I am reminiscing the time I was in Italy. It has been 5 months now but the memories are still so fresh and always precious. I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to visit a laboratory in University of Parma, Italy in October 2013. I was there for 5 weeks and everyday had been a bliss.

Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. As you might have guessed from its name, it is famous for its ham (Prosciutto di Parma) and parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano). Parma is also home to one of the oldest universities in the world, University of Parma, where I had the greatest privilege for visiting the Laboratory of Phytochemicals in Physiology and did some experiments.

Coming from Melbourne, Australia, I find Parma very serene. People are quite relaxed. And bikes are everywhere – I think everyone owns a bicycle! As for me, I walked everywhere – to the university, train station. Because it is a small city, I loved how the mini-market is just outside Residenza Cocconi, where I stayed for 5 weeks. Grocery shopping was such a breeze! This is one of the things I have missed!

Parma is located in northern Italy – quite centered actually, making it fairly easy to travel to other cities. On the weekends, I visited Florence, Pisa, Venice, Rome, Milan and Verona and they are all just a train ride away! I traveled solo and felt very adventurous! This is also one of the things I have missed – the easiness, freedom and adventures! The next few posts will feature on these other 6 cities I have visited!

My first week in Italy was not that great. I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a conference before I flew to Italy. While I was on the plane, my skin started to develop some rashes, probably due to allergy and funny thing, the rashes was only on my hands up to shoulders. Plus the journey to Parma was a really LONG one. The 14 hours flight arrived in Rome and from Rome another ~2 hours domestic flight to Milan and ~1.5 hour bus to train station and then finally ~1 hour train ride to reach Parma! Luca and Pedro from the lab were very kind to pick me up from the train station and helped me with the admin for the accommodation. Otherwise, I would be so lost. Then the skin allergy got worse, swollen and painful but again very greatful to everyone in the lab. They got me a doctor (one of the advantages of being located in medical building) and medicine. It was a such relief that I got better after a week!

I did not take many photos of Parma which was a shame. Thanks to Pedro and Maria for showing me the city center on one Sunday evening. I was so keen to visit other cities in Italy that I did not explore Parma much even though I was there for 5 weeks. Except for that Sunday, the rest was just for work. Anyway, these are some photos of Parma. Some are taken using Nikon D7000 with a Sigma lens, 10-20mm f4-5.6 and some simply using IPhone4S.

I had a really great time! I think no word can express this amazing experience. I learnt and gained many things, not just about work but about myself. Things that I thought I could not do turns out I can! It was like a philosophical journey these 5 weeks. Most memorable moments include: having aperitivo with friends from the lab, trying to learn some basic Italian language, having lunch together, and just the unknown and being new – it was exciting!

I would like to shout-out to everyone in the lab and thank them again, Marghe, Leti, Maria, Pedro, Luca and Daniele. All of you have been so helpful, friendly and welcoming. You have left me with a wonderful, memorable and enjoyable trip! If you are visiting Australia, especially Melbourne, please contact me! I hope I could see you all again somewhere!

Stay tuned for the next few posts on Florence & Pisa, Venice, Rome & The Vatican, Milan and Verona!

Images copyright Suryani Tan

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