Bikes Bikes Everywhere!!
I love bikes and this town is loaded with them. These are real working bikes. I loved looking at all the ways people had them decked out for their daily errands. No goofy dual suspension monstrosities here.
So take a little time and stroll past the parking areas and get an eyeful of classic bikes.
- Budget Travel
When in Rome (or Parma), do as the Romans do
I must have led a charmed life up to this particular venture to Italy, because in all the other countries I visited, English was either one of the standard languages or, in the case of France, I spoke the ambient tongue. I suppose I expected that many, if not most, of the hoteliers and shop keepers and transport personnel in Italy would speak at least a modicum of English. I didn't invest in a phrase-book (although it turned out my companion had brought one along). What arrogance! I have only myself to blame for the multiple times when language barriers led to absurd or disappointing results. (It is hard to ask for directions when you can't articulate where you want to go -- and can't understand when someone tries to help out.)
Probably no one reading this tip would make such a foolish mistake, but just in case...either learn enough Italian to get by, or keep a phrase-book or English-Italian dictionary close at hand. I promise you'll have a more enjoyable visit.
(And as one VT'er says in a very funny motto which I will badly paraphrase, speaking English slowly and very loudly does NOT make it more comprehensible!)
- Family Travel
Cover charges and tipping
When you are seated at an Italian restaurant, you should anticipate paying "coperto" or a cover charge, assessed on a per person basis. This ranges from something minimal to several euros, presumably depending upon the restaurant although I never analyzed this during our trip. Since the cover charge is intended to compensate the restaurant for the cost of doing business, including the employment of the wait staff, I was told not to apply the American standard of tipping 15% or more of the bill. Rather, the tradition seemed to be to put one's excess change on top of the credit card slip or cash to cover the meal. That sometimes resulted in several euros' "tip" but it would still be a fraction of what I'd pay at home, even if one included the coperto.
- Food and Dining
Never on a Sunday
Not limited to Parma...it seems that Italians take seriously the admonition that one is to keep the sabbath day holy, at least the Italians who are involved in the restaurant trade. We had a very difficult time finding anything other than coffee shop or pizza meals (admittedly, Italian pizza is fabulous). We managed to find an Indian restaurant that was open, but it wasn't what we were anticipating! So think ahead, and get the supplies for a wonderful picnic en plein air, or call ahead before you drive out for that four-star recommendation in Frommer's, and avoid an unpleasant shock.
Never on a Monday
Not just in Parma...many (perhaps most) Italian museums are closed on Mondays. This can be a spirit-killer if you're only in a city or town for a single day and the museums are unavailable, which is why the Spirit moves me to suggest that much of Italy's great art is found in its churches, virtually all of which are open every day of the week (and are generally free, to boot). So find your Caravaggios and della Robbias in the local duomo, and soak in the notion that people have been hallowing with their prayers the place where they are situated for many hundreds of years.
Hanging at Piazza della Pace
I might be wrong but still, got impression that locals do avoid this island of greenery situated in the central part of the town. It was weekend time, beautiful sunny day and yet the square was almost deserted! There was group of youngsters, probably school excursion in visiting Parma, and various ethnic groups of immigrants occuping space close to Palazzo della Pilotta. The locals, as far as I could noticed it, use this square for crossing only.
Altar to Giuseppe Verdi
This monument is part of the mausoleum placed in the square opposite the railwas station, inaugurated in 1920. During the Big War the mausoleum was slightly damaged and therefore it was demolished intentionally. Only the altar could be transported to its current location on Piazza Pilotta.
The author of the bronze parts is Hector Ximenes and portrays Verdi standing out with a thoughtful expression. In the back of the monument, low relieves depict historic events of the Risorgimento conected with the Maestro's work.
Casa della Musica
Palazzo Cusani is Renaissance style building recently completely restored. It was bought by the city community in 1602 in order to became the seat of the high school of medicine. Later on, the palace changed its dedication for several times and finaly in 2002 it become The House of Music. Nowadays it is an international point of reference for musical research and documentation.
Flat ground = lots of bikers
I wish to had my bike with, the city tour could have been more excited due to a fact that city centre of Parma has circled and flatted ground plan. Many citizens, no matter of age, use bikes for inner city transportation, it is one of the first things visitor can noticed when strolling around. However, I havent noticed too many marked bike paths but my observation might be completely wrong.
The night between the 23rd and 24th of June is magic in many cultures and traditions, this applies to Parma too.
What do we do? First of all, we have dinner out of doors, on St. John's Eve, and the tradition dictates that "tortelli d'erbetta" must be in the menu. You can find many kinds of tortelli in Italy, but the filling of the true St. John tortelli is ricotta cheese with minced beet leaves.
This is the part of the tradition that most people like to keep alive. The other ones are now a bit more difficult to keep. For instance, the dew of midsummer night is magic, so if you grow healing herbs in your garden you should pick them at dawn on St. John's day, when the dew is still on their leaves: their healing powers will be much stronger.
Crazy dancing of politicians :-)
At the beginning of 90' Parma became famous in Poland (for a few days) because of... crazy dancing of Polish officials.
In all Polish mass media (TV) you could watch the President and as I remember vice-President of Kielce (city in Poland) dancing in front of University of Parma. They were in official visit and they looked very amused, one of them even was going around with a hat to collect money (Italian Lira that time) from smiling local spectators hehehe - CRAZY city or officials?
Media commented it very bad (with suggestions that they were drunk), what do you think?
Is it local tradition to dance on the street in Parma?
look for a "Tortafritteria"!!!
This horrible neologism describes snack-bars where you can eat "Torta Fritta" (lit. fried cake).
It has nothing to do with cakes... they are pasta flat rhombs fried in lard.
Accompanied by ham, possibly...
300 gr. Flour
20 gr. Butter
1 glass lukewarm milk
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients with enough water to prepare a soft but elastic dough. With a rollpin or a pasta machine make the dough 3 to 4 mm thin. Cut into pieces and fry in a lot of boiling seeds oil.
The lifestyle is so different...
The lifestyle is so different compared to Finland. People go out to eat late in the evening, families with the children and couples together, hand in hand. They are also very elegant when they are out and I sometimes felt, like I am watching a fashion show! AlsoI noticed how even men hugs each others when they see each others and really good friends (male) even kissed each others! Very nice for a stiff Scandinavian like me...!
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