Will and I went to Parma on Saturday, which is a short hour or so train ride from Bologna. Parma is the home of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese. Mei recommended a restaurant in Parma called Forchetta. So we took that one hour train to go to this restaurant and had a 2 hour 4-course lunch. At first there was only one table available, we got there pretty late in the lunch hour. The one table was in the sun and we tried it and couldn’t handle it. So we waited for a table in the shade. And by the end of the meal, the sun had moved far away and we were one of only two tables left in the restaurant. The first course was a plate of affettati, which is prosciuttos and salamis. You eat it with fried pasta, which isn’t really pasta. It’s like a bread puff. They’re rectangular and airy and delicious. The second course was ravioli. And the third was authentic chicken parmesan, except they don’t call it chicken parmesan and they don’t use red sauce. It was more like a chicken cordon bleu, with prosciutto. I think the Americans bastardized the dish and made chicken parm. And then dessert of course was delectable. In a word, our meal was great and totally worth the trip. Good recommendation, Mei.
The Cathedral Duomo in Parma is actually amazing. The front is cool but unassuming. The inside is just gorgeous. I admit I was getting sick of churches, but this one is really pretty. The baptistry though was underwhelming. It is in a separate building that is very tall and octagonal shaped. When you go inside though, there is a dome that is not nearly as high as the tower is, so I have no idea what is up there. The Diocesan museum was also predictably underwhelming. It’s all religious.
The palazzo is big but not a palace anymore. I think it’s a museum now. We didn’t go in. There was some kind of festival they were having called the Verdi-off. It was all dedicated to Verdi. We loitered around outside for a while assuming they’d perform outside where there were some chairs set up. We tried to fit in but evidently were not local among all the well-dressed Italians hugging and kissing each other. It looked like they were having a senior center group and a school group perform but we saw nothing. And then finally looked it up and saw that it was being held inside and we’d have to pay. We even could’ve entered the competition, but we decided against that.
Arturo Toscanini grew up in Parma and his childhood home is a museum now. Will and I and one other couple were the only people in the museum. Admission was free that day for a reason unbeknownst to us. It is a really well done museum. It has a lot of his old manuscripts and clothes and batons and things. There are old posters and his piano and a documentary. The documentary was very interesting. He once came to Bologna to perform at Teatro Comunale. There’s actually a corresponding plaque at Teatro Comunale. But when he exited the theater, he got mugged. If Piazza Verdi was anything then like it is today, I could see that happening. So Toscanini never went back. It sort of even prompted him to leave Italy coming to the United States. Thanks, Bologna.
The train going back to Bologna goes through Modena, so we got off for a quick stop to see the town. Our validated ticket was good for four hours anyways. I still don’t really understand how the validation works or why it’s necessary. The method for checking train tickets is really silly and inefficient.
We checked out the public square and saw the cathedral. It was closed by the time we got there though. Modena has some porticoes too, though not as many as Bologna. And it has a university, so it’s a young town. It’s like smaller, cleaner Bologna and it doesn’t smell like dogs.