Websites to check out are the Parma tourism site, which is also in English: just scroll to the bottom of the home page, and click on the tiny Union Jack on the right hand corner. There is also a site for the spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme. If you do get onto their website, you'll get a flavour of how Italians speak English - it's an embarrassingly bad translation!
The are many stunning castles in the area. Click on the links to view images of the closest ones listed below:
The splendid Romanesque cathedral (12th C) is its pride and joy. It is architecturally beautiful and is also renowned for its friezes by a famous medieval sculptor Antelami. The cathedral is dedicated to the town's patron saint, St. Donnino, who was martyred by the Romans in 293. His head was cut off, and legend has it that he picked it up, put it under his arm and went for a walk. The cathedral is built on the spot where he finally collapsed.
The other building you should see is the town hall (14th century). It is open to the public only on Saturday mornings. There are also a few streets leading to the cathedral, which were not destroyed during WWII, and have more “character” than the rest of the town.
Fidenza is also on the “Via Francigena” the Pilgrim's Way - the route that pilgrims took when travelling from Canterbury to Rome. The statue of St Simon on the Cathedral facade points the way to Rome.
Other things to do:
Visit the Saturday morning market (7 AM to 1 PM). Piazza Battisti. Go straight down via Gramsci till you get to the gardens on your right, near the main junction to Salso. You will see the market on your right. Good place to buy Parmesan cheese and dried porcini mushrooms. Also good place to soak up loads of “couleur locale”
Have continental breakfast and/or afternoon tea at Santi, a “pasticceria” in via Berenini, just off Piazza Garibaldi.
PARMA is considered to have the highest standard of living in Italy. It is the home of the famous Parmigiano, the cheese of Italy and the Prosciutto (Parma ham). And if you want to try something special, ask for the “Culatello”, rarely found outside the region and much more delicious than Parma ham. You must make sure, however, that it comes from Zibello – none other will do! (It does taste different!)
Parma has a highly developed artistic past because of lengthy reigns of two particularly devoted patrons. The Farnese family ruled from 1545 to 1727, promoting and protecting the arts and the humanities. And from 1816 to 1846, Marie Louise (called Maria Luigia by the Italians) of Austria, wife of Napoleon and Duchess of Parma, oversaw an enlightened administration of the city.
Parma has many interesting museums and galleries – check the website.
Parma is also the capital of “Food Valley”, the area in Italy with the highest concentration of companies working in the food sector.
SALSOMAGGIORE was known in Roman times for its salt production. Salt was a precious product, and the Lords in the area built fortresses to protect the salt-works. This is why there are so many castles/fortresses to be found in its vicinity.
It was only at the beginning of the 19th century, however, that the therapeutic properties of the salty spa water, from which salt traditionally had been extracted, were discovered. This led to Salsomaggiore Terme becoming one of the major Italian spa towns.
Things to do:
Go for a swim in the 25m indoor spa-water swimming pool of the Porro Hotel.
Turn up at one of the spa treatment centres (the Berzieri is the most spectacular) for a trial daily treatment “pass”.
Visit the Terme Berzieri, an amazing 19th century building with a unique style of architecture.
All restaurants close one day in the week – each one a different day. I recommend you call to make sure they are open, before turning up.
One of the best in the area is Le Querce on the road between Fidenza and Salso. Approximately 5 km from Fidenza, you'll see a long white vertical sign on your right, “Le Querce Ristorante” turn right, up the hill. Need to book well in advance! Tel +39 0524 572 484.
I would also recommend the “Taverna al Castello” in the medieval castle of Vigoleno , (pictured right) www.vigolenoitaly.com (English) 20 mins by car from Fidenza and Salso, in the Province of Piacenza. Tel 0523 895 146
Soragna (gorgeous castle, Rocca di Soragna, well worth a visit)
Fontanellato (lovely castle with moat in the middle of this small town – worth a visit)
Castello di Tabiano
For Parmesan cheese, dried porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, culatello and other salumi (charcuterie).
in via Berenini small delicatessen opposite new Bingo Hall (shock horror! )
Amoretti - delicatessen (don't have addresses – ask hotel)
Tosi – for cakes, etc
The are many stunning castles in the area. Some of my favourites are: