Italian Cooking Vacation: Flavors Of The Real Italian Countryside
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Flavors Of The Real Italian Countryside
Polesine Parmense (Parma)

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About the location: While Polesine Parmense is only 20 miles from the center of Parma, it feels like stepping into a whole new world, where small medieval towns of less than 1,500 inhabitants still thrive around the last Italian medieval castle near the Po River. The gorgeous famous region is also home to peacocks, who stroll freely around the rolling northern Italian countryside, as well as ancient local breeds of farm animals, sprawling vegetable gardens, and orchards full of delicious fruits. History and ancient customs also continue to thrive here, from the traditional farming techniques to the famous Palace aging cellars built in 1320, where cheese—like Parmigiano Reggiano—and wine are still aged and stored. All of these tidbits of history can not only be seen but experienced in the fertile lands of Polesine Parmense.

Your home for the week is a castle originally built nearly 700 years ago, the Antica Corte Pallavicina, which the noble Spigaroli family once lived and then bought back in 1990. Over the past 20-odd years, the family has returned the castle, including the frescos and cellar, to all of its splendor through restoration. Previously home to Maria Luigia the Duchess of Parma in 1700 and farmers and craftsmen in the 19th century, today the relais features six elegant guest bedrooms as well as a suite that spans two floors in the castle towers, providing a true home away from home. Every room combines modern elegance with classic furniture under 16th-century coffered ceilings. All rooms also feature a working fireplace, air conditioning, and a private bath. (Air conditioning is also in the property's restaurant). From the large windows in your accommodations, relax and enjoy a view of the rolling pastures as well as the expansive Po river.

About the cooking lesson: Your full immersion cooking class will be taught by the legendary Chef Massimo Spigaroli or one of his valid collaborators. While Massimo does not speak English, there is a translator for this class. Considered the King of Parma Hams, Massimo is more than a chef. He is an artisan who ages everything from his famous culatelli—a slowly cured boneless ham unlike any other salumi you’ve ever tasted—to parmigiano-reggiano in the restored 700-year-old cellar below Antica Corte Pallavicina. With more than 40 years of experience, Massimo offers a unique and memorable experience in European food traditions. He not only runs the 2011 Michelin-rated restaurant on the castle grounds, but is also responsible for the biodynamic farming practices.

In the hands-on cooking class, you will learn how to make a variety of Italian pastas based on centuries-old traditions of the Emilia Romagna region. Roll ravioli by hand, and learn how to shape anolini, tagliolini, tagliatelle, stringoni, and pasta rasa. A lunch will follow, which includes your pasta creations and a selection of Massimo’s famous cured meats.

Flavors Of The Real Italian Countryside Itinerary

Day 1

  • Arrival on own in the province of Parma.
  • Check-in at Antica Corte Pallavicina, the only castle in Italy that survived the floods of the great Po river.
  • Welcome dinner at the famous one-star Michelin restaurant (drinks not included).
  • Overnight.

Day 2

  • Breakfast.
  • Visit the farm and discover the impressive medieval aging cellars where the greatest Italian ham “Culatello di Zibello” rests.
  • Full-immersion cooking class all about the traditional pasta of the region, including famous Italian specialties anolini, ravioli, tagliolini, tagliatelle, stringoni, and pasta rasa. Lunch to follow based on your efforts, paired with cured meats produced on the farm.
  • Afternoon on your own for a bike ride, relaxing, or individual visits.
  • Dinner on own.
  • Overnight.

Day 3

  • Breakfast.
  • Depart for the hilly area along the Parma Ham and Colli di Parma wines road, where you will observe the production of parmigiano-reggiano cheese in an authentic cheese dairy.
  • Visit a plant where the worldwide famous prosciutto di parma is produced.
  • Take some spectacular pictures of the medieval village of Torrechiara, which is dominated by its romantic castle.
  • Lunch in a small, charming winery with a wonderful view of the vineyard.
  • Afternoon free, providing time to visit the city center of Parma or ride bicycles around the countryside.
  • Dinner on own.
  • Overnight.

Day 4

  • Breakfast and check-out.