We meet Chef-Patron Massimo Spigaroli, at this authentically charming place in the area to the north of Parma, magically suspended in time. Home of absolute food and wine excellence, yes, but above all, of a unique know-how that has its roots in the age-old local rural culture.
“After nearly twenty years the restoration is complete! It’s been a struggle. At times it seemed impossible, but we did it!And how did we do it? When our great-grandfather left the Piantador farm belonging to the Maestro Giuseppe Verdi he came right here to the Corte Pallavicina with his three children and went from being a sharecropper to a tenant. It was quite an achievement! Together they began to work this wonderful farm with its fertile soil in the flood plain surrounding the main building with great enthusiasm and with all the expertise and experience acquired at Piantador”, tell us Massimo.
“They raised pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and silk worms. They milked cows, planted poplars, tied bundles of wood and grew watermelons, wheat, melica and vegetables. In the winter they cured pork using the age-old methods.Then they took contracts to clear the roads of snow, they started a ferry service across the Po to the Cremona side and even began making concrete blocks! And all this around here and on the farm where our father was born in 1916. So how could we let all that disappear? When we were finally able to buy the place in 1990, it was almost in ruins! The only really significant restoration work dates back to 1550; at the end of the 18th century Marie Louise, the Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla (as well as being the wife of Napoleon) garrisoned her frontier guards, the “Dragons”, here to protect the flourishing river traffic and lowered the towers by one storey. From 1850 the Corte was divided into small dwellings and used by peasants, fishermen, carters and craftsmen. No-one was interested in it any more, the Po changed its course and took it over: it ended up in the bed of the river, that flooded it every now and then! And now here we are! It seems like a dream, but it’s real: we’ve done it. The unique cellars where the Marquesses Pallavicino cured their pork are full of culatelli once again, the old cheese maturing room has resumed its old function, the ice house and the prison have emerged from the mud and the frescoes have been restored to their former splendour, the hearths burn poplar logs and on the first floor the warm and comfortable rooms are ready to receive discerning guests,” the Chef-Patron continues, his overwhelming passion clear.
“Almost twenty years have passed, but here we are surrounded by all the memories of our family and it was with this awareness that we worked on it, restoring it step by step the way that a mother would have cared for the development of her new-born baby: gently and with masses of attention, involving all the craftsmen of the area who are still masters of the old skills, using bricks from the same era, and wood from the poplars and oak trees of the same lands! Now there is a new challenge, no less difficult than the previous one! To make people aware of this place that is linked to its people, its products and its land and to bring it back to life.”