Italy 119 - Parma/ violets, ham and parmesan cheese/a baptistery/a free bus ride to the city

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Europe » Italy » Emilia-Romagna » Parma
September 27th 2017
Published: September 27th 2017
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If you are of a certain age you most certainly will remember the 60’s. Hippies, flowers in your hair, beads and bells around your neck, kaftans and cream coloured cheesecloth shirts and skirts, multi-coloured jackets and the music. The Beach Boys inviting us to join them on Californian beaches. San Francisco seemed to be the in place to be . I never did get there but it is still on the bucket list.

What about another of my favourite 60’s songs? The Mamas and the Papas with Mamma Cass belting out “ Each night before I go to bed my baby – I whisper a prayer for you my baby and the darkest hour is just before dawn”. Well sometimes I say a silent prayer to no-one in particular. Perhaps I ask for things to change. For those things that hurt me will go away. Sometimes I hope for just a better day than today. That tomorrow will actually turn out fine and that nothing will go wrong.

The sun rose over the lake in much the same way as it does most days. We fell into conversation with another neighbour . This time a Scot who told us he had been lucky when his tyre disintegrated on the M8 in Scotland. The tones of the Manic Street Preachers rang out and it took a few seconds to realise that the phone was ringing. It was Mirko – our tyre was in. We were only 45 minutes away from the depot so packed up, paid up and set off.

Sadly Silly Sat Nag renamed because she is the worse sat nav we have ever had sent us on a wild goose chase. We took the wrong road as her tangled web of roads was just a mess and ended up heading the wrong way. Not a problem we can turn round. No we could not as the nearest turn off was 14 km away and the other side of the road was blocked due to a road accident. The traffic back was going nowhere. In the end we had to travel up the lake to come back down again and ended up in the tyre depot at 11.45.

Mirko shook our hands welcomed us and told us that they were closing for lunch in fifteen minutes . Come back at 2pm. Where should we go? He showed us a large car park next door and pointed out the café where we could have lunch. It looked a cross between a greasy spoon and an American diner with a Cadillac on the roof. We expected nothing and were pleasantly surprised. Glenn chose a lunch of insulata caprese – large tomatoes set around the plate, smaller ones in the middle and a dollop of mozzarella cheese in the middle followed by three tiny icecreams set on a slate plate. I chose a cheese platter which was delivered on a wooden plate . “Start at the left “ the lady who served us said. “This is a soft cheese like a Brie” “The next one is a little harder “ “The Third is even harder” I thought it reminded me of our own Double Gloucester. “The last you will eat is like a blue Stilton and there is a pot of caramalised onions and honey plus some walnuts – Enjoy” Enjoy I did and I followed it up with a crème Caramel. Two espressos took us to 1.30.

At 2 we presented ourselves back in front of Mirko – we sat , he offered us coffee and told us he drank seven cups of espresso a day. I pointed to my heart and mimicked pounding. He laughed. The tyre fitted and we were lighter in the pocket . The tyre cost twice as much as back home. At home the balancing and the valves are free. In Italy you pay for them 23 euros for balancing a tyre – what’s that all about? But at least we were on the road again.

Our nights stop Camping La Ca on the lake. Only two plots available – we chose number 3 on a terraced site . Very narrow access , close to the swimming pool which I tried out and near to the café bar. The owner was German – efficient but soulless, he drove a german car, he listened to german music and his wife did the laundry. I needed the washing down but couldn’t bring myself to hand over my underwear to someone else to wash. So the big got bigger and the washing still has not been done. The site was hell to get out of and it took Glenn a lot of manoevering to get Suzy off the pitch. We began to consider why we had never fancied a van conversation which would be smaller and would be easier to drive. They looked too small and the one our neighbour in Wales had was old fashioned. That put us off at the time. Now they seemed a better idea as Glenn was getting fed up trying to get Suzy in and out of tight spots.

We planned to visit Piacenza next and plugged the co-ordinates of yet another sosta into Silly Sat Nag. Perhaps Saturday was not a good day to visit but she took us round the houses and up and down overcrowded streets. In the end we decided that we would give up . This seems to be a holiday of giving up.

We just changed destination and headed for Parma.The city of violets ham and cheese . Now last time we tried this we failed miserably as the sosta was closed and the travellers had taken over the car park. Would we be any luckier today? Well yes we were. We found the sosta easily and it was open. The barrier lifted, the café was full and there was plenty of space for us. We were in Parma the home of Parma violets the sweets of my childhood, Parma ham and parmesan cheese. You can pay for parking by the hour or for 12 hours and 24 , payment is made on exit. The plan was to stay overnight but knowing us the plan will change. It always does. We already knew bus 23 would take us into the city and the bus stop was just outside the sosta. The bus seemed to run past every 15 minutes or so. We walked to the bus stop and waited. There was a ticket machine but it was broken. Ah problem there then. All Italian bus drivers do not issue tickets . You are expected to have purchased a ticket before you enter the bus. The bus came , we tried offering the fare and got a blank look. Free ride to the city then and fingers crossed a ticket inspector did not get on the bus.

We had little idea where to get off the bus. I had it in my head the stop was just 2 minutes away. After 10 minutes we still had not arrived anywhere that looked like the centre. In the end we got off near to a bridge on what looked like a main thoroughfare. We walked up the arcaded street in the direction of what looked like the Duomo. This and the baptistery were the two places we really wanted to see . We didn’t care about much else. We passed the palace which housed the museums and then round the corner was the wedding cake confection of the baptistery. A lovely building , all white and pink marble. The Duomo northern Italian in style similar to duomos in Pisa and Lucca. Romanesque in design it was rather lovely to look at . The sad thing though for us was the inside which no doubt be baroque!!!

We looked around the Duomo and yes it was baroque . We picked up tickets for the baptistery and the diocesan museum. 3 euros for riddoti (that’s reduced to you and me). Entering the baptistery all I can say is wow. It was everything the Duomo was not. It was covered head to foot, floor to ceiling with frescoes. The sky blue with stars and the virgin and child enthroned. Christ in all his majesty. The Bible stories brought to life in colour for an illiterate community . The townsfolk must have been in as much awe and wonder as we were as they saw the frescoes freshly painted. The blue of the sky brighter than they could imagine. The blue of the virgins dress deep and rich. The bible stories telling them how to live their daily lives. How to treat others. Parables making sure they knew right from wrong. Their boring sad and dull daily lives would have been transformed on a Sunday or on a special day when they entered this realm of beauty. They needed no priest to tell them the mysteries of the Old Testament and New. Christ turning water to wine. Christ delivering the sermon on the Mount. Their world must have spinned, tossed and turned as they looked at all this beauty . . We felt humbled looking at all that colour. Architecturally, the baptistery of Parma Cathedral marks a transition between the our beloved Romanesque and Gothic styles and is considered to be among the most important Medieval monuments in Europe and who are we to disagree . Commissioned by the city in 1196 its outside is pink verona marble . Inside sixteen arches, forming alcoves each containing a painted scene. All these are 13th and 14th century frescoes and paintings . The most striking part of the Baptistery, however, is its painted domed ceiling. Sixteen rays come out of the center of the ceiling, which each correspond to the arches.

The diocesan museum was interesting but there was not much there. A few statues of saints taken off the Duomo, roman coins and mosaic floors found when excavations were undertaken in the Duomo. Pots and pottery from an ancient time.

We walked as far as the Fortessa which turned out to be nothing more than a pleasure park. Minds made up – we need to get home to Suzy and make our next move. We had no idea where the bus stop was . We had no idea where to get tickets from. A tabacci but we did not find one. Instead the station was about the same distance from where we thought we would catch our return bus. You know what there is at a station – taxis. It seemed a more viable option to get a taxi home than try to find number 23 bus. The station was easy to find. The taxis were not. We asked a friendly policemen where they were. He took us to a bridge and fly over . Look down he said – go there and round the corner. We found a nice driver who took us home 9 euros – not a bad price – we were not complaining. It gave us chance to pay our 12 euros parking and a chance to move on to Torrichiara a picture perfect castle just down the road that Glenn had wanted to visit for years.


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