We had a willing house and pet sitter, so we decided to spend my birthday and part of October in northern Italy. We flew into Milan and rented a car through Budget Car Rental, getting a nice little Audi hatchback A-2 at a reasonable rate. Our first destination was just southwest of Parma in Traverstolo, Italy. We had reserved the first part of our stay at the BibiLoved House vacation rental, and Emanuela, the hostess, was so helpful with guiding us to great destinations. Her first recommendation was to make a slight detour on our way south through the small town of Busseto, home of famed music composer Guiseppe Verdi.
Now I have to give travelers my BIGGEST TIP for your travels in Europe… either take a GPS navigation system that has your destination country map uploaded, or rent one from your rental car agency. I had decided not to lug all my guidebooks along and regretted it the first hour. The car rental agency was “out of maps” – what??? Which left me at the mercy of Italian road signage and some vague directions I had printed out from Mapquest before we left. So a few *&^&%*^ words down the road, we saw signs for Busseto. Whew!
We did discover along the way that if you use the Google Maps app and pre-program your route while you have wifi, and then start it while you still have reception, that you will at least have your route on your phone. If you don’t hit “start” you will not get your direction instructions and well… good luck : ) It’s worth the extra $10 a day if you are moving around much to rent one from the car rental and save yourself untold frustration and fuel at around $8 per gallon.
We arrived in the small town of Busseto and happily found a parking space just a block from the main historic center.
I was THRILLED to discover we had arrived on the market day in Busseto. Most little towns in a community have market days and alternate their days so plan which days to visit towns holding market. We were instantly thrown into food heaven and so many decisions.. cheese, meats, seafood… they also had clothes and home goods vendors. The vendors line the piazza and are up and down the streets.
One of the local favorites to dine and purchase local food products is the Salsamenteria Storica Barrata, which has been in business since 1873 and plays Verdi’s arias while you dine or shop. http://www.salsamenteriabaratta.it/
Time to find our “home” in Traversetolo… And surprisingly, with Emanuela’s good directions I had printed out, we arrived… She has golden retrievers that live on her side of the house and fence, thus the golden retriever logo. They’re so sweet! Our new home was located about 15 minutes from Parma, just outside the town of Traverstolo in farm country.
Emanuela was so sweet! She had made a traditional Sicilian apple cake for my birthday, which was the day we arrived. She formerly was the proprietor of a local restaurant and conducts cooking lessons by appointment, which we had scheduled for the next day.
Our lovely apartment! The living room with a half bath and kitchen are downstairs, with a full bath and bedroom upstairs. I loved her antique furniture and comfortable couch, and the apartment was immaculate. We love being outside, so enjoyed spending time under the covered patio.
After getting settled in on our first afternoon, she called the owner of the local vineyard and winery just down the road, Vigna Cunial, for us to visit. We met the owner in between his farm jobs, and he gave us a tour of the facilities. His dogs greeted us and he explained they were his truffle dogs that he used to hunt truffles. Their area of Italy is renowned for their sparkling wines but they also had a variety of reds and white wines. Their winery had won several awards over the years and we bought a sampling of wines.
Signs of fall at the vineyards… red-tinted grape leaves…
Emanuela had called and made reservations for us at one of their local favorite restaurants, Colibri Ristorante, in Traverstolo, Italy. They are #1 on Trip Advisor as Best Restaurant in town and it is well deserved. It was on the pricey side, but you get your money’s worth with all the divine local cheese, cured meats, fruits, wines, entrees and desserts that you can imagine eating. They brought course after course of food and wine and we didn’t know if we were going to be able to eat it all!
The first arrival to the table was about a 3-pound chunk of their renowned local Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a local light sparkling white “Cuvee”. Wow!
Emanuela must have told them it was my birthday, because this appeared at our table! I tried to blow it out, but everyone was laughing and shaking their heads. It fizzled out after a bit and the cake was swept away to be replaced by a dessert sampler plate.