April 29 — Rest Day: Parma
Out of humility and for a little fun I “buried the lede” in yesterday’s blog post. Burying the lede is a journalistic faux pas in which your hide the most important part of the story, making your readers dig to find it. Today there’s no way to hide the real lede: Ouch. I can barely walk. For details, see the end of yesterday’s post.
When I awoke today and could still barely walk I decided to interpret my misfortune as a message from the Via Francigena: “Cool your jets. Slow down. You’re in Italy, so spend some time looking around.”
That’s my excuse for picking up an ankle brace in Fidenza and hobbling to the train station for the quick ride to the important and interesting nearby town of Parma. I’ve checked into a hotel by the station here and will see how my ankle does overnight before returning to the trail.
In the meantime, it’s fun to be in a cosmopolitan Italian town with lots to see.
For instance, people dress stylishly here. Lots of high heels, leather jackets, gorgeous haircuts, scarves and eyeglasses. Here, yoga pants are so yesterday. I saw one woman in billowy calf-length pants. We’re near enough to trendsetter Milan that I predict we will see women wearing similar pants next year in Seattle, then the year after in New York and Paris. Or the other way around. And I’m a yoga pants admirer.
I’ve also discovered this amazing local cheese of Parma. Yes, it’s so hard it needs to be grated to be eaten, but I predict it will soon be sprinkled on pasta throughout the province. Maybe all over Emilia-Romagna!
Something else — they vacuum the streets here. I’d love to see this back home, where it would be a more pleasant way to clean up the used condoms and syringes in the ‘hood, a block or two from where I live. Attenti Mayor Murray.
What I really like is that everyone bikes here. Not like in Seattle where you have to be fairly athletic to bike the hills. Here on bikes I’ve already seen grandfathers in suits, grandmothers in skirts, grandfathers smoking cigars, women with rattan bike baskets lined with subtle prints, men in Armani overcoats, young women in short skirts and people of all ages in jeans and either leather or quilted down jackets. Plus people are riding silent and stealthy electric bikes, which seem to require no expenditure of effort whatsoever. And tourists. The hotel I’m at has free bikes available to any guest who’d like one. And whose ankle will allow it.
Though it’s an historic town, the ancient and esteemed university here gives the place a youthful vibe. Lots of school kids, lots of university students and many professorial types. A group of rowdy and too-drunk-for-this-early students is singing loudly outside this cafe as I write. Accompanied by real American jazz on the cafe’s loudspeakers the waiter says in excellent English that the students are graduating today. This town is so much more than just cheese!
In fact it’s also a storehouse of medieval architecture. The frescoed Duomo is nothing short of stunning. Bas-relief sculptures on the adjoining baptistery are nearly 1000 years old. Those are just a couple of the historic treats to be seen here.
So I’m going to score Parma toward the top of my list of hidden Italian treasures, and rate it as a great place to cool your jets while walking the Via Francigena to Rome.