I had heard the city of Parma was the birthplace of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham, but I was not prepared for the quaint beauty of the city. Last Saturday a group of BCSP students and I hopped an hour-long train from Bologna to Parma. We arrived at 9AM on a Sunday morning, which is ungodly early in Italian time, so the streets were empty. The sky was grey, as was the river we walked along, and I had low expectations for the day.
We sipped cappuccino in a small café and waited for more shops to open. The sun started to burn through the clouds, and soon Parma lit up.
After gawking at the Cattedrale di Parma, we charmed the man behind the desk at the Galleria Nazionale di Parma and received free tickets to see the art and Teatro Farnese. The wooden Teatro was bombed by Americans during World War II and has been reconstructed to replicate the original.
After meeting up with the rest of our group in Piazza Garibaldi, a few of us broke off to go to lunch. We decided to splurge on a ristorante called Gallo d’Oro in order to get the most out of Parma’s food (The cheapest restaurant is usually an “osteria”, slightly more expensive is a “trattoria”, and a “ristorante” tends to have the highest priced food. Needless to say we usually go to osterie.). Paying a little more was definitely worth it.
After lunch, we wandered down Via Farini, walking off the cheese and carbs. It seemed impossible to find a street that was not picture perfect. They were all cobblestoned, with metal lamps sticking out from pastel walls. Dark green shutters flung open, drying clothes hanging from the slanted panels. When the city began to truly awake (about 2PM) we waited in line with the locals for gelato at Emilia. We continued to wander and investigated the Casa della Musica. My camera died halfway through the trip, and I was unable to capture the rest of the day. So, I would recommend visiting this small, picturesque city.
I went to Parma on Sunday, and since then I’ve started classes at Università di Bologna. They are still very intimidating because I am unsure how much I need to do outside of class. Italian classes don’t have homework, only a final exam, so it’s difficult to gauge when and what I should be reading. Fortunately I have American friends in both my classes to help me. My classes are only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so last night I went out with my Italian roommates and some of their friends. They led me to a small, relaxed bar where I assumed we were going to sit and have a calm drink. Instead, we walked to the back of the bar, down a stairway, to a soundproofed door. I had images of a crazy, European techno-pop concert flash through my imagination, and then I walked in… to the 1950s. There was a live 1950s cover band in bright blue suits and bow ties playing oldies for a jumping and jiving college crowd. It was spectacular.
My American friends convinced me to buy tickets to Venice for Carnival on Saturday, so wish me luck! It promises to be a crazy, colorful time—much like the rest of my days here.