With my 2nd trip to Italy just days away, I can hardly even sit still anymore.
I’m bouncing around the house packing, mumbling in broken Italian, and frantically trying to finish all of my Chicago projects WHILE watching any and all movies that take place in Italy.
You know, for “research”.
But I’ve also recently discovered a few unpublished posts from my last trip in October 2017 that I just have to share.
Especially today’s spot:
A 14th century castle hiding some of Italy’s best culinary secrets!
Here, on this massive estate, they produce the famed Culatello di suico nero di Parma, a cured ham made from free-range black pigs that’s so good, Prince Charles of the U.K. has one reserved for him every year!
And anything Prince Charles imports into his kitchen is bound to be truly spectacular… and, indeed, it WAS!
Beyond the culatello, Antica also has a Michelin-starred restaurant (where all of the produce used is either grown or raised on the property) and a famous hotel where you can sleep in their beautifully renovated 14th century castle.
It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited — and I’m so excited to finally share it with you too!
We began our visit with a tour of Antica’s vast farm properties.
Everything they serve is produced on the property.
And while saying that is one thing, SEEING it is something else.
They even make their own wine label from their vineyards!
Which I was all too happy to explore…
Next we visited their vast greenhouses and gardens where they grow all sorts of produce and herbs.
Doesn’t this lettuce look incredible?
And this kale?
It was my first visit to an Italian farm.
And needless to say I was smitten.
For any photographers out there — book a trip to Italy immediately. Then rent a car and drive into the Italian countryside.
It’s where all the magic is.
Needless to say I wandered down every path shooting as many leafy greens as I could before we headed to our next stop.
Which is where you’ll find Antica’s most famous product: culatello hams curing!
But we stopped to make a few friends along the way…
Inside these buildings you’ll find rows and rows of culatello hams curing.
It’s an almost morbid scene truth be told.
But this is part of a very old tradition that really does create the most incredible flavor in each ham.
After inspecting the curing hams, we headed out to one more stop on Antica’s grounds before the main castle…
Which didn’t seem like much at first…
But as we rounded the bend, proved to have a very exciting surprise… Antica’s famous black pigs!
When I’d been told culatello was made from black pigs my first thought was: what is a black pig?
Short answer: a black pig.
Long answer: a rare type of pig that’s all black.
I’ll be honest, I had little to no experience with pigs before this visit.
And at first I was pretty timid…
But eventually got right in there with them.
Photographers really will do anything for “the shot”!
After our romp with the swines, we headed to our final stop at Antica Corte Pallavicina:
Actually it’s more than that! It’s a 14th century castle turned Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel. How many places can boast that?
And let me tell you — the grounds around the castle are incredible. I am DYING to bring Hubby back here for a romantic 2-night stay. The food alone is worth the trip but the grounds are absolutely stunning to wander through.
And filled with hidden treasures.
And a truly diverse selection of flowers!
Which I could NOT. STOP. SHOOTING.
Seriously I probably have almost 200 photos of flowers from just Antica’s garden!
It was THAT lush — even in mid-October!
Be still my flora-loving heart!
Oh look, more flowers!
And you thought I was kidding about my flower shots!
Okay, okay last one, I promise!
The grounds of Antica’s castle are stunning too.
You can see the newer buildings mingling in with the older, renaissance architecture and plenty of homages to Antica’s swine-y history!
“If pigs could fly…“
The interior of the castle is as beautiful as you’ve probably already suspected.
And one of a thousand reasons why I want to come back to actually spend a night here!
But in the deep, dark dungeons underneath the castle, you’ll find Antica’s most prized possessions…
Walls and walls of aging culatello — over 5,000 of them — many with designations marking their future owners like Prince Charles or Monaco’s Prince Albert II.
The scene is a little morbid but perhaps seeing the finished culatello will change your mind?
After our tour we sat down to a scrumptious meal of Antica’s finest offerings…
Despite being just a simple preparation of Antica’s culatello,
house-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the house wine.
But is=t was all we needed!
If you’re a fan of cured meats, a trip to Antica is non-negotiable. Antica truly does have some of the best cured ham in the entire world!
The house wine — made from the grapes of the vineyard we walked through just a few hours earlier — is quite delicious too. Very robust and flavorful.
And a perfect accompaniment to the meats and cheeses.
Which we happily consumed in huge platefuls!
What a delicious end to our visit this incredible culinary gem! I think we were all taken aback by how beautiful, how thoughtful, and how authentic each and everything at Antica is.
It’s truly one of the most special places I’ve ever had the privilege to visit!
So if you find yourself in Northern Italy looking for an authentic Italian experience in a castle with INCREDIBLE reviews on every travel site, look no further than Antica Corte Pallavicina.