Sunday, July 24, 2011

Parma and Modena

My wife wanted to see a lot more Italy this trip so when we set off from the Cinque Terre I made a plan to drive across the top of Italy through the Po Valley. The Po is one of then largest rivers in Italy, home to vast fields of grain and cronies and rice, Italy's breadbasket. It's climate is hot and sticky in summer and cold and damp and foggy in winter.

Parma is home to ham and cheese and frankly not much else. We stopped because one has to see for oneself and we found the main drag, walked it, looked in shop windows and admired the angry mass of no parking signs scattered everywhere, Key West style:

"Park anywhere on this street even with a handicapped sticker and you are fucked" but some wag added a little something to the tow away picture which made me smile.

Why not join the shared bicycle program if you haven't a bike of your own or are afraid of getting it stolen?

Well, that's Parma done. On our way to Modena, home of Balsamic vinegar we saw a dust spout in a parking lot:

I wondered if it was god telling us we had spent too little time in e City of Cheese, but when we parked the three hundred horsepower car in the lot outside the pedestrian zone and we started walking we saw his and all memory of dull Pama was forgotten.

The sun was out and Modena was glowing in orange and yellow like the sunflower capital of the Po Valley.

The arcades, more famous in Bologna, were in evidence here too, to provide shade in summer and protection from heavy cold winter rains.

We liked Modena real well as we wandered around. Madison Avenue is a miles away from here thank heavens, as nowhere did we see signs promoting this quiet city as the Balsamic Vinegar Capital of the world.

And we lost our souls when my wife the determined shopper spotted the covered market. Built in 1931 it was to replace the unsanitary medieval covered market. Mussolini did like his public works.

WalMart eat your heart out. They like their food fresh and local around here.

We inspected the fish as I never ate fish as a kid and I have no idea what fish names are in Italian (I don't know sailing terms either as I only started sailing in Santa Cruz). The lady asked of we wanted anything and when I said just looking she said typical I always draw the tourists which rather put me off taking hero tire or that of the dead octopus (pollipo) squished in the corner rathe dramatically.

But the cheeses I could not resist. Lucky my wife could because I'd have bought the lot.

This is my second favorite childhood dessert, fresh ricotta, sheep's milk curds pressed into a common or garden plastic basket to give it th distinctive ribbing apearance and eaten with heaps of sugar.

And then it was time for one more meal, and my wife came up with a doozy from Lonely Planet which she had previously downloaded to her Kindle. Trattoria Aldina is hidden away upstairs across from the covered market, we found the front door of the palazzo and tip toed in.

It was like being a member of a secret eating club and as the minutes passed the place filled and our quiet corner was suddenly surrounded by lunch time gourmets.

We tried as usual to taste the local stuff and Aldina doesn't have menus, just quick fire recitals and as my wife put it this didn't seem to be the place to split dishes and pick courses so we with the flow and it was one delicious ample flow. First local fizzy red wine, prosecco.

Then two past dishes, meat ravioli and local pasta, curled up around prosciutto and covered in a cream sauce.

Then roast veal and pork on one plate and roast lamb kebabs on the other with roast potatoes.

Then my favorite dessert of all, zuppa inglese, English soup, which is supposed to be the Italian rendition of trifle discovered in 19th century when British sailors, occupying Sicily during the Napoleonic wars introduced the pudding to Sicilian nobility.

Ten the bill, something under forty Euros and we staggered off back into the beauty of Modena.

Whose cathedral was undergoing renovation...

...but who delighted my wife with versions of what she hopes could be her next car.

Fiat paid off Chrysler's government loans six years early (eat your heart out Faux News) and the Italian press is full of the fact Fiat owns sixty percent of Chrysler with Big Plans. Me? I don't lust after the Fiat 500, I'm looking forward to Carmax getting a load of lightly used Alfa Romeos for me to pick over. Fat chance but a government employee can dream can't he?

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