From Colmar we travelled on to Switzerland (very green, neat and tidy with time for no more than a passing glance at beautiful lakes and distant snowy mountains) then via the Gotthard Tunnel (horrible, claustrophobic and headache-making) into northern Italy.
We had booked into a hotel outside Parma and, as it was late evening, we checked in, had an evening meal, collapsed on the bed and slept.
Next day dawned warm and sunny so we decided to explore Parma, easily finding a multi-storey car park near the historic centre. I remembered reading ‘La Chartreuse de Parme’ by Stendhal at Univerity and was enchanted to discover that there is still a charterhouse at Parma, believed to be the one which inspired Stendhal’s novel. No time to explore it today, but next time…
Walking in Parma was a delight. The city has an 18th century look with fine buildings and fabulous shops, as you would expect from its proximity to Milano. The frocks were so pretty and the shoes and handbags were ultra stylish and gorgeous. I was hurried on past these by my worried-looking husband (he had seen Prada on a few items) and ushered into an information place where we told the assistant that we only had an hour or so in Parma. She directed us to the 11th century Romanesque Duomo and the Baptistery and after seeing these (fine examples of Renaissance art and architecture) we just wandered in the sun, loving the lively atmosphere, wishing we could be there longer to enjoy all the concerts, operas (Giuseppe Verdi was born just oustide Parma) and theatre performances advertised in this creative, energetic place.
After a coffee in a cobbled square, we ambled back past city gents genially going about their business, groups of excited school children and their harassed teachers, and stylish urban ladies, dressed for lunch and buying delicious things to put in their stylish bags. We were laughing as we walked along and a man in a parked car looked over and laughed with us, as if out of sheer companionship and good humour!
We will definitely be back to see the city properly and explore the county of Parma with its fabulous castles.
Before leaving we found a marvellous food place where dishes to take away were cooked on the premises and the smells and sights were so appetising. After much mulling, we bought gently poached salmon with vegetable dressing, roasted pork with herb stuffing wrapped in prosciutto (the fabled Parma ham), some mini pizzas with anchovy and olive toppings and fresh focacciio, crispy on the outside and light and soft inside. We added some fresh fruit salad and bottles of apple juice, made from sweet mountain apples.
With provender for the next couple of days, we set off again down the A1 towards Umbria.