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Travelling across the Food Valley from Piacenza to Parma

Today we take you to the Emilia Ponente Street, in that stretch of road that, from Piacenza to Parma, has been connecting the cities of the region for centuries.

This is a very particular road because, besides being since the time of the Romans one of the regional arteries, it crosses the so-called "Food Valley", dividing the Lower Po Valley and its fields on one side and on the other side the Apennine valleys that go up to the borders of Tuscany and Liguria. Some argue that crossing the Emilia Street means, first and foremost, travelling among the gastronomic differences of the cities. These culinary differences have their roots in the history and events of the Communes and Lords who have dominated those areas: the "Farnese" gastronomy of Parma and Piacenza, mostly related to the Roman, French and Spanish influences and the "Este" gastronomy of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Today we virtually run this stretch of road in search of some of the best regional products. From time to time we will leave the main path to penetrate into the valleys of the Apennines or dive among the churches and castles of the lower Po Valley, so that the food, the main protagonist of our little trip, is always accompanied by the things that have surrounded it, whether they are landscapes or beautiful works of art. We inform you that the territory we will visit today is still dominated by two great Kings: the pig and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, products that are stored and tasted in different ways depending on the place where we are going to stop. But we are not going to bore you with these ancient local stories and so, here we are in the car to start our journey.

 

From Piacenza to Parma (via Fidenza)

We leave from Piacenza, a town on the border between Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria, crossed by the river Po, city of transit as if it was a seaport in the middle of the Po Valley. It is said that Piacenza is both an austere and severe city, which encloses its jewels behind the doors and walls of its palaces. Piacenza's cuisine reflects the character of the city: it is delicate, less fat, more refined and contains in its flavours influences from Lombardy, Piedmont and Liguria.  Here you can eat "pisarei", small gnocchi with bean sauce, "tortelli with tail" and the famous typical cold cuts: cured pork meat, bacon and salami. Here, on the banks of the river Po small fish called "stricc" and eels are caught, which made the gastronomy of some areas of the Riviera famous. If we move from Piacenza and penetrate into the hills we will find lush vineyards on which, here and there, villages and castles are located. We are in the area of Gutturnio and white Ortrugo, wines that seem to have been created specially to match the cold cuts and cheeses of the surrounding areas. Among the specialties of the place we absolutely suggest the spicy robiola cheese, the traditional bread of Borgonovo Val Tidone called in dialect "chis'ola" and truffles. Would you like to know a curiosity? The small town of Bettola boasts of being the birthplace of Cristoforo Colombo, to who a monument located in the middle of the village was dedicated!

Let's get back to the Emilia Street, the main artery of our trip, and we arrive in a short time in the area of Fidenza, from which we turn in direction of Busseto. Typical town of the Po area, Busseto was the capital of the small state of Pallavicino until 1588, of which preserves important historical and artistic artefacts, as well as being the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Walking under the arcades of Busseto is a real joy for the nose, passing by the shops of the town centre you can smell the fragrance of Culatello cured meat, Parmigiano cheese, Lambrusco wine in addition to "Spongata", the typical Christmas sweet.  Leaving Busseto eastbound, we take the provincial road 11 and enter the Po countryside composed of pastures and meadows: we are in the production area of one of the most famous Italian cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano. On our way we find the village of Roncole, where Giuseppe Verdi was born, lived, and Soragna, small village that hosts the interesting Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano. But Busseto, Soragna and Zibello are famous in the world for another important reason: we are in the triangle of Culatello, refined cured meat that is produced only between October and February, when the lower Po Valley is shrouded in mist and icy cold of these areas.

After some tasting, a lunch and a car ride, we finally arrive in Parma, city with a long and opulent history.  Already known since Roman times, Parma is a city that could be defined a small capital. Its monuments and palaces have nothing to envy to the buildings of Rome or Paris and it often happened that the same Ducal family, represented first by the Farnese family and then by the Bourbon's, welcomed here artists and architects of international fame. The frescoes inside the Cathedral are of extraordinary beauty, as well as the alleys of the historical centre. It is a real pleasure to stay here for a few days! Parma is famous not only for its history, art and the beautiful architecture, but also for the delicacies that gave it the title of "Capital of taste". Here there are the best food-processing companies of the country: the dairies that produce Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma Ham, Culatello and Salame Felino, just to name a few. Parma's cuisine is also rich in particular products, such as the already mentioned cheeses, cured meats, excellent confectionery and walnut liqueur, which seems that here is really great. In the areas around the city we can find real sanctuaries of food such as the Museum of Salame Felino in Felino, the Museum of Ham and Cold Cuts in Langhirano in addition to other lesser-known specialties such as Canusina Bacon, Fiorettino Salami and the typical Zuccotto di Bismantova, a pork sausage flavoured with juniper and to be eaten after cooking it. 

For the moment we stop and stay a few days more in these beautiful lands. We have run the part of the Emilia Street we had set ourselves, and, as you have seen, in less than 70 kilometres we found dozens of delicacies of the Italian gastronomy, as well as a great variety of truly surprising landscape. Here, nestled among the bends of the Po River and the Apennines, among the plain fields and town architectures we have enjoyed one of the richest, tastiest and most beautiful areas of the country.  If you want a tip, try to visit these areas according to itineraries covering more topics and interests. We are sure you won't be disappointed!

Have a nice trip!

 

Author

Walter Manni
Walter Manni

Adventurer and traveler ... loves to ride the waves of the sea, climb the peaks of the mountains... and sailing on the web routes! Tw: @W_yz

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