A Month in Bologna

Sunday, July 3, 2011 5:14 AM

Faenza and Parma

In our last hectic week in Italy, we made a couple of side trips to Faenza and Parma. Faenza is known for its ceramics industry, which dates back centuries, so this was a must see for Ronnie. One of their products became better known in the world with the French name, faience. There is a subset of the readers of this blog that worked with Ronnie at  International Villa, the Denver based china and silverware store that recently closed and made them all unemployed and apparently almost unemployable, that will certainly recognize the name. The ceramics museum was very close to the train station, so we had a chance to tour it while we were still fresh. It only takes a short period of street wandering to make me decidedly not fresh, so this was a good thing. Now, in that long ago time before plastics, ceramics were used for just about everything. Tiles, dishes, bowls, pitchers, small statues, you name it. The manufacture of these things kept a lot of Faenzians … uh, Faenzanese … uh, local people employed for hundreds of years. There were a some things that I never thought of, however, like ink wells. Apparently these were big sellers, since they are well represented in the museum and most were pretty fancy.

The rest of the city is dominated by a couple of very large piazzas, bigger than those in Bologna. It was market day but by the time we reached that part of town, things were just closing up, so we stopped for lunch. The restaurant on our go to list was closed also. This happens a lot here, it seems. However, we located another in the neighborhood which looked to be not very much from the outside, but as we were led to our table, we headed back into it and then down some stairs and after a turn or two through some arches, we were in an ancient cellar with vaulted ceilings. They had done a very good of cleaning up the old skeletons chained to the walls and added some nice touches so things were very comfortable. Mirrors were installed so that you had a good view of whatever or whoever was happening, no matter where you sat.

One of the previous inmates was still there, however. A middle aged plus woman entered, who looked like she had been in a fight at a cosmetics factory, with long blonde hair  more than a little disheveled, but partly covered in a straw hat. The fact that she had dressed in the dark that morning completed the picture. She constantly preened herself in the closest mirror while holding a one sided spirited conversation. Toward the end of our meal, she would laugh hysterically while on her cell phone. It was all definitely creepy. When we left, I think she was finally ready for her closeup.

Parma is famous for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. Who'd a thunk? What is not that well known is the fact that it was voted the best Italian city in which to live. It looks very prosperous with lots of people on the streets. Like Faenza, it is relatively free of graffiti compared to Bologna, which must be the graffiti capital of Italy, if not the world. Everything is well scrubbed in Parma. There are many outdoor cafes and restaurants and small shops to check out. It's just a nice place to stroll around and explore. We found ourselves a trattoria with sidewalk tables and ordered a couple of dishes featuring the local delicacies. Ronnie had a panini with ham and cheese and I had Prosciutto and Melone. We woldn’t mind coming back sometime for a longer stay. 


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