When most people think of studying abroad in Europe, they envision living and taking classes in a city during the week, then jetting off to another country for the weekend. I am sure that I will be guilty of that at least a few times during this semester. However, I decided that instead of exploring Paris or Barcelona this weekend, I would go on the IES Abroad trip to Parma.
Parma is a city about 1 ½ hours south of Milano. It is much quieter than Milano, but still has a rich culture and cuisine that we spent several days exploring.
35 students left Milano in the morning on Friday, heading first to Cremona to tour a beautiful opera house, as well as the Cathedral that sat in the center of town. We then had some free time which I used to visit the violin-making museum (violins were created in Cremona) and then go to a trattoria to get pasta for lunch.
After Cremona, we drove for about an hour to the Ferrarini Parmesan Cheese Factory. While there, we got learned how they make parmesan cheese, and also got to sample different ages of cheese. They even broke open a 26-month-old wheel of parmesan so that we could see how they open it!
That night, our whole program went to dinner in Parma. We got to eat local staples such as Gnocco Fritto (Fried dough that you stuff with Prosciutto and cheese) and risotto with parmesan. It was a very Italian-style dinner, lasting three hours and containing lots of conversation.
On Saturday, we took a walking tour of Parma in the morning. We got to visit the cathedral, the baptismal church, as well as the most beautiful opera house I have ever seen. It wasn’t luxurious (it had bench seating), but it had a timber roof and antique sculptures on the walls, which was something I had never seen before.
In the afternoon, we went to a vineyard. We spent about an hour walking around the grounds and picking grapes. The owner of the vineyard taught us what characteristics to look for in the grapes and how to know if they are ready to be picked. Afterwards, we had a wine tasting and learned how to tell whether a wine is young or old. We also learned about the process of wine production. That evening, we had a dinner outside at the winery’s restaurant and had a multiple-hour multiple-course dinner. The food was great, and I got to learn a lot about wine, so it seemed like a success.
Sunday was our final day, and so we headed out earlier. We drove for about an hour, from Parma, to get to a balsamic vinegar farm and factory. We took a tour of the facilities and learned how balsamic vinegar is made (Did you know that it is made from grapes??). We then had a tasting and got to taste vinegar that had been aged for 3, 8, 13, and 25 years. It was interesting to see how the flavor changed.
We then ended the trip with a multi-course lunch at the balsamic vinegar farm, eating lasagna and looking out over the beautiful rolling hills. It was a great way to end the trip.
While traveling all around Europe and seeing as many places as you can is great and exciting, don’t forget to check out what is in your own country, because I guarantee that there is more than you expect.
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<p>Hi, I'm Max! I am studying Real Estate and finance and have spent all of 2018 traveling. I began domestically, visiting St. Louis, Charleston and NYC in January. Then in February, I headed to China to spend the semester at Fudan University in Shanghai! I got to travel to over 15 different cities in China while there. Next, I spent a few days in Hong Kong as a tourist before heading to Mumbai to spend July and August working for a real estate development company. I have a passion for cross-cultural interaction and this year has truly allowed to explore that.</p>