- Introduction to Parma, Italy
- Location and brief history
- Why visit Parma?
- Top attractions in Parma
- Parma Cathedral
- Teatro Farnese
- Palazzo della Pilotta
- Parco Ducale
- Baptistery of Parma
- Parma's famous culinary scene
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Prosciutto di Parma
- Organic markets
- Best restaurants to try local food
- Exploring Parma's art and culture
- Casa della Musica
- Pinacoteca Stuard
- Galleria Nazionale di Parma
- Museo Lombardi
- Cattedrale Di Parma
- Day trips from Parma
- Lake Garda
- How to get to Parma
- By air
- By train
- By car
- Where to stay in Parma
- Budget-friendly options
- Mid-range options
- Luxury hotels
- Final tips for visiting Parma
- Best time to go
- Safety tips
- Dress code
- Tourist information centers
- Practical information: currency, language, and more
- Cities Nearby
Introduction to Parma, Italy
Location and brief history
Located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, Parma is a picturesque city filled with history, art and culture. It is situated on the banks of the Parma River, which the city takes its name from. Parma has a rich, ancient history that dates back to the Etruscan civilization, and it has been under the rule of various empires and dynasties over the centuries. Today, Parma is known for its magnificent architecture, quaint streets, and notable landmarks. The city is famous for its food, including its world-renowned prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and pasta dishes. Parma is also home to a number of well-regarded museums, including the National Gallery, the Palatine Library, and the Museo del Violino. With its unique blend of history and modernity, Parma offers visitors a truly unforgettable experience.
Why visit Parma?
Parma is a charming city located in the heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Known for its superb food, stunning architecture, and rich history, Parma offers travelers an unforgettable experience. This city’s historical center is full of remarkable landmarks, including the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral and the grand Palazzo della Pilotta museum complex. Parma is also home to numerous cozy cafes, shops, and restaurants, where visitors can indulge in some of the finest Italian cuisine. If you’re looking for a culturally rich and gastronomically delicious destination, Parma is the perfect place to visit.
Top attractions in Parma
Parma Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is one of the most striking architectural landmarks in Parma. The cathedral boasts a unique blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, with intricate details visible in every corner. Visitors can marvel at the stunning frescoes by Renaissance artist Antonio Allegri, who is also known as Correggio. The cathedral's exterior is equally impressive, with intricate marble detailing and a towering bell tower. Through its grandeur, Parma Cathedral is a testament to the city's rich cultural heritage.
Teatro Farnese is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture and an enduring symbol of Parma's cultural heritage. Built in 1618, the theater is famous for its ornate wooden stage, which can be raised and lowered using an ingenious system of pulleys. Visitors can take a guided tour of the theater to marvel at the intricate carvings, paintings, and tapestries that adorn its walls and learn about the history of theatrical performances in Parma. Whether you're a theater enthusiast or a lover of art and architecture, a visit to Teatro Farnese is an experience you won't soon forget.
Palazzo della Pilotta
The Palazzo della Pilotta is one of the most iconic landmarks in Parma, Italy. Built in the 16th century, the palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and has served as a cultural hub over the centuries. Today, it houses several museums, including the National Gallery, the Archaeological Museum, and the Palatine Library. Visitors to the Palazzo della Pilotta can explore the palatial rooms, admire the remarkable frescoes and sculptures, and learn about the history and culture of Parma through its impressive art collections. The palace is also home to the Teatro Farnese, a stunning theater built entirely of wood in the 17th century, which is still in use for special performances and events. A visit to the Palazzo della Pilotta is a must for anyone interested in history, art, and architecture.
Parco Ducale, also known as the Ducal Park, is a vast green space located in the heart of Parma. It was originally created as the gardens of the Ducal Palace in the 16th century and later expanded into a public park. Today, it covers around 200,000 square meters and offers a serene escape from city life. Visitors can enjoy the park's many walking paths, beautiful gardens, and fountains. There are also several statues and monuments scattered throughout the park, including a monument to Giuseppe Verdi, one of Italy's most famous composers. Don't miss the botanical gardens, which boast a wide array of plant species. Parco Ducale is the perfect spot for a relaxing picnic or a scenic stroll.
Baptistery of Parma
Located in the heart of Parma, the Baptistery of Parma is one of the most impressive examples of medieval architecture in Italy. Built in the 12th century, this octagonal structure boasts a beautiful marble façade and stunning frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Christ. The Baptistery is a significant religious site and an essential stop on any tourist itinerary in Parma. Visitors can explore the interior of the building and admire the intricate details of its architecture and artwork. Don't forget to stop by the attached Cathedral of Parma, which is also home to magnificent frescoes and other works of art. Overall, the Baptistery of Parma is a breathtaking masterpiece of religious architecture that should not be missed. Its historical significance and beauty make it a must-visit attraction in Parma, and an excellent place to learn more about the region's rich cultural heritage.
Parma's famous culinary scene
No cheese lover's trip to Parma is complete without a taste of the world-renowned Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Known locally as "the king of cheeses", Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard and nutty cheese made from cow's milk and aged for at least two years. Visitors can indulge in the cheese's creamy, salty flavor by sampling it on its own, or as an ingredient in various local dishes. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a key component of traditional pasta dishes such as Tagliatelle al ragù and Lasagne alla Bolognese, as well as the classic Parma dish, Torta Fritta, which is served with thin slices of the cheese. Don't forget to grab a freshly-grated wedge from the city's food markets to savor back home.
Prosciutto di Parma
Prosciutto di Parma is a beloved Italian delicacy that is acclaimed worldwide. Made from the hind legs of specially bred pigs, the meat is cured with sea salt and air-dried for at least 12 months. The result is a succulent, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that bears a unique, nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. To taste authentic Prosciutto di Parma, visit one of the many local producers scattered around the Emilia-Romagna region. As you savor this mouth-watering delicacy, take the time to appreciate the centuries-old tradition that goes into producing it. And if you're feeling inspired, try pairing it with local cheeses, wine, and bread to round out a truly incredible culinary experience.
Culatello is one of the most exclusive and highly sought-after cured meats in Parma. Made from the hind legs of pigs that have been raised in the region and fed on a carefully proportioned diet of whey and barley, culatello is a delicate and refined delicacy that is renowned throughout Italy. The curing process is lengthy and requires the skill of the traditional master curers that are found scattered around the region. The production of culatello is a closely guarded secret that has been passed down from generation to generation. This artisanal approach ensures that every piece of culatello is of the highest quality and it has a distinctive nutty flavour and delicate texture. It is typically sliced thinly and enjoyed as an appetiser or a snack, paired with a glass of local wine or a sweet Lambrusco.
Parma is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and one of the best ways to sample the local produce is by visiting one of the many organic markets scattered throughout the city. These markets offer an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade cheeses, cured meats, and artisanal bread. One of the most popular organic markets is the Farmers Market, held every Saturday in the Piazzale della Pace. Here you can find a variety of locally sourced products, from freshly squeezed juices to colorful bouquets of flowers. Another must-visit market is the Mercato della Terra, organized by the Slow Food Movement, which takes place every Friday in the Piazza Garibaldi. Whether you're a foodie or just looking for a unique shopping experience, be sure to check out one of Parma's organic markets for a taste of the city's culinary delights.
Best restaurants to try local food
Parma's culinary scene offers a wide range of local dishes and ingredients, making it an excellent destination for food lovers. When it comes to experiencing the best of Parma's cuisine, visitors should head to the city's top restaurants. One such locale is Trattoria Corrieri, which has been serving up Parma's famous cured ham and homemade pasta dishes for over 150 years. Another great spot is Osteria della Ghiaia, where guests can indulge in traditional fare like culatello di Zibello (a type of cured pork) and savory tortelli. For those looking for a more upscale dining experience, Antica Corte Pallavicina is the perfect option. Here, diners can savor delicious dishes made with locally grown products, including the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These restaurants are just a few of the many fantastic places to taste Parma's culinary delights.
Exploring Parma's art and culture
Casa della Musica
Casa della Musica is a state-of-the-art music complex located in Parma's historic center. This sprawling venue encompasses several performance spaces and recording facilities, as well as a museum dedicated to the city's rich musical heritage. Visitors can attend concerts and recitals by some of the world's top musicians, explore interactive exhibits on the evolution of classical music, or even take part in a music workshop or masterclass. With its impressive facilities and diverse programming, Casa della Musica is a must-visit destination for any music lover in Parma.
The Pinacoteca Stuard is a must-visit for art enthusiasts visiting Parma. This small museum houses a fantastic collection of medieval and Renaissance artworks, including pieces by renowned artists such as Correggio and Parmigianino. The museum's star attraction is undoubtedly Correggio's stunning "Madonna della Scodella," which depicts the Madonna and Child surrounded by adoring angels. The painting's soft, luminous colors perfectly capture the gentle, loving mood of the scene. In addition to this masterpiece, visitors can also admire works by lesser-known artists such as Antonio da Correggio and Filippo Mazzola. With its exquisite collection and peaceful ambience, the Pinacoteca Stuard is an unforgettable experience for lovers of Italian art and culture.
Galleria Nazionale di Parma
The Galleria Nazionale di Parma is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts. This gallery is home to a vast collection of Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical art. The gallery's most significant pieces were donated by Napoleon, including works by Fra Angelico, Correggio, Parmigianino, and Tintoretto. In addition to the impressive art collection, the gallery building is a work of art in itself. It occupies the Palazzo della Pilotta, a 16th-century building with a beautiful courtyard. Be sure to spend a couple of hours exploring the stunning collections housed within the Galleria Nazionale di Parma.
The Museo Lombardi, located in the heart of Parma, is a must-see for art enthusiasts. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the works of the Lombardi family, a prominent family of Italian sculptors during the Renaissance. Visitors can admire the stunning bronze and marble sculptures from the 16th to 18th century, including works by Francesco Lombardi, Alfonso Lombardi, and their pupils. The museum's collection includes several noteworthy pieces such as the "Madonna of the Rose" and the "Crucifixion," both carved by Francesco Lombardi. The Museo Lombardi offers a fascinating insight into the history of Italian art and is a testament to the skill and creativity of the Lombardi family. Don't miss the chance to experience the beauty and artistry of this exceptional museum during your stay in Parma.
Cattedrale Di Parma
Cattedrale Di Parma, also known as the Cathedral of Parma, is one of the most stunning landmarks in the city. The cathedral’s construction took almost 200 years, and its architectural style is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic elements. The interior is adorned with impressive works of art, including frescoes by Antonio da Correggio. The cathedral’s bell tower offers a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Visitors can also admire the intricately carved marble pulpit and the elaborate façade of the cathedral. The cathedral hosts regular religious services, but visitors are welcome to enter and explore its rich history and cultural significance.
Day trips from Parma
Bologna, located just 1 hour by train from Parma, is a vibrant city and a perfect day trip destination. The historic center is known for its stunning architecture, including the iconic Two Towers, and its many porticos, perfect for a stroll on a hot summer day. Food lovers will also be in heaven, as Bologna is renowned for its rich cuisine, including hearty pastas and the famous mortadella. Be sure to visit the Mercato delle Erbe, a lively market filled with fresh food and local vendors. Don't forget to try some of the city's famous gelato, too!
Modena is a city well-known for its balsamic vinegar and fast cars. It is an easy 30-minute train ride from Parma. The city has a beautiful historic center with a spectacular cathedral and Piazza Grande, a UNESCO world heritage site. Visitors can also explore the Enzo Ferrari Museum to learn about the legendary car manufacturer and see vintage models. Don't miss the opportunity to visit traditional acetaie (vinegar cellars) and taste some of the best balsamic vinegar in Italy. A day trip to Modena is a must for foodies and car enthusiasts alike!
Mantua is located about an hour's drive east of Parma and makes for a perfect day trip destination. The historic town is known for its artistic and architectural heritage and is surrounded by three artificial lakes formed during the 12th century. The most prominent attraction is the Palazzo Ducale, a grand Renaissance-style palace that used to be the residence of the Gonzaga family. It also houses a museum with an extensive collection of paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. Visitors can also admire the impressive Rotonda di San Lorenzo, a church designed by one of Italy's most famous architects, Leon Battista Alberti. Mantua is a great destination for foodies as well. It's famous for its tortellini, pumpkin-filled cappellacci, and sweet pastries such as the sbrisolona cake. A day in Mantua is a perfect way to immerse oneself in the rich cultural heritage and culinary traditions of the region.
Verona, known for its Shakespearean connection, is located two hours from Parma via train. Spend a day exploring the city’s romantic architecture, including the famous Roman Arena, a stunning amphitheater that is still used for concerts and opera performances. Head to Piazza delle Erbe for an outdoor market surrounded by ancient architecture, including the beautiful frescoes of Palazzo Maffei. Don't miss Juliet's balcony, a must-see for those looking for a romantic photo opportunity. Verona also offers a variety of delicious food options, including local wine and traditional Veronese dishes.
Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, is a popular day trip destination from Parma. Located in the northern part of the country, the lake is easily accessible by car or train. Visitors can spend their time exploring the charming towns and villages that surround the lake or enjoy a rejuvenating boat ride across the crystal-clear waters. One of the most famous sites at Lake Garda is the town of Sirmione, which is known for its picturesque castle, thermal spa, and Roman ruins. Another must-visit town is Desenzano, where travelers can stroll through vibrant streets filled with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Visitors can also enjoy a swim in the lake's calm waters or try out a variety of watersports such as windsurfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
How to get to Parma
Parma can be easily accessed by air as it has its own airport, Parma Airport (PMF). Some airlines operating flights to Parma Airport include Ryanair and Alitalia. From the airport, there are several ways to reach the city centre including taxi, shuttle bus, and car rental. Taxis are readily available outside the terminal building and cost around 20-25 euros to reach the city centre. Shuttle buses operate between the airport and Parma train station with a frequency of every 30 minutes. Car rental services are conveniently located at the airport and can be a good option for those planning to explore the surrounding areas.
Parma is well-connected to major Italian cities such as Milan, Bologna and Rome by rail. The train station is located in the heart of the city, making it an easy and convenient option for visitors. Fast and frequent trains run daily from Milan and Bologna to Parma. The journey from Milan takes roughly an hour, while the journey from Bologna takes just under an hour. High-speed trains from Rome also connect with Parma via Milan or Bologna. Tickets can be purchased online or at the station. It is advisable to book in advance to secure the best fares. Once you arrive in Parma, it is easy to explore the city on foot, with many of the major attractions within walking distance of the train station.
Driving to Parma is a great option for those who want to explore the city and its surroundings at their own pace. The city is easily accessible from the A1 motorway, which links Milan and Bologna. From Milan, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Parma, while from Bologna it is just under an hour's drive. If you plan to drive to Parma, keep in mind that parking in the city center can be challenging, and many areas are restricted to residents only. It is best to park your car in one of the public car parks located outside the city center and use public transport to get around. Renting a car is also an option, with many car rental agencies available at Milan and Bologna airports. However, be aware that driving in Italian cities can be hectic, and the narrow streets of the city center may be difficult to navigate.
Where to stay in Parma
Parma provides plenty of budget-friendly options for travelers looking to make the most out of their stay. One of the best choices in town is undoubtedly the Ostello Due Torri, a hostel located in the city center that offers a range of room types and amenities for backpackers and solo travelers alike. The premises are clean and quiet, with a lovely outdoor terrace and a common area equipped with computers and board games. Another option to consider is Casa Meli, a family-run guesthouse located in a residential neighborhood close to the city center. This charming guesthouse offers affordable rooms with a cozy atmosphere, air conditioning, and free Wi-Fi access. The hosts are known for their warm welcome, providing guests with helpful tips and recommendations for exploring the city's sights and culinary scene.
Mid-range options For those looking for something a bit more upscale than budget accommodation, but not quite ready to splurge on a luxury hotel, Parma offers a variety of mid-range hotels and guesthouses. Located in the heart of the city, the NH Parma offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities and a convenient location for exploring the city on foot. The Antico Borgo di Tabiano Castello, located just outside the city proper, offers a charming escape with its historic castle accommodations and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Other popular mid-range options include the Hotel Button, Hotel Torino, and Hotel Verdi. Each of these properties offers a unique atmosphere and comfortable accommodations at an affordable price point.
Parma boasts a range of luxurious hotels, providing top-notch amenities and services to their elite clientele. These hotels offer guests an indulgent and opulent experience during their stay in the beautiful city. One such hotel is the Grand Hotel de La Ville, located in the heart of Parma. With its posh decor, elegant lobby, and beautifully appointed guest rooms, the hotel exudes a sense of sophistication and luxury. Other luxurious options include the NH Parma Hotel, with its Art Deco-inspired interiors, and the Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati, situated in a historic building in the city center. Overall, those looking for ultimate comfort and extravagance in Parma can choose from a range of these luxury hotels, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience.
Final tips for visiting Parma
Best time to go
Parma is a stunning destination that can be enjoyed all year round. However, the best time to go really depends on what you want to experience. Summer (June to August) is peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices. However, this is the best time if you are looking to enjoy the outdoors, as temperatures are mild and perfect for exploring Parma's parks and gardens. If you prefer cooler weather and fewer tourists, the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) are great options. You can still enjoy outdoor activities, but with milder temperatures and fewer crowds. Winter (December to February) is the low season, so expect cold weather and shorter days. However, this is a great time to see Parma adorned in holiday decorations and to indulge in the city's famed cuisine without the crowds.
When visiting Parma, it is important to take some safety precautions to ensure you have a hassle-free trip. Pickpocketing can happen in busy areas and tourist spots, so always be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowds. Keep your belongings close and avoid carrying too much cash with you. When walking around the city, be sure to use designated footpaths and crossroads, as the traffic can be busy and unpredictable. Don't forget to take care when crossing the road. If you are driving, be aware that many streets in the city center are pedestrianized, so make sure you follow the signs to avoid getting a ticket or risking an accident. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for police, fire, or medical assistance. Also, keep in mind that Parma is a relatively safe city, and locals are friendly and happy to help, so don't hesitate to ask for assistance if needed. By being aware of your surroundings and taking these simple precautions, you can have a wonderful and safe trip to Parma.
When visiting Parma, especially during the summer months, dress comfortably but respectfully. Shorts and tank tops may be too casual for some places, such as churches or fancier restaurants. It is important to note that when visiting religious sites, visitors should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. In general, Italians take great pride in their appearance and tend to dress stylishly. To fit in, consider packing nicer clothes and leaving athletic wear or overly casual clothing at home. During the winter months, it can get chilly in Parma, so make sure to bring warm clothing such as a coat, scarf, and gloves. Overall, dressing appropriately will ensure a comfortable and respectful experience while immersing oneself in the culture and beauty of Parma.
Tourist information centers
When in Parma, make sure to stop by one of the many tourist information centers scattered throughout the city. These centers offer a wealth of knowledge about the different sights and attractions, as well as tips on where to stay and eat. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and always happy to help you make the most out of your stay in Parma. Some popular tourist information centers include the one located at Piazza Garibaldi and the one at Piazzale della Pace. Here, you can grab maps and brochures, buy tickets to different attractions, and even book tours to get a more comprehensive experience of Parma. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, the tourist information centers in Parma are a must-visit stop.
Practical information: currency, language, and more
When traveling to Parma, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of the currency, language, and other practical information. The official currency in Italy is the Euro (EUR), and most places in Parma accept credit cards. However, it's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases and local markets. The official language in Italy is Italian, but many people in Parma also speak English. Learning a few basic Italian phrases, such as "Grazie" (thank you) and "Ciao" (hello/goodbye), can go a long way in making connections with locals. Other practical information to keep in mind when visiting Parma includes tipping, which is not always expected but appreciated for exceptional service, and the availability of public transportation options such as buses and trains. With these tips in mind, you're ready to enjoy all that Parma has to offer.
Have a good trip!