Torrechiara - Italy


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Feb 21, 2006
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Parma- Italy
Torrechiara Castles of Parma
Between the Po river and the Apennine mountains south of Parma and Piacenza lie a series of wonderfully preserved castles that demand the traveler's attention. This is also the main production area for Parma hams (almost all are produced here) as well as Parmigiano cheese and Colli di Parma wines. You can't go wrong on a visit here.
The best preserved castle is called Torrechiara. The castle is almost unchanged since the 15th century, when it was built by Pier Maria Rossi upon the ruins of a fortress house 80 meters above the valley floor. The entry charge of 3 Euros makes it a bargain. Every room awash in "grotesque" frescoes, my favorite being those in the Salon degli Acrobati (Acrobat's Room), where naked acrobats perform impossible feats of fantasy atop lions. In other rooms, fantasy scenes combining animals, plants and people are strung out over every surface. A note in one of the rooms remarks that the term "grotesque" derives from "grotto-esque", referring to the works found in ancient grottoes such as those attributed to Titus and Traianus Thormae.
After your visit, you may wish for a little refreshment. There is an excellent bar/restaurant in the borgo just outside the castle walls called Taverna del Castello. On a recent visit we had an excellent meal here starting with the local Culatello (a cured ham like prosciutto crudo, but consisting of just the center muscle of the ham) followed by a delightful baby chicken dish and a stuffed rabbit with plums and pancetta. The Taverna has rooms to rent, many with an excellent view of the countryside below, at rates of 95 Euros for a double, 65 Euros for a single (2004 prices). There is also a bar featuring the regional wines of the hills of Parma.




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