We took a train to Parma from Milan, and I think it was just over an hour ride. I say think because I fell asleep on the train, so for me it was really quick. But we got to our hotel in the evening on Thursday, and we were beat. We ordered room service and went to bed.
The next day was our tour of the Parmesan cheese factory! Soren has always been a big cheese lover, so we thought we'd enjoy seeing how this cheese is made. You can also take tours to see how they make Parma ham, balsamic vinegar, and wine, but we just stuck to the two-hour cheese tour.
We visited a small family-owned farm, and there are only two men there who make the cheese, the owner and his helper. They make five or six rounds of cheese a day, and it is a very physically demanding job! They were both really SOLID men.
The new cheese has to sit in a salt water bath for a month before going into storage here. And here it sits for 12 months before the council that governs Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) comes to give each quality-inspected cheese a stamp of approval.
You can see the stamp of approval on the cheese above as well as the date and the factory/farm number that we visited. The crazy thing is that those stamps are stamped right into the cheese. That outer shell is called the crust, and it's just like bread crust; it's not made of anything but cheese. You can buy the crust (we did), and our guide says it's great on the barbecue. I'm not sure about that though. It tastes like crusty cheese mixed with the smell of the room that the cheese is stored in—so not our favorite. BUT we did get to try and buy the good stuff at the end of the tour, and it was great! We tried cheese that had been aged 12 months, 24 months, and 36 months. The cheese that had aged the longest was the strongest. They had us try dipping it in balsamic vinegar, honey, and balsamic pear. And they were all delicious!
After the tour, we walked around downtown Parma before catching our next train. It was such a beautiful city! The buildings were so many different colors, but somehow they all created the most beautiful palette instead of competing with each other. I would really love to know how the Italians pick the colors of their homes and buildings because there wasn't a bad color—ever. It was incredible.
We walked around for a good hour, and every street was different and beautiful. The locals didn't seem to like us taking pictures of their buildings, but every doorway was so unique. I couldn't resist!
We caught our train out of Parma on Friday afternoon and headed to our final destination—Venice! Stay tuned this week for all of the beauty of that amazing city to hit the blog in a later post!
So to wrap up Parma, here are a few of my thoughts and tips about the city. Had we stayed longer, I'm sure we would have had even more wonderful things to say. However, I do think one day was enough for a figurative and literal taste of Parma. ;)
- Take a tour to visit a farm/factory. Take your pick, but the cheese one is our recommendation! We loved our tour and our guide!
- Your tour will most likely pick you up at your hotel. We booked ours with Viator, and it was really easy. I think we paid about $75 each for our tour.
- Walk around the city streets. Don't miss out on all of the gorgeous and quaint buildings and architecture.
- Ask your hotel desk for food recommendations. Our hotel had great recommendations, which made it easy to choose a restaurant.