The last part (part 9) of our round trip in Italy. Domodossola and Parma. And an extra section about the Centovalli train ride back to Locarno Switzerland.
I have mixed feelings about Parma. Besides the fantastic Parma Ham and Parmasan Cheese, I cannot see or think of anything else to visit Parma. It was also our first town that we had huge problem finding a hotel. Parma, compared to Florence has missed the tourist boat. As busy as it was in Florence so quiet it was in Parma. Nearly no tourists and the ones we met faced the same problems as we, finding decent accommodation. Sure there are things to see in Parma, but somehow it doesn’t look interesting enough.
What nerved us a lot, was the bus. We got day tickets and we went around with various busses. The thing is: you have to get in, in the FRONT or BACK and get out in the MIDDLE. And there is only one stamp machine in the bus, that is in the BACK…. so far for Italian bus logic. Really, it is the only place from all the places we have visited that uses this in-and-out system… Besides that, they drive on time and not like pigs like in Florence. 🙂
After having one of the best parma ham sandwiches we have ever eaten, we decided to go on a ‘Parma Ham tour’. And that is were the disappointment start. We went online and found various tours and prices. And we advice you to check them because there is a huge difference. Also the way the tour is done: some tour operator wants you to meet on a parking place on the highway 🙂 the other doesn’t offer transport, etc. And the prices vary between 65 and 160 euro…. So if you want to do a tour, check and book in advance.
For my parma ham tour I went to one of the many local trattoria’s in town. That was a big hit ! The women behind the counter were very friendly and explained me all about the parma ham, the 16, 18, 24 months, 30 months, etc. Also about the Culatello and other parma specialties. All in all I spend more than an hour in the trattoria and stuffed with fantastic parma ham. We bought over a kilo of various specialties. We can really recommend these trattorias. They have the best of the best, you can taste all, and they have time for you.
After 3,5 hours of walking and see various hotels, B&B’s we were done. Not one available and with many B&B’s you have to book in advance. Our last chance was the Century Hotel opposite the train station. We got lucky ! A room for the night. Far above the budget, but hey, we needed to sleep somewhere and we were dead tiered. The old man behind the counter saw it too, I suppose. Very friendly man and a very nice hotel. The next morning we left Parma for what it was and went on to Domodossola.
So we left Parma and took the train to Domodossola. What a relief from Parma and what a nice lovely town. To bad the weather was changing: temperature dropping fast and rain was coming. Well that didn’t stop us to go into town and see what is going on.
The train station is very nice and in town. Domodossola is not big but it is very nice located. Mountains all around you. Domodossola is in the middle of seven surrounding valleys (Anzasca, Antrona, Bognanco, Antigorio, Divedro, Formazza, Vigezzo).
The train ride to Domodossola is nice. You pass Stresa, Arona and other small villages on Lago Maggiore. Beautiful views and landscape.
Domodossola is the largest city in the Ossola district, and the second-largest city in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, in Piedmont, in Northwest Italy. Domodossola is also know for the market on Saturday. As it is close to Switzerland, many Swiss people come to visit the market. The Domodossola market offers an abundance of food products, leather goods, and all kinds of accessories. Here you’ll find soft cheeses, both locally-made and from all over Italy, all kinds of meat products (both locally made and from all over Italy), etc. and seasonal fruit and vegetables. Tip: bring a big bag. We bought an extra backpack to carry the 20kg of meat products back home. 🙂 (in Switzerland, these products cost about 2 to 3x the price as what you pay at the market).
A must see is the old city center. The medieval town center has preserved the very fine Piazza Mercato, an irregularly-shaped square surrounded by elegant bourgeois buildings graced with loggias and balconies. You can see it on some of the photos below. The area around Domodossola is also very nice. You can go hiking in the surrounding mountains and in winter there is a large ski area.
Food is also very ok in Domodossola. Twice we had diner at Trattoria la Motta. And twice it was very good. The home made tagliatelle and pesto genovese are more than excellent. The first diner made us come back for more: it was a very rainy evening and we were the only guests. The presentation of the excellent food was very original: in a cut open bottle. I regret I didn’t bring a camera….
The Centovalli Railway connects Locarno with Domodossola. The train runs through Centovalli and the Valle Vigezzo. The scenery is amazing. The train ride takes about 2 hours and the train runs slow. Which is good, because you have some opportunities to take photos. In the older trains, the windows can go down, so stand up and stick your camera out.
I don’t know which side is better, the Swiss side or the Italian side. I like both.
‘ The panoramic train ride through the “100 Valleys”, passing deep gorges and crevices with glittering cascading waterfalls, travels across colourful alpine meadows, over numerous bridges, through vineyards and forests of chestnut trees. 52 km of magical landscapes…. ‘
That is very romantic 🙂 And indeed it is very beautiful. To me, it felt more like we went through one big valley.
The train is not long or big, so it can be quite full. The train passes and stops at numerous small villages and some of them offer some very good hiking in the area. So if you have more time, get out at one of the small villages and start walking in Val Vigezzo. It is really beautiful there.
For more information about Parma, Domodossola and the Centevalli Train, click on the links.
Click to view larger size.