Food had been a recurring theme on this tour, and this day was no different.  We were off to Polesine Parmense to learn all about how culatello Parma ham is produced, take a cruise of the Po River, and enjoy a picnic lunch.

(For all pictures, click on the image to see full screen view.)

During our stroll to the castle, we passed by this boat that would normally be floating in water in its current location! The severe drought had left the water level nearly non-existent.

Our visit to Antica Corte Pallavicina was the highlight of the day and a memorable experience.  Originally built in 1320, the current owner bought and restored the previously abandoned castle in 1990.  It is now a Michelin 1 Star-rated restaurant headed up by Polesine Parmense native, Massimo Spigaroli.  A visitor to the castle can dine in their restaurant, book a stay in one of their rooms, take cooking classes, and tour their ham cellars and museum.

This photo I photographed shows Chef Massimo Spigaroli with his staff. They were awarded a Michelin Star for their cuisine.

The country setting was beautiful; cows relaxed on the adjacent field, flowers bloomed in the garden along with herbs and vegetables, and a peacock was roaming about.

Stepping down into the ancient cellar, taking in the aroma, and seeing strung hams hanging everywhere I turned was surreal!  These are not some ordinary hams; they are in demand by famous chefs and dignitaries all over the world.  Some of these hams were even reserved for King Charles III!

Hams reserved for King Charles III
Parmesan cheese and squash from their garden were also stored in the cellar for their restaurant.

Each of the 5,000 hams in this cellar weigh about 9 pounds and are worth $350-$450 wholesale, depending on the age—anywhere from 15 to 45 months.

Following our tour and a stroll around the property, we made our way to the Po River (such as it was) for our cruise.  As you can see by the photo below, the water level was extremely low.  We navigated an obstacle course to keep from running aground on our way to Giarola Island for our picnic.

This ceramic piece, found in the Po River, dates back to the 1400’s.

Although it had been a bright and sunny day, the wind was cold, and we all froze on our way to the island.  Jenny had the right idea when she opted to soak in the sun to warm up while we waited for our picnic lunch to arrive.  Oscar and I joined her, and then she started singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”  We joined in, but didn’t know all of the words, so Oscar started making them up.  I thought he was hilarious, and I couldn’t stop giggling.

That evening, we enjoyed dinner together, and I particularly enjoyed my vegetarian dishes: