The grate escape; If you love great cheese, you'll love the northern Italian city of Parma - andwhen you've had your fill, there's plenty of music and art to feast on too.
It's no surprise that the Italian city where Parma ham and Parmesan cheese originated is a foodie's paradise.
Last year, Unesco named Parma a Creative City for Gastronomy - and rightly so.
But there's plenty more to offer visitors apart from food.
Parma is famous for culture - the composer Giuseppi Verdi was born in nearby Busseto.
And the city's Teatro Reggio is considered to be one of the true homes of opera.
We had 48 hours to get a taste of Parma. After checking into the centrally located Grand Hotel de la Ville, we took a short walk over to Borgo 20.
This quaint little bistro - a favourite with locals - is tucked away in a side street, far from the tourist crowds.
It seats only 12 and serves high quality locally sourced seasonal food. The dishes are re-inventions of classics, with plenty of modern twists.
The presentation is like a work of art - the aged Parma ham was served over a wire construction as if it were hung out to dry.
On a guided walking tour of Parma's historical centre, we started at the duomo, Parma's stunning main cathedral.
The construction began in 1059 and was completed in 1106.
Next up was the Farnese Theatre, which is made entirely from wood. It is a Parma landmark that must be seen to be believed. It was built in 1618, almost completely destroyed in World War II and recently put back together.
Our tour had to include the Teatro Reggio. The opera house has played host to Verdi and in October there is a festival dedicated to the composer.
After a day of sightseeing, we headed to the Michelin-starred Al Tramezzo for dinner, where chef Alberto Rossetti whipped up a culinary dream that was unforgettable.
On our final day, we walked around the city, which is only open to local traffic, and headed for the food shops.
Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and porcini of the highest quality are abundant in the quaintest little shops.
One of the most popular is La Prosciutteria at No9, with shelves that are heavily laden with stock and prices that are incredibly reasonable.
More DOP (Demoninazione di Origine Protetta - Protected by the Designation of Origin) products are produced in Parma than anywhere else in the world.
This certification is given to products that are locally grown using traditional methods and locally packaged.
Italian specialities get the DOP recognition only by following a very strict set of guidelines.
Our quick dash to the shops was over before we managed to make a heavy dent in our cash.
After that, we headed to the CSAC, a museum and art gallery located in the renovated Abbey of Valserena. The gallery houses the widest visual and design cultural heritage of 20th century Italy.
It was founded in 1968 by Professor Arturo Carlo Quintavalle and is a research centre for the University of Parma. You could spend an entire day wandering around the vast grounds and the gallery.
The last visit of our trip was to check out the production of Parma ham at the Culatello di Zibello, located in the heart of the Po Valley, also known as the Italian Food Valley.
The food store and restaurant was founded by the Bergonzi family in 1780 and they are in control of it to the present day.
The family have engaged the tradition of offering hospitality, while sharing their love for good food for centuries. Alongside the restaurant is the small family laboratory where they produce the ham.
The tour was fascinating and learning about the lengthy process of curing the ham was very interesting.
This place is a ham-lover's paradise with many varieties of savoury, smoked hams varying in smokiness, age and colour. Prosciutto di Parma is the lovely dry-cured ham that comes from the pigs fed on whey.
The restaurant at the production centre is Al Vedel and chef Matteo Bersellini gave us a very warm welcome.
His idea of a small lunch before we departed was a four-course meal.
Matteo used everything at his disposable, from hams to delicious pastas cooked with fabulous local black truffles.
It was a fabulous end to a break crammed with culinary delights.
Travel info | More info: parmalimentare. net | Double rooms at Grand Hotel de la Ville start at PS135 (grand hotelde laville.com).
| EasyJet fly from Glasgow direct to Milan from PS170, fast train from Milan to Parma from 9 euros at thetrainlineeurope.com.
HAM-AZING Delicious local produce
TRUFFLE LOVE Raj with chef Matteo
SCENIC CITY The Piazza Garibaldi in the middle of Parma
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Aug 14, 2016|
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