What to do in Parma

If you love food, music, art or architecture, deciding what to do in Parma is easy. Foodies and music lovers descend regularly on the city of Parma and with good reason: home of parmesan cheese and Parma ham, or prosciutto, Parma is also home to the Teatro Regio, one of the best opera houses in Italy, and was the birthplace of the famous conductor and musician, Toscanini.

Parma Italy Piazza Duomo Baptistery

Food tours in Parma

Go on a tour to see how parmesan cheese is made, (read the rules here, and contact the consortium to arrange a free 3-hour tour) or do a tasting of different cheeses. 

Visit one of the prosciutto producers to understand the specific and unique process behind the creation of prosciutto di Parma (call Quattro Stagioni which produces 20,000 prosciutti di Parma a year). 

Or take the train a mere 30 minutes to the city of Modena and – with reservations – enjoy a free tour of a balsamic vinegar production facility, such as Malpighi

Parma is not just about cheese & ham – the region of Emilia-Romagna is known for its food in general: pasta and sauces, meats, cheeses, breads, produce, and wine. Piazza della Ghiaia hosts one of the best markets in Italy, on every morning except Sunday. 

For the budget-conscious, head to Via Farini about 6 pm to buy a drink and enjoy the free buffet that accompanies it! As I’ve written about in the past in Milan and Turin, the aperitivo hour is a great way to eat early or save money or just mingle with the locals.

Art and Architecture in Parma

Parma also has a lot to offer in art and architecture: don’t miss the main square, with the cathedral or duomo, and the gorgeous baptistery made of pink marble (see photo). Go inside the duomo, look up at the cupola, and gape in awe at Correggio’s fresco masterpieceAssumption of the Virgin, done 1526 – 1530.

Visit the 400-year-old Teatro Farnese, made completely of wood with lots of trompe d’oeil paintings. 

Other worthwhile things to see in Parma

  • visit the famous conductor and musician Toscanini’s museum and birth place.  
  • If you’re traveling with kids who need to run around, visit the Orto Botanico di Parma, a huge botanical gardens. Admission is free, and it’s open daily, but check here for hours (it’s in Italian, but scroll down and look next to where it says “orario” at the bottom)   
  • Walk around the campus of the University of Parma, one of the oldest in the world  
  • The area around Parma is flat. So if you’re looking to rent a bike and ride in the Italian countryside, and want to avoid the steep hills in Tuscany, look no further!
  • Speaking of the countryside, if you like castles, this is the place to be. Click here for a list and description.


photo by Sanjay

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Posted by on Jan 19, 2009 in Bologna & Emilia-Romagna | No Comments