The region is home to Prosciutto di Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, as well as one of Italy’s finest food markets and a series of sensational, surprisingly affordable restaurants bound to send any food-lover into a swoon.
Found in the small village of Colorno, a 20-minute drive north of central Parma in the Po Valley, Al Vèdel is famous for its culatello, known as ‘king of prosciutto’ by ham connoisseurs. The chef-stroke-ham-producer, Enrico Bergonzi, makes his own and diners can taste the finest culatello, aged between 16, 26 and 38 months. There is an underground cellar, too, where 7,000 culatelli hang, waiting to be devoured by hungry visitors.
Don’t miss the divine risotto at this unassuming little spot, in the heart of the city. It’s whipped with parmesan cheese and topped off with crispy cured speck. The pizzas are made from dough that is left to rise for three days. You can sit inside or out, and it’s always buzzy.
Dating from the 1920s, this place has low-key pedigree: wooden panelling; colourful waiters of a mature vintage; handmade pasta galore, and bolliti, especially recommended for committed meat eaters (seven types of boiled meat are served from a cart with a choice of sauces).
Mercado de Piazza Ghiaia
This outdoor market, on the Piazzale della Pace, has been running since the thirteenth century is open from 7 am to 2 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s a shopping/Instagramming delight. The market is always crammed with bric-a-brac, balsamic vinegar, fresh pasta, and locals. Trust them; they know their food.
Cheese lovers take note. This parmigiano reggiano factory has been running since its inception by Benedictine monks in the 13th century. Take a tour to see the cheese being produced – it is still handmade – before being submerged in salty water, using salt from west Sicily, to make it go characteristically hard. The wheels of cheese are then matured for three years before it’s sold.