Generally reckoned to have one of the highest standards of living in Italy, PARMA, 28km along the Via Emilia northwest of Reggio, is about as comfortable a town as you could wish for, distinguished by the measured pace of its streets and the general air of ease and affluence. There’s plenty to keep you occupied here too – you could easily fill a day or two seeing the sights and sampling the delights of the city’s many excellent restaurants. A visit to the opera can be an experience – the audience are considered one of the toughest outside Milan’s La Scala and don’t pull any punches if they consider a singer to be performing badly – and the city’s works of art include the legacy of two great artists, Correggio and Parmigianino.
The countryside around Parma is a strange mixture: some of the major roads follow bleak gorges, skirting the edge of blank rock walls for miles; others look as if they will lead precisely nowhere before emerging into meadows and orchards with rich farmland stretching into the distance. Prime targets are any of the medieval castles strung out across the foothills to the south.