Parma is an ideal destination for travelers who want to see some of the best Italy has to offer without the massive crowds. Its beautiful historic centre is flat, making it a pleasant place to explore on foot, and its train station is only fifteen minutes away from the centre.
1. Piazza Duomo
The best place to start in Parma is Piazza Duomo, a vast square that surrounds the city's cathedral. It's a lively meeting point, a hub of local life and a perfect spot to sit, relax and recharge during your time in Parma.
Among its many treasures is the frescoed Parma Cathedral, a fusion of Renaissance art with classic Romanesque architecture. Inside you'll find the Assumption by Correggio in the central cupola.
If you're a foodie, it's worth visiting the Parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma factories as well as the Barilla pasta factory. You can also get a full-day gastronomy tour so you can sample all the famous treats!
2. La Steccata
Parma is a fine historic town in the Emilia-Romagna region famous for Parmesan cheese and ham. It also boasts a number of cultural attractions, including a 19th-century opera house and an art gallery dedicated to painters Correggio and Parmigianino.
After your morning cultural activities, you can stroll around the pretty historic center or grab a seat in an outdoor cafe for lunch. There are many restaurants, including a local favorite, Cocchi (Viale Gramsci 16, +39 0521 981 990).
Take your walk across the river to the Parco Ducale, a beautiful green oasis that surrounds the ducal palace. You'll find it crisscrossed with gravel paths and towering chestnut trees. The park is a pleasant place to picnic in the summer or catch a view of the Trianon Fountain in autumn.
3. La Pinacoteca Stuarda
La Pinacoteca Stuard, located in Parma, is an art gallery and museum that is home to a number of paintings, works of furniture, archaeological finds and many more things. This is a great place to visit for those who want to learn more about the history of art in Italy.
The museum houses official items from Maria Luigia’s brief but lavish reign as Empress of France at Napoleon’s side as well as personal items such as jewelry, diaries and more. Whether you are a history buff or not, this is a great place to spend an hour or so looking at the art and memorabilia.
Another small but very fine attraction is the Camera di San Paolo, which was once part of a convent run by an urbane abbess who commissioned fine decorations – more mythological and humanist in tone than religious – from leading local artists. The frescoed ceilings are stunning and feature a fantastical crowd of images in the fashionable 'grotesque' style.
4. Teatro Regio
If you’re an opera buff, the Teatro Regio is a must-see. It’s considered one of the most prestigious lyric theatres in Italy, and its success is linked to that of Parma itself.
The theatre was commissioned by the daughter of the Emperor of Austria and second wife of Napoleon I, Marie Louise Habsburg. She fell in love with Parma and helped transform it into one of Europe’s leading cities.
The theater has a lovely bookshop where you can find souvenirs such as playbills, posters, postcards, and more. It also hosts a number of concerts and shows, so if you want to get a taste of the Parma culture, this is a great place to start!
5. Palazzo della Pilotta
Palazzo della Pilotta is a magnificent palace overlooking well-kept lawns and is one of the best places to visit in Parma. It was heavily bombed during the Second World War but was restored and now houses three museums - Galleria Nazionale, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and Teatro Farnese - that wow visitors with their interesting exhibits.
- The National Gallery in this historic palace is a treasure trove of works by famous Italian artists, from Correggio to Parmigianino and more. The paintings of Beato Angelico, Canaletto, Sebastiano del Piombo, and Guercino are among the highlights.
- Another museum nearby is the Ferrari museum that showcases the marionettes four generations of the Ferrari family of Parma have carved, painted and strung by hand. This is a fun and free attraction for the whole family!