South of Parma

South of Parma

The landscape around Parma is a strange mélange: some roads lead through gloomy gullies in the shadow of a vertical rock wall; others seem to go nowhere, emerge among the open meadows and orchards, and fertile farmland stretches to the horizon.

The famous Parma ham (Langhirano ham, eaten with butter only) comes from the foothills around LANGHIRANO, which has a bus connection and Parma. Tourist brochures inform, that the ham crumbles here so excellently due to the unique mixture of clean mountain air and the sea breeze blowing the Ligurian Apennines. The city itself is a set of stainless steel warehouses, and there's nothing to do here, I guess buy some meat, which will be enough for the whole vacation. However, the surrounding landscape, especially around Calestano, is gorgeous.

A more interesting destination are medieval castles scattered at the foot of the mountains.

IN TORRECHIARA, which also has bus connections to Parma, there is a 15th century castle with great views of the surrounding area. W Camera d’Oro (summer Tue-Sat. 9.00-13.00 i 15.00-18.30; in winter, Tue-Sat. 9.00-13.00 i 14.00-16.00) are frescoes by Bembo brush.

Not counting the railroads, the easiest way to travel the mountains is the A15 motorway, which cuts through the massif through tunnels and offers fleeting views of lush valleys, orchards and vines. Local women risk their lives and health, climbing over the railings and trading mushrooms on the hard shoulder: they attach plastic bags to the trees, which behave like crazy controllable balloons in the wind, which signals the presence of street vendors from afar. Nevertheless, many drivers only notice them at the last moment and brake with a screeching noise, to watch, what they sell.

The slower N62 allows access to the mountain craters: these routes attract tourists today, but during the last war they had a completely different function, when adults and children wandered this way from the coast with sacks of salt, to get food for them. Writer Erie Newby, after escaping from a prisoner of war camp, hid in one of the local villages; his book Love and War in the Apennines, describing these events, probably best reflects the beauty of the region and the incredible views stretching from here across the whole of Italy.

CORNIGLIO, which you can get by bus from Parma, is a ski and tourist center, and you can also stay in most of the nearby villages - in Bosco di Comiglio, 10 km away, jest hotel Ghirardini (0521/88923). Buses cross the sharp bends of the roads leading to Monchio (11 km), Trefiumi (16 km) i Prato Brooch (23 km od Corniglio), located on the lower slopes of Monte Malpasso, sparkling with lakes and ponds.

The bus from Corniglio takes you to approx 14 kilometers of LAGDEI, from where the path to Lago Santo leads - 45-minute walk; sometimes there is also a chairlift to the lake. Mountain huts, where to spend the night, they are in Lagdei (0521/88936), and near the top of Monte Orsaro is Rifugio Mariotti (0521/282344). If you are interested in more difficult routes, take the bus from Parma (runs 3-4 daily) of RIGOSO, and from here you have to come 5 kilometers to the GEA trail.

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