Some of us go to Italy to spend a day (or three, or more) swooning over Caravaggios and Berninis, but all of us, deep down, go to Italy to eat. How better to get swept up in la dolce vita if not via the country’s legendary cuisine? And if food is your calling, follow my example and book a night (or three, or more) at Antica Corte Pallavicina.
Think of it like Italy’s Blue Hill Stone Barns: Michelin starred, a half hour away from the city (Parma), and an idyllic country retreat where there’s nothing better to do than indulge. Housed in a lovingly restored 800-year-old palazzo formerly owned by a noble family of salt traders, there are six rooms with original frescoed ceilings and names that hark to the original residents (Stanza del Duchi, for instance, is named for Count Sforza and his wife Bianca, who visited in 1447).
We arrived at night, and followed our noses to a tour of the property’s cellar, used centuries ago to age culatello, the region’s most prized salami. Like its Spanish cousin, pata negra, it comes from a particular breed of black pig and is impossible to import into the States. Thanks to owner and chef Massimo Spigaroli, who resuscitated the breed from near-extinction and is now the president of the Culatello di Zibello Consorzio, the cellar is back in action, housing culatelli earmarked for Italy’s most celebrated restaurants (Roscioli, Osteria Francescana) and a few VIPs (Prince Charles is a big fan).
Then it was off to dinner—a six-course whirlwind composed primarily of ingredients raised and picked on premises. The style: traditional, refined, perfected takes on Emilia Romagna classics, like tortellini in brodo and tasting flights of Parmigiano-Reggiano. You’ll be thankful that your bed is just upstairs.
Breakfast service is pampering and plentiful enough to warrant the entire trip: the multi-course affair is included in your nightly rate and includes platters of fresh-baked brioche and flaky pastries, homemade bread to be slathered with jam and honey from the hives just outside, more culatello, and slow-cooked eggs taken fresh from the farm. Juice is squeezed from blood oranges and macchiatos come served in dainty fine china.
Excursions, of course, follow the foodie theme: a biking trip on the flat Parmense lowlands can take you to Antica Corte’s main farm, where you pick grapes used for their signature Fortana wine (a lovely sparkling red) and meet the pigs that have become Spigaroli’s stars. The staff also coordinates boat trips down the Po river, pasta-making classes, farmer’s market visits and tours of their dairy—all perfect ways to unwind after plenty of Duomo-climbing and museum hounding.
Nikki Goldstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.