiano) or Parmesan. There is no such cheese called “parmezahn”. 😒
Georgia explained the proper way to eat Prosciutto and it turns out I’ve been doing it right. No forks or knives, just use your hands. We were also treated to a bottle of Lambrusco with our meat and cheese!
While we were in the shop, we saw lots of bottles of balsamic vinegar on the shelves. Georgia explained a lot of information to us about the product, including how to know what kind of balsamic it is from the shape of the bottle.
We continued our food tour Parma through some amazing little streets. No wonder it’s called the “Almost Local Food Tour Parma”! We learned so much from our local guide, Georgia.
Towards the end of our food tour, Georgia asked us if we’d like to finish with a drink or gelato. As you can see above, the gelato was the winner in this vote, and I’m so glad! We went to Ciacco Lab, which is an experimental, artisanal gelateria just across from the Opera House.
They are constantly inventing new flavors of gelato and do not use any hydrogenated oils, fillers, colors and only top quality ingredients; my type of place! Mum and I agreed, it was definitely one of the very best gelato we’ve ever had. There are two locations in Parma (link at the bottom of this post).
End of the food tour Parma
At the end of our food and city tour of Parma, Georgia took us through La Pilotta which is a 16th-century palace complex. It houses the National Gallery, Teatro Farnese & 2 museums and is an important part of Parma’s arts.
We crossed the river (Torrente Parma) to go to Parco Ducale, however, it was closed. There was no reason given for its closing, but Georgia assumed it was due to some damage to trees from a recent storm. She was disappointed that we couldn’t see it as it is a highlight of the city. It did look like a serene and beautiful park from what we could see through the fence.
We continued along the other side of the river and Georgia gave us some background on the area. I have a thing for doors and windows when I travel, so I couldn’t resist taking this. Just look at the woodwork around the perimeter. It’s hard to tell from this view, but the front of the door was covered in spikes! I can only imagine someone falling against it or being pushed! It would really do some damage!
A typical meal in Parma
As we walked, not only did we discuss history and architecture, but Georgia told us about the typical meal which would be served in Parma. She said that risotto with porcini or black truffle is often served as a first course. Another first course option are Tortelli with spinach and ricotta, or Tortelli erbetta (herbs) with butter and Parmesan cheese. Sometimes Tortelli with butternut squash is another choice with plum, crushed amaretti biscuits and butter sauce.
The saying in Parma is that Tortelli have to swim in butter and be dried in Parmesan cheese! I loved old sayings which describe the way dishes should be made. I feel it saves the integrity of the old recipes and are passed on through generations.
The second course would very likely be Rosa di Parma. A beautiful beef tenderloin which is made using three very important ingredients which are part of Parma’s history: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan cheese and Lambrusco wine. You may be seeing this recipe on my site, soon!
We thanked Georgia profusely and she left us near our hotel, where we had originally met. Truly one of the best tours we’ve had! I highly recommend any of Food Valley’s tours, given that the ones I’ve taken (we took two more the next day) were all phenomenal.
An evening in Parma
My mother wasn’t hungry later that night, and she decided she’d catch up on some much needed rest. I, on the other hand, was just a wee bit peckish and wanted to go out again to explore Parma at night.
I love seeing cities after the sun goes down as there are usually fewer tourists and no large groups. To me, soaking up the atmosphere is what creates the strongest, yet indescribable memories from our travels.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind dining alone. Of course, I much prefer to eat with someone else, but I won’t choose not to go out if I’m by myself. The city had really come alive with everyone eating and drinking at the restaurants and bars. I went down a little street and found a place that suited me.
It was a lovely setting that Trattoria del Tribunale had outside of their restaurant. Luckily, no one was smoking so I decided to eat outside. Lullo was my wonderful waiter and he’d chat with me when he’d come to my table.
This manner of service tends to be one of the differences between Italy and the US. Wait staff take a more personable and amicable approach to their guests. Some may see it as less professional, but in a trattoria, that is what is the norm, and personally, I enjoy it.
One of my favorite things in Italy is roast potatoes, so that’s what I ordered, along with a small salad and a glass of wine. It was just perfect! I ended up conversing with the couple at the table next to me. They were on honeymoon and were total foodies. I was even invited to try horse meat, but I declined.
After dinner, I walked the short distance back to Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati. I felt completely safe walking in the central part of of Parma alone at night. The fact is, I wasn’t alone as there were so many locals who out for the evening.
I didn’t want to stay out too late as we had another fabulous tour to look forward to the next day. Food Valley’s A Day with the “Maestro” Giuseppe Verdi along with a Culatello di Zibello tour! Stay tuned!
If you followed me on Instagram while I was on this trip, you may have already seen this.
If not, it’s a little more detail on what I’ve outlined here.
A sneak peek of part of our breakfast at Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati the next morning.