A Weekend In Parma + Mercanteinfiera
Parma is one of those cities that has never really been on my radar to visit. When I think of Parma I immediately think of Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano (that’s parmesan cheese for us Brits). So when Mercanteinfiera kindly invited me for a weekend in Parma I was keen to find out, is there more to this gastronomic city than just food?
Piazza Duomo, Parma, Italy
Our first stop before exploring the city of Parma was Mercanteinfiera. This is Europe’s oldest International Fair dedicated to antiques, modernism and vintage collectables, The largest event of its kind in Italy, attracting over 51,000 antique and design lovers like myself. This enormous, eclectic market with over 1,000 international exhibitors is a unique treasure trove selling everything from antiques and retro-modern furniture, to vintage jewellery and fashion pieces… You could say I got a little excited while exploring all of this, like a child in a candy store!
Haven of vintage goods at Mercanteinfiera. Image Credit Giulio Cassanelli Vintage Louis Vuitton – Yes please! Vintage tea cups & saucers
Beautiful chair upholstered in vintage Fornasetti fabric.
A contagious passion was also shown for the Mercanteinfiera vintage cars, which this year had almost double the exhibition area available to them. Lets be honest I’m not one that is really into cars but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much I really enjoyed this part of the exhibition. See miracles do happen and now I’m dreaming of setting off with a vintage Mercedes SL…
How beautiful is this ride? Vintage Mercedes SL, oh and it’s in white… A selection of vintage cars at Mercanteinfiera
There’s no hiding that in Parma it really is about enjoying good food and the locals do take this quite seriously. Eating is a constant ritual for the Italians that shouldn’t be frowned upon and most tourists have no problems in embracing this important part of their culture.
Only two days in Parma but we still managed to indulge in more food, prosecco and wine than one could possibly imagine. It’s not just about the parma ham and parmesan cheese but so much more. I’m still dreaming of the pumpkin ravioli, one of their many specialities. I would also highly recommend Torta fritta, small round pieces of lightly fried dough balls that are heavenly when eaten with onions and soft cheese. If you’re into cured meats, then one must try Culatello di Zibello – you can thank me later 🙂
Ristorante Ai Due Platani
When it comes to food Parma is not for the faint hearted – expect very big portions and lots of courses! Two restaurants that we tried and that I truly recommend are: Ai Due Platani and Degusteria Romani.
Selection of yummy cheeses at the Degusteria Romani
Parma truly is a historical and cultural haven. For a city of such small dimensions it really does have a lot to offer. We enjoyed a lovely city tour by tourist guide Sabrina Sirte and were pleasantly surprised at what a tiny gem Parma really is.
Fun fact, Parma is the native country of leading Italian opera composer of the 19th century, Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi. Noted for operas such as La traviata, Aida, Otello and so many more. It just happened to to be his birthday on that weekend and you could really feel the city buzzing because of this. We were extremely lucky to step inside the Opera House known as Teatro Regio di Parma. A beautiful spectacle it is, even though it is not so grand in size, the interiors truly are mind blowing. It is considered by opera buffs to be one of the true homes of the great Italian tradition, and the well-informed audience is famous for giving voice to its approval or disapproval. Well, Italians are known to be very vocal 😉
Ceiling detail Inside the Opera House, Parma.
Another gem to visit is Parma Cathedral, an important Italian Romanesque cathedral: the dome, in particular portrays The Assumption of the Virgin, a famous fresco decorated by a highly influential illusionistic & Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio.
Beautiful wooden door details of Parma Cathedral The Assumption of the Virgin, Parma Cathedral
One stop not to be missed and possibly my favourite is The Baptistery of Parma Cathedral. Architecturally, this marks a transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and it is considered to be among the most important Medieval monuments in Europe. I was mesmerised by its painted domed ceiling which is possibly its most important feature. Sixteen rays come out of the center of the ceiling, which each correspond to the arches.
Painted domed ceiling in the Baptistery of Parma Cathedral Piazza Duomo, Parma
Next up was The Teatro Farnese probably one of the most breath-taking sites in all of Parma, this Baroque style ‘wooden’ theatre is truly one of a kind . Built in 1618 by order of Ranuccio I, duke of Parma and Piacenza, and designed by the ferrarese architect, Giovan Battista Aleotti. Doomed from the beginning it sadly encountered many problems. The theatre was almost destroyed during World War II (1944) and was rebuilt and reopened in 1962.
Interiors of the Teatro Farnese – Image via Bologna Magazine
Expect lots of cute deli’s to wet your appetite. You’ve come to the right place for a spot of food shopping and at such great prices. A lovely place to go shopping in Parma is on the main street called ‘Strada Luigi Carlo Farini’. You’ll also find plenty of cafes/ restaurants along the way and I did spot a few small interesting clothes shops.
All in all we really did manage to see a lot in such little time and it left me wanting more. I may be a tad biased having italian parents, but I so get their passion and their way of life. It really is about enjoying the simple things and making the most of it and that’s exactly what they do.
It’s the perfect weekend destination with plenty to do and see. Parma may be small but it is a big force to be reckoned with.