Parma

Parma is a city in the province of Parma, part of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Palazzo del Governatore

Get in

From the train station it is an easy walk into the historic city center. The train ride from Bologna to Parma is about one hour and there is a shuttle service from the Bologna airport to the Bologna train station. Milan is also less than two hours north of Parma along the A1 autostrada, or a 45 minute train ride on the freccia bianca inter city trains. Parma Airport has only Ryanair flights from London Stansted Airport, Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia, and Trapani in Sicily.

Get around

Virtually everything in the historic city center is within easy and leisurely walking distance. Sites across the river require a little more walking but still not too much. The terrain is flat and biking is very popular among the locals. Taxis are easily available at the train station and across the street from the Governor's Palace (Palazzo del Governatore) in the center of town. There are rental cars at the small airport just outside town. Parking can be a challenge downtown. However there are several parking garages outside the city center, the largest of which is behind Teatro Due. The city has an access control system which limits entrance to the city center to local tagged vehicles only. This system is generally switched off after midnight. There is an extensive local bus line.

See

The Lungoparma. Parma is divided in two by the Parma Stream.

The Museo Glauco Lombardi is a particularly interesting and well done museum documenting the life of Maria Luigia (Marie Louise), second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duchess of Parma. The museum is very personal and engaging with many artifacts and belongings of the gifted, talented and well educated Maria. Well worth the visit.

The Piazza Duomo is where you'll find the city's cathedral and the baptistery, both built in the late 12th century. The baptistery was designed by Benedetto Antelami and is constructed from a pink marble called rosso di Verona. The marble appears to change color depending on how the sun hits it. It is one of the most recognized medieval structures in the country. The frescoes inside the building are very moving, as well as the relief sculptures on the interior stone. The painting inside the dome of the cathedral is one of the most remarkable paintings of the Renaissance. Entitled "Assumption of the Virgin" by Correggio, it shows the Virgin Mary being taken up to Heaven. For dramatic effect it is superior to the Sistine Chapel and Titian himself is reputed to have acknowledged that he could not have achieved this effect. Unfortunately the prior who commissioned the work was rather conservative and Correggio never worked in Parma again.

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi (Garibaldi Square) is where the original Roman Colony, founded in 183 BC, had a forum. The square served as a road hub over the Roman road, Via Aemilia. Today the modern square contains shops and restaurants, as well as the Palazzo del Governatore (Governor's Palace), with a façade dating to 1760 and an astronomical clock. The 13th century Palazzo del Municipio (Town Hall) is also on the square.

Aerial view of the Duomo and Baptistery of Parma

The Palazzo della Pilotta, named for the Basque ball game pelota once practiced in one of the courtyards, is a sixteenth century complex of buildings constructed as court to the famed Renaissance Farnese family. It was said to be one of the finest in all of Italy. The Palazzo della Pilotta houses the historic Baroque style theatre, Teatro Farnese.

Do

Ceiling of the Duomo

Attend the opera at the gorgeous and world-famous Teatro Regio, known for its passionate and critical local opera aficionados. Buy tickets early as the opera is extremely popular in Parma and tickets sell out early. The Festival Verdi celebrates the famous and adored Parma resident Giuseppe Verdi throughout the month of October every year.

Buy

Tympanum of the Baptistery

Eat

Prosciutto di Parma, one of the foods that made Parma famous

Other Foods

If you are in Parma, your trip is not complete until you try a hunk of its eponymous cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Known the world over, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese owes its quality to its source. The cows that produce the milk graze only on grass and hay in fields around the city. The cheese is made and aged from 18 months to over 30.

Another food you must try in Parma is the local cured ham, Prosciutto di Parma. Parma's Prosciutto is the gold standard for salumi. The hams are cured and aged in temperature and humidity controlled rooms for at least 10 months. The result is a salty, sweet, piece of meat that is sliced razor thin and can be eaten all by its self, or as a part of many regional dishes. It is delicious served simply over a plate of summer melon. As far as salumi goes though, Culatello is king. Unfortunately government regulation on the production of Culatello has driven it nearly to extinction, but there are still rogue producers who cure the meat in cellars. Culatello differs from Prosciutto in that it is made from the fillet cut of the ham as opposed to the whole ham. If you can get your hands on some genuine Culatello, do it, because it is next to impossible to find in the U.S. and can go for around $60.00 a pound.

Parma is also known for its delicate stuffed pastas and outdoor markets. Be sure to take advantage of the fresh seasonal vegetables that Parma has to offer.

Drink

Palazzo Ducale

An aperitivo in Via Farini is something you should not miss. There are several bars in that little street where you will find a lot of people standing outside with a Martini or a Sprizz con Aperol at around 6pm, enjoying the free buffet that is offered when you buy a drink.

Try a bottle of the local sparkling red wine called Lambrusco, great on its own and perfect with much of the local cuisine. It can be purchased in virtually any bar or corner shop and is very inexpensive.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

A beautiful scene in the Parco Ducale

Splurge

Facade of San Giovanni Evangelista, which contains frescoes by Coreggio

Go next

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