Adventures living as expats.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Milano and Parma, Italy 2015

After getting off the train and getting settled into our hotel, Jeff and I were famished and headed to dinner at a nearby restaurant at around 7:30.  We got a few strange looks as we're seated in the completely empty dining room.  After looking around uncomfortably for a few minutes, the host explained to us that most Italians don't eat dinner until 8:30 or later.  Luckily another naive couple walked in a few minutes later and broke the awkward silence that was hanging over the restaurant as Jeff and I whispered about whether we should leave and come back later or not.   We opted to fill the extra time by ordering a bottle of wine and taking our time deciding on what to eat which worked out perfectly for us.

The next day was our only full day in Milan so we walked all over the city touring museums and the Duomo (cathedral) in city center, drinking espresso, and eating gelato.

The Armory in one of the museums we visited
A mall close the city center with so many luxury brands
The Duomo of Milan
Inside the Duomo
After our short tour of Milan, we rented a car and headed south to Parma - the home of Parma ham and Parmigiano-reggiano.   What a wonderful finale to our trip it was!
A Castle in Parma
Inside the Duomo of Parma
Inside the Baptistery in Parma

Our second day in Parma included a self guided castle journey around the province.  Our first stop was the Fontanellato Castle with a deep moat surrounding it.  We did see some bottom feeder type fish but unfortunately no alligators or man eating piranhas.
Fontanellato Castle
Fontanellato Castle
Next we headed to the picturesque Torrechiara Castle which was surrounded by beautiful countryside and had beautiful paintings on the inside of most of the rooms.
Torrechiara Castle
Torrechiara Castle
Torrechiara Castle
Our final stop for the day was Bardi Castle, which was an important military fortress that looked pretty impossible to defeat.  There were enormous walls complete with arrow slits and holes for dumping hot tar or rocks out of.  There were cellars set up to store large amounts of food in case of a siege.  There was even a torture rooms with super creepy apparatuses that made us both feel pretty queasy.  
Bardi Castle
View from on the of the towers
Torture table in the dungeon
This view was made for selfies.
Our final day was filled with a food tour around Parma to see Parmegiano-reggiano production, Parma ham curing, and traditional balsamic vinegar processing - all among some of Jeff's favorite foods.
Making the cheese
These salt baths help to cure the Parmigiano-reggiano so that it can be aged
The cheese vault
Parma ham aging refrigerator
More Parma ham
The traditional balsamic vinegar has to be aged in these barrels for at least 12 years.  
12, 20, and 25 year balsamic vinegar
We had such a fantastic time exploring a little of Paris and Italy.  One tradition that we're working on taking home with us is how Italians eat dinner - lots of conversation, plenty of wine, and no time limit.  This seems to us like a huge improvement over the quick dinners we've gotten into the habit of having lately.

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