Valentina Bertazzoni shares her tips on the best way to experience her hometown like a local.
Since Ancient Roman times, the city of Parma has been considered Italy’s gastronomic capital. Nestled in the Po Valley in the heart of Emilia-Romagna province, it is the wellspring for a bewildering number of Italian delicacies: prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and tortelli to name but a few. In a city where food is culture and culture is food, Parma is not only home to the Barilla Pasta Company and the famed Alma Cooking School but an array of food museums dedicated to everything from salumi (cured meats) to tomatoes. While its charming streets teem with traditional restaurants, pop inside one of the abundant specialty shops and you will find ceilings festooned with hams and stacks of Parmesan wheels. Two years ago, in recognition of the city’s rich cucina heritage, UNESCO named Parma, “Creative City for Gastronomy,” the first city in Italy to receive the honor. But the city lays claim to a bounty of other riches too: it the birthplace of Renaissance painter Correggio, the conductor Arturo Toscanini, one of the country’s oldest universities – and is a center of engineering and design: Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini are all headquartered in the region.
For Valentina Bertazzoni, 36, the sixth-generation scion of the 135-year-old family firm that bears her name, Parma is home. The company, which began as a precision toolmaker and later pioneered the domestic wood-burning stove, today is a manufacturer of sleek, high-end kitchen appliances favored by gourmands around the world (the Bertazzoni’s are a bit like the Agnelli’s of industrial kitchen design). We have a culture of family, food, and an engineering,” she says explaining that her family’s company is deeply tied to the land and its traditions. “When we are designing products, we always do so with this culture and cooking in mind, being from this region makes a difference.”
For me, says Bertazzoni, “Parma is the city of good food, bicycles, boutiques, small houses painted in light colors, and of course, magnificent palazzos. Parma is in love with the arts, whether it’s architecture, opera, theater, music, painting, or sculpture, and it encourages you to learn how to enjoy life and appreciate beauty.” She shared her favorite places with T+L to create an itinerary for a perfect culinary tour.