No, We Didn’t Try the Cheese

Not all things come to pass as we expect them.
~Julius Bailey

I can’t believe two things: Number one is that we’ve been in Italy a week already. Number two, which is worse, is that we’ll be home by this time next week. I just do not know where time goes.

We’ve been busy, though. It’s been very hot in northern Italy, and the first three days, we ended up exhausted after visiting three cities. It’s been 10 years since we were in Parma, so we thought we’d check it out again since I have a group interested in going there in September. Imola, a small town near Bologna, was completely new to us. Venice is Venice, of course, but I wanted to try to see it without a million tourists there.

Parma

Cappuccino and latte (L-R)

It’s interesting what you remember about your first time being in a place. Mike and I remembered Parma as a charming town with a pretty square where we had dinner our first night in Italy in 2010. We often laugh about our first venture into a bar where he ordered a cappuccino and I ordered a latte thinking I would get something similar to Starbucks. Instead, he got a delicious drink, and I got a mug of warm milk. You might note that we put a little of the chocolate syrup from Mike’s cap in my mug to try to make it a little more palatable. It didn’t work.

After the coffee fiasco, we headed to dinner (above) at a quaint place on that pretty square. I wrote that the caprese salad was great and that Mike was adventurous and tried squid and potatoes. (Ugh). My risotto was “a green, gloppy mess,” according to my notes. Most notably, we’d asked for a lot of ice and got two whole cubes, which we thought hilarious.

Piazza Garibaldi

On this trip, we found that the Parma River looks much the same as it did in 2010. More a stream than a river (their description, actually), la Parma divides the city in two. We walked along it until we got to the National Gallery, and went in search of Piazza Garibaldi, that once-charming square. We found it and were quite sad that it was not as we remembered it. The cafe is gone, and a lot of the flowers and such that we remembered no longer adorn it. We decided not to have lunch there; one has to preserve the good memory at times.

We did visit the duomo (You can see the dome behind the governor’s palace above). La cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta dates to the early 12th century and is of the Italian Gothic architecture.

As you can see from the photos, frescoes cover not only the ceiling but also the walls on both sides of the nave. The frescoes depict scenes from the Old Testament and also tell the story of the life of Christ. Note the pulpit in the right photo. I thought it was a metal sculpture, but it is actually wood and dates to 1613.

Parma’s international fame grew thanks to Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. We did not take tours of the ham, cheese, and vinegar factories, but we did walk through a few stores that sold all three. Since we’re doing carry-on, though, buying anything was out of the question…including the cheese.

Imola

As many times as I’ve been to Bologna, I’ve never been to Imola. Some 30 minutes from Bologna, Imola is famous for the Ferrari Autodrome where they once held the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix. We did not, however, go there. Instead, we went into the ancient Farmacia dell’Ospedale S. Maria della Scaletta (Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scaletta Hospital) and the Biblioteca Comunale (Imola Public Library).

Built in 1776, the old pharmacy has not changed in over 200 years. Its furnishings, cash register, and 457 majolica apothecary jars (manufactured in Imola) are all the originals. If you look closely at the photo of the cash register, you can see that the jars vary in shape and size. The name of the medicine within adorns each jar. The pharmacy still operates as a pharmacy (next door), although it is a modern one as one would expect.

The Biblioteca Comunale exists in what was once the convent of the Franciscan friars of Imola. Dating to the 13th century, the library has move than 450,000 volumes. Over 80,000 are antiques, and of those, 13,000 are very rare antiques. Nicola, the man who showed us around, told me that the most rare are in a vault below ground.

The Biblioteca Comunale’s antique books

There is still evidence of the building’s past life as a convent in the frescoes and books. There are several religious frescoes, and most of the books in the antique collection have much to do with the teachings of the time. Of course, religion played a part in every subject in the early centuries.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about our time in Venezia. It’s a bit of a story in itself.

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