Parma is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy known for its contributions to Italian food culture. This great city manufactures both Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. Its numerous other culinary delights mean it is high on any foodie’s travel bucket list.
But it’s not just a paradise for food lovers, Parma was named the Cultural Capital of Italy in 2020. Parma boasts a plethora of historical sites and fantastic religious buildings, as well as notable museums and theatres, owing to its long history and the presence of many civilizations and governing powers.
Let’s take a look at the top ten things to do and places to visit in Parma: the food and cultural hub of Italy.
1 – Parma Cathedral (Cattedrale di Parma)
The Cattedrale di Parma (Parma Cathedral), located at the mediaeval Piazza del Duomo in the old town of Parma, is a significant landmark in the city. One of the finest specimens of the Romanesque architectural style is this gorgeous and extraordinary cathedral. The Parma Cathedral, or Duomo di Parma as it is known locally, features a sequence of big ornamental arches, a massive campanile next to the church, and two marble lions guarding the entry and within.
Take a look inside to see the beautiful interior frescos, especially the one on the front cupola. In the 1500s, Correggio painted the cupola, which depicts the assumption of the Virgin Mary, flanked by angels and cherubs.
2 – Stop at the Baptistery
The Baptistery, which lies next door to the cathedral, is a remarkable example of Romano-Gothic architecture from the 12th century. Though the modest white-pink marble front is the first thing you’ll notice, it has an octagonal structure and some fantastic exterior artwork and arches. The inside, like the cathedral, is covered with intricate frescoes. Each of the eight walls has its own frescoes, while the upper half features marble statues of famous Italians. Beautiful artwork showing various religious figures divides the ceiling into sections.
3 – Explore the Palazzo della Pilotta
Palazzo della Pilotta, built in the late 1580s, is located on the banks of the Torrente Parma. Some areas are still unfinished, resulting in a unique blend of stone architecture with ornate facades and charming arched alleyways. This vast complex served as the royal palace and a court for the Farnese family. Exploring the grounds will help you appreciate the fascinating history and the extent of Parma’s culture. Palazzo della Pilotta is one of the best places to visit in Italy – Parma.
There are several cultural institutions and museums within the Palazzo della Pilotta.
Biblioteca Palatina: This library houses over a million printed works, manuscripts, graphic prints, and other works from various eras. The most notable section is the music section, with more than 93,000 books.
The National Archaeological Museum: The museum houses a remarkable collection of ancient artefacts and relics, including a colossal head of the Greek god Zeus, Greek vases and pottery, various ancient finds, and more.
Galleria Nazionale di Parma: You can find an impressive art collection from the Renaissance period to now. The notable artists whose works are here include Leonardo da Vinci, Anthony Van Dyck, Correggio, and Canaletto.
4 – Immerse yourself in the Teatro Regio
The Teatro Regio has been entertaining citizens since the 1800s. It is one of the finest theatres in Italy, with a divine interior. Even if you are not a fan of classical music or opera, you should definitely visit the theatre to take a guided tour. The tour will give you an intimate feel of why Parma is the cultural hub.
5 – Pay attention at Casa del Suono
Casa del Suono, or the House of Sound, gives you a unique opportunity to learn about the weird and glorious history of music technology. This odd museum showcases everything from vinyl records to radios and modern digital music. It is an excellent play for anyone to learn about the development of music culture over decades.
6 – Stroll and enjoy an Aperitivo in Piazza Garibaldi
Piazza Garibaldi is probably the main square in Parma, known for its top-rated bars and shops. This thriving square also boasts the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi and houses the Governor’s Palace. It is one of the best places to experience the cultural side of Parma. This is also a great place to relax with many shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Also, Piazza Garibaldi is the focal point of Aperitivo, an Italian tradition, in Parma. Every evening at 6, people find a space at a bar for a drink and a snack. In Parma, you are served a glass of local red wine and some chips and olives or local cured meats and cheeses. You can be part of it with the locals and enjoy Aperitivo.
7 – Feast on the local delicacies
You’ll want to eat something a little more substantial after your aperitivo, and you’ll be spoiled for choices in Parma. Parma is home to several regional specialties, and dining out in this city is an experience you won’t soon forget. Stop at one of the restaurants that serve up local food and get started. Of course, no trip to Parma would be complete without sampling some of the finest delicacies: parmesan cheese and Parma ham.
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8 – Sip some wine at Enoteca Fontana
You haven’t really explored the cultural side of Parma until you have crammed yourself into Enoteca Fontana. This crowded bar offers regional wines and delectable appetisers. Getting a seat at this bar can be a daunting process, but if you are lucky enough to get one, you can ask the locals for recommendations and enjoy your wine for €2.
9 – Unwind at Parco Ducale
Parco Ducale covers over 200 square metres and is locally known as “The Garden” in Parma. It is one of the most important recreational areas in Parma. The park is located conveniently across the river from the Palazzo della Pilotta. Various avenues with trees and plants are visible throughout the park, as well as the wonderful Fontana del Trianon, which is surrounded by a gorgeous body of water. The park’s entire layout and aesthetics are excellent, and if you’re searching for a place to unwind, the Parco Ducale is the place to go.
10 – Take a day trip to Torrechiara!
Located at a drive of 35 minutes to the south of Parma through the gorgeous Italian countryside, the quiet little village of Torrechiara is one of the significant places to visit in Italy – Parma that offers a unique experience. The magnificent Castello di Torrechiara is the primary attraction that proudly stands atop a tiny hill, offering panoramic views of the surrounding. The structure is in excellent condition and features several beautifully adorned chambers.
From Romanesque architecture, Roman ruins, Renaissance art, and famous opera houses to its delicious culinary offerings, Parma is worth visiting. The city is beautiful, friendly, and rich in culture. There is plenty to do that will keep even the fussiest traveller occupied.