Food Tours in Parma, Italy
If you’re familiar with Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, you know how important the Italian city of Parma is in the culinary landscape. Just north of the Apennine Mountains, the city’s home province — Emilia-Romagna — is famous as Italy’s “bread basket,” and Parma is its capital. The city’s unassailable reputation among gourmands insists that a foodie tour of Parma is a necessary stop on any food-centric tour of Italy.
Cooking School Vacations
Overnight-stay cooking schools abound in and around Parma. In general, you may expect four-star luxury from these — and you may expect to pay for it. One tour operator, Cooking Vacations, offers three Parma-based cooking holidays: a four-day, an eight-day and a one-day itinerary. Guests stay on the “campus” of a posh four-star villa. Classes are held in a Michelin-starred kitchen, overseen by a local celebrity chef, and make use of the extensive list of organic produce grown in the kitchen garden. The estate’s cows, geese, pigeons, ducks, rabbits and chickens also make their way into the kitchen, as well as the famous local ham. Depending on the duration of the holiday, students learn to make pasta by hand, conserve seasonal fruits, preserve vegetables and create traditional liqueurs, among other projects. Another operator, The International Kitchen, offers holidays in the same kitchen with the same teacher.
Single-day tours offer a budget-friendly option, allowing shoestring gourmands to seek out the savings of less-than-four-star overnight digs. Food n Walk Tours, a local company that operates only in Parma, offers a range of single-day tours of the local producers’ kitchens and visit to local artisans. The tour operators create bespoke tours, customized to tastes and budget, that are focused on Parmesan wine, cheese, ham and balsamic vinegar producers. Another operator, Parmagalosa Food Tours, staffs their winery tours — as well as peeks into the crafting rooms of Parmesan cheese — with multilingual guides who are specialists in the region’s production techniques.
Free Cheese Tours
The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium — the governing body that oversees cheese production in the region — operates free two-hour tours of dairies within their network. Visitors are welcomed into these Parmigiano-Reggiano-specific dairies to watch the “cheese masters” at work, with docents on hand to explain the ancient milk-processing techniques. Tastings are included.
If you have a car — and don’t, of course, intend to taste wine during the course of the driving day — you can enjoy a self-guided food tour of the Parma area. The place to concentrate your efforts is the area north of Parma called “the Bassa,” the plains region around the Po River. The whole area, which includes the foodie-famous smaller towns of Busseto and Zibello, teems with producers and places to sample the local fare. Pick up some culatello (a variety of prosciutto), vinegar, fresh bread and olive oil and enjoy a fine lunch under the roadside trees. To prepare an itinerary, consider such restaurant destinations as the Spigaroli family’s Al Cavallino Bianco, the Trattoria La Buca and the Hostaria da Ivan.
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