Country House Leoni in Parma
Country House Leoni in Parma Reviews
Aug 25, 2007
Country House Leoni is an extremely special place, a wonderful place to stay in a restored nineteenth century farmhouse. It is located approximately ten minutes outside of Parma by car.
There are many websites devoted to explaining why it is a unique and beneficial experience for a traveller to stay at an agriturismo, but suffice it to say that it is somewhat regulated by the Italian government - instituted as a way to increase farmer's income, to help them stay on their farm's, as well as to educate the visitor's to the farms. This also means that the price is somewhat regulated as well, the income generated for the farmer cannot exceed a certain percentage of her total income, so the price is usually a great value. Country House Leoni is no exception. However, to simply speak of Country House Leoni in terms of value, would act to de-value the quality of experience we had in Parma.
I could not help but be extremely excited to see the sign of the farm with an enormous piece of parmigiano on it! Immediately, my hopes were high. Unfortunately, the telephone contact number for our hostesses, Lola and Cinzia was left at home. But luckily, the farmer, Giovanni graciously showed us to our room. I have never seen anyone out on farm equipment with rubber boots, suddenly pull out his Blackberry! We had a good laugh.
The entrance to the "house" is a large stone archway with a picnic table and nearby on a wooden trailer are many nicely potted plants. The outside is rustic, but very well maintained and cared for. The picnic table has a granite top! We loved it. The breakfast room is painted in ruby-red tones, and is lovingly decorated with a few mirrors and the linens on the tables. There is usually internet access at the bottom of the stairs to the rooms, however, a prior storm kept it from working when we were there.
The bedroom was adorable. It was kept cool by the more the than a foot thick(!!) walls of the house, and it also had air-conditioning. As is typical with Italian air-conditioning, in comparison to N.America, you will not feel cold from it. It was also quiet, I never heard a thing, even the rooster outside in the coop. Everything was clean, and thoughtfully placed. It is nice and "homey", so I can see why so many visiting businessmen stayed there, it is like a home away from home. The bed was certainly fine, we were there six nights, with no problems. Actually, we slept like babies. Linens and towels, equally fine. The accomodations are exactly what you would expect and hope for- simple, but good.
Now perhaps the best part about Country House Leoni, were Lola and Cinzia. Not only are they excellent hostesses for the breakfasts, but incredible tour guides as well! They also helped us plan every day - , and suggest things that we might miss - nevermind Cinzia's willingness to not only give directions - but to draw a map too! Wow, we were really lucky, as we weren't expecting this, nor did we really ask in the beginning - they asked us!! They organized a prosciutto di Parma tour for us on our first morning. It was one of the highlights of our three week trip! Not only did we have an hour long tour of the making of prosciutto, in a "factory", but then had a wonderful lunch too. All for 30Euro for both of us. Lola and Cinzia also took us to see where they make parmigiano-reggiano and gave us a detailed tour then as well - another phenomenal highlight. (Outside of the Country House is where they have the cows and milk them for the making of the cheese.) Then we came back to Country House Leoni with the others and some of the cheese from the farm (a very large piece!!), with balsamic, bread, honey and Lambrusco (the wine of Emilia Romagna). Unbelievable (oh yes, and 10Euro each), and fascinating for us. And YUMMY too! Do not miss Teatro Farnese (a wooden theatre) in Parma, upon Cinzia's suggestion.
The breakfasts were also very ample, but more importantly, made with a great sense of pride, as nearly everything came from the farm! Most of the breakfasts were similar - we had plum jam or plum and banana jam which they made. Honey from the farm. Butter from the farm!! Cakes...frutti di bosco...di riso...made with eggs from the farm and they would put the entire cake on the table! Toast-like crackers. Cappuccino's made with milk from the farm - which I still cannot believe when I tasted that milk by itself(unpasteurized)...because it was really, really fantastic. Cinzia would simply say, "Oh it was milked at 5am this morning". There was also a beautiful English teapot served if you asked for tea.
I also cannot forget to mention that Lola and Cinzia gave us a wedding present! We were on our honeymoon - and had a wheel of parmigiano-reggiano instead of a wedding cake...so we kinda like parmesan. Lola and Cinzia gave us a ceramic dish to hold grated parmigiano! I was so shocked and stunned that I didn't know whether to hug or kiss them! I have attached a picture of how beautifully it was wrapped. Very sweet, very, very nice.
There is also ample parking, and a shop across from the house with parmigiano! We picked up a three-year old piece, and the flavour was so complex. It is near to grocery stores, and there is a gelateria about a 5 minue drive. Lola and Cinzia will tell you where to find absolutely everything you need. I believe that there is also a bus which stops there, maybe arriving every hour - but personally I wouldn't want to rely on it, although we never took it. You are really in the middle of nowhere, so if you don't make it back...you aren't going to get back.
If you absolutely hate cows, or even two flies, then this is not a place for you. While the cows are only in the barn, you can smell them a little bit, but ONLY outside. We only briefly opened our window, as it faced the sun, and the air-conditioner was mostly on if we were there. We never noticed it inside at all. With cows also comes flies, which we didn't notice, until we were having a picnic dinner outside. There was never a single one inside. I don't mean hoardes of them, but if you are exceedingly high-maintenance, this is not for you.
We stayed here 6 nights to explore Parma, Modena, and Bologna. I also highly recommend going to Trattoria "La Buca", in Zibello, Villa Gaidello near Modena, Trattoria Gigina in Bologna, and Arnaldo's Clinica Gastronomico in Rubiera. Country House Leoni is so far beyond what we expected - it is really a wonderful experience, not just a place to stay.
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