At the beginning of the month we spent an entire weekend with the family of my daughter boyfriend, in town for a few days. On saturday we had lunch in a very good restaurant, in the hills near the city, where we tasted the real parmeasan cuisine….
After lunch, enjoying the very good weather, we had a walk towards the near Castle of Felino.
Built by Marquis Luppone in 890, this square shaped castle encircled by a deep moat and stately bastions rises on a steep ground in the valley between the torrents Parma and Baganza. Through the centuries the manor became, among intrigues and wars of succession, the only unchallenged fortress of the area and powerful families such as Rossi, Sforza, Pallavicino, Farnese, Lampugnani left their marks on it.
The building was enlarged and modified up to 1483, when Ludovico the Moor trickily won the manor to the powerful Pier Maria Rossi, the lord of over 40 strongholds all over Parma territory. The Rossi had been ruling Felino since the 14th century, giving the castle its greatest splendour. Since the end of their reign, transformations took place especially inside, as the role of the manor turned from a defensive into an aristocratic and entertainment residence. The castle has however kept its quadrangular layout, the four corner donjons and a watchtower characterized by a double row of crenels and deep grooves on the facade.
Nowadays, after two centuries of negligence and following restoration works, the castle has returned to its ancient beauty and has become the suggestive scenery to celebrate parties, cerimonies, exhibitions, conventions and gala dinners. Facilities include a bar and a restaurant, halls available for meetings, banquets and gala dinners.
The courtyard of honour is accessed via a bridge over a large moat. The bridge is now fixed; however, until the 19th century, it was used as drawbridge, as the castle‘s last line of defence in an attack. The great dark bronze door opens up to reveal a white, light filled courtyard surmounted by the porticoes and walkways which have replaced the ancient openings to the castle battlements.
A large foyer featuring a ramp section which once served to drag canons to the top of the battlemented tower gives access to the two Vescovi rooms. Both rooms look out onto the forest on one side and the magnificent courtyard on the other.
The Sforza room is called after the family who shaped the destiny of this manor house for fifty years. In 1448 Alessandro Sforza stayed in the castle and set off from it to take on il Piccinino, Parma army captain, in the battle of Collecchio. Its large windows open out onto the natural world of the chestnut forests encircling the castle and flood the room with natural light.
In the basement the kitchens of the castle were lodged. Now these spaces house the “Saleme of Felino Museum”
(below: mom checking the oven….)
Dedicated to the most famous salame in Italy, this is one of the three food museums in the province of Parma.
Divided into two sections, it displays the tools of pork butchers, showing how this delicious uncooked meat is preserved by curing, airdried and seasoned.
Salame Felino: According to the tradition, the salami must be cut in a diagonal way of 60°, to emphasize the grain. The slice has an irregular shape, red or pink-coloured and a round and delicate taste.
Qualities: this salami owes its name to the village on the Parmesan hills where it has been produced for over two centuries. The Felino salami is made only with pig meats, whose cuts come from the lean trimmings of the “coppa”, hams and “spalla”. The perfect mixture of fat meat (75%) and lean (25%), white and pink, is grinded in big pieces, then salt, pepper and nitrate are added.
At the moment of the casing in pork intestines, you put pepper and garlic pounded in a mortar and diluted in dry white wine. At this point the salami is seasoned for at least one month or two in specific places.
During this period it does take its characteristic cylindrical form slightly swollen at one end, and the typical white-grey color. To protect the Felino Salami it has been required the IGP brand, the European acknowledgement of Geographic Indication Protect.
(Below, we all sit down to watch a video explaining how this delicious excellence is made….)
On sunday we met behind the Cathedral, in the city center…..
Near the Monastery with the same name, stands the Church dedicated to St. John the Apostle.
Works for the abbey and church were started in the 10th century over a pre-existing oratory associated with St. Colombanus. In 1477 the whole complex was damaged by a fire. The abbey basilica was rebuilt from around 1490, with the present design by Bernardino Zaccagni dating from 1510. The construction ended around 1519. The design included since the beginning a thoroughly painting decoration of the interior, and a contract had been signed with the young Correggio, who a had already worked in another Benedictine monastery, in the Camera della Badessa of San Paolo. Correggio executed five frescoes groups. The first includes the lunette with St. John and the Eagle (c. 1520), followed by the dome, with the Ascension of Christ and the drum and the four pendentives decoration. The third work was the decoration of the vault and the apse ceiling of the Cappella Maggiore, partially destroyed in 1586 when the choir was prolonged: today the central fragment with the Coronation of the Virgin (now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma) has survived. The fourth intervention was in the choir’s walls, which were totally destroyed during its reconstruction. Finally, Correggio added a painted frieze which runs for the whole internal perimeter. Preparatory drawings show that also the parts executed by his pupils were designed by Correggio, such as the candelabra in the presbytery’s vault and the puttos on the cross-vaults. Around 1524, Correggio also painted two canvasses in the Del Bono Chapel, now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma: the Lamentation for Dead Christ and the Martyrdom of Four Saints. The marble façade of the church was designed by Simone Moschino in Baroque style in 1604, and completed in 1607. The bell tower on the right side, perhaps designed by Giovanni Battista Magnani, was completed in 1613. With a height of 75 meters, it is the tallest in Parma.
The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles covered with cross vaults, and a dome at the crossing. The grooved piers are Renaissance elements of classical inspiration. In the nave is a frieze by Correggio and his workshop (c. 1522-1524). Is a long strip with monochrome paintings (with few red details) on a dark blue background, including also some tondoes with portraits of Benedictine popes, cardinals and monks. The main feature is a series of puttos in actions symbolizing the importance of the Christian mess and sacrifice. The grotesque decorations on the semi-piers and the vault decoration (with candelabra, puttos and symbols of St. John the Evangelist) were also from Correggio’s pupils, in particular Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1520).
Outside, the day was still warm enough to enjoy a walk…..with our noses up….
Mid-october….time for the annual bikers’s lunch, to have a good time all together and to dream about (and to plan) next season trips and meetings……
I invited a couple of collegues/friends and their partners for dinner one saturday night….goat cheese and speck filled zucchini, wrapped with bacon….
ricotta and mushrooms pie…………
mini pizzas and “bocconcini” filled with feta cheese and parma ham….
giant rigatoni with ragù and bèchamel sauce, covered with pecorino…..
a plate of cheeses………….
served with honey, jams…………
The next day was hubby birthday, we had daughter and her bf for lunch……………..
They gave hubby one bottle of “grappa” because they knew he would have appreciated….
A busy month, full of family, love, joy and good food! What’s more to ask?