If you love Italian food, you will fall in love with Parma. One of a trifecta of food-focused cities in Emilia Romagna, Italy, Parma is a must-visit for food travelers. It’s also a pretty city to visit and is loaded with classic architecture and pedestrian-friendly streets. This Parma Travel Blog will share our top tips on how to make the most of a visit to Parma.
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How To Visit Parma Italy For Food
In this Parma blog post, we share some of the best things to do in Parma, with a particular focus on people who travel for food and wine. We will make some recommendations on how to take a day trip to Parma, as well as recommended day trips from Parma.
This is really the best way to better understand the food culture of Parma, Italy – to escape the city and learn how some of the most famous Italian foods are produced. Parma is one of the best cities for food in Italy.
What you will learn in this Parma Travel Guide:
- What are the best things to do in Parma for both history and food lovers
- When is the best time to visit Parma Italy
- What are the best places to stay in Parma Italy
Traveling to Italy? Check out our Ultimate Italy Packing Guide
Where Is Parma Italy
Famous for the cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) that bears its name, Parma is a northern Italy city approximately 75 miles (120km) south of Milan. It falls within the region of Emilia Romagna and is one of the trifecta of Italian food cities that lie along the A1 motorway, along with Bologna and Modena.
A city with approximately 200,000 residents, Parma is known for music, art, and of course food. Divided by the Parma River, the city is home to the University of Parma, founded in the 10th Century, making it one of the oldest learning institutions in the world.
When To Go To Parma
Parma is a year-round tourist destination with many travelers visiting in December for the Christmas holiday season. Many visitors choose to arrive in the Spring and early Fall when temperatures are mild and precipitation is minimal.
Peak season is from June to August although there are major holidays in August that do affect the number of shops and restaurants open in the city. Avoid August 15, or Ferragosto, which is an Italian national holiday when shops and restaurants close and residents flee to the beach.
Parma hosts a series of events and festivals throughout the year, but the fall is the best time to visit for food travelers. The Prosciutto di Parma Consortium hosts a Prosciutto festival at the beginning of September each year. Many of the production facilities open their doors to visitors. There is even a slicing contest.
For pork lovers, several towns throughout the Parma region host a series of events through the month of November.
The annual November Porc festival with the tagline “Let’s Hope It’s Foggy in Parma.” The festival is dedicated to the “foggy pork” products of Parma. Competitions are held, including a regional pork competition referred to as the “greediest salami competition in Italy.” Producers compete for different titles including the biggest, heaviest, longest, etc. all while promoting the flavors of Parma.
Participating towns include Sissa, Polesine Parmense, Roccabianco, and Zibello. There is also a rumor of some salami throwing.
What To Do In Parma Italy – Top Parma Attractions
Parma is a city adorned with a number of architectural wonders. Dating back to 1059, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, or the Parma Cathedral, is a Romanesque cathedral situated in the heart of the city. Famous for its interior frescos, in particular those on its dome, the Cathedral is one of the top Parma tourist attractions.
Housing three Parma museums today, the Palazzo della Pilotta originally served as an administrative center for the Courts back in the 16th Century. Heavily damaged during the Second World War, the Palazzo stands today as a reminder of Parma’s past.
One of the more unique buildings in Parma, the Baptistery of Parma is considered one of the most important Medieval monuments in all of Europe. Taking over one hundred years to complete, the Parma Baptistery marks the period between Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture in Europe.
If you only have one day in Parma, most of the main Parma sights are within the city centre.
They are easily walkable as well. As in much of Emilia Romagna, one of the best ways to experience Parma sightseeing is to actually leave the confines of the city in order to learn more about the food products that make Parma an important center for gastronomy and food culture.
Shopping In Parma Italy
Unlike in Bologna or Modena, there is no central Parma food market for food travelers to visit. The Mercato Albinelli in Modena and the Mercato delle Erbe in Bologna offer the largest, most traveler-friendly market options in Emilia Romagna.
But, every city and town hosts its own local markets. There are established markets, open six days a week, in most of the larger cities. Often, the smaller towns and villages host weekly markets.
There are several of these markets held in Parma on a weekly basis, in the city center or in some of the neighborhoods.
Ask at your accommodations what day the local market is. Also ask about closing times, as even the established daily markets close early some days of the week. A list of markets throughout the region can be found on the In Italy site.
To shop for authentic, artisan Emilia Romagna food products in Parma, check out a shop called Rural at Borgo Giacomo Tommasini, 7. They specialize in carrying artisan products from the Parma region and from around Emilia Romagna.
Recommended Parma Hotels
When it comes to where to stay in Parma Italy there are several options. We recommend a couple of hotels in the Parma city center. But, some of the best places to stay in Parma are in the agriturismi and country hotels that give travelers a better feel for the region.
One of our top traveling tips for Italy is not to be afraid to stay in the countryside, or outside of the big cities.
City Hotels In Parma Italy
Many of the best hotels in the city are centrally located and are within walking distance of all of the top Parma sites.
Hotel Palace Maria Luigi: This four-star hotel in the heart of Parma features over a hundred rooms, in a historic building. During the day, walk to the most famous attractions of Parma, such as the Victory Monument. It is also very close to the train station. They offer parking for a fee. Rooms start at €94. Get the best rates here.
Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati in Parma: Although the decor could be considered “touristy,” the location and views cannot be beaten. Located across from the Duomo, many rooms have views of the cathedral. Rooms start at €90 in the low season. They also offer two and three-bedroom apartments. Get the best rates here.
Best Western Farnese: The Best Western Farnese is a western hotel chain, but it offers a little more atmosphere and comfort than the traditional Best Western hotels in the U.S. The hotel is set just outside of the city center.
It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the hotel into the center of town, which is totally doable in nicer weather. It is a good compromise between being close to town and using it as a base to explore the surrounding areas, as parking is free. And, they have a pool, along with an inviting terrace during the summer. Room rates begin at €64. Get the best rates here.
Country Hotels and Agriturismi: Best Hotels In Parma Italy
Some of the best places to stay in Parma are in the countryside, allowing travelers to experience a different way of life in Italy. This can include country hotels or an agriturismo. An agriturismo is an Italian farm that has been converted into a restaurant or a hotel.
Antica Corte Palla Vicina Relais in Polescine Parmenese: Famous across the region for Chef Massimo Spigaroli’s culatello production, world-renowned Michelin-Star restaurant, and 14th Century wine and salami cellars. Located about 45 minutes northwest of Parma, a 12-minute walk to the Po River, and close to the border of Lombardy. Rooms start at €200 a night. Get the best rates here.
Hostaria Da’Ivan in Roccabianca: Hostaria Da’Ivan is a well-known restaurant favored by Parma locals. This is, in part, because of its gregarious owner, Ivan, and his dedication to local meats and his knowledge of good wines.
The restaurant offers four rooms upstairs, which are quaint and nicely appointed. A good alternative to Antica Corte Pallavicina, which isn’t far away. Rooms start at €100 a night. Get the best rates here.
Villino di Porporano in Porporano: Located only a couple of kilometers outside of Parma, rooms are set in a manor house surrounded by greenery and a pool. The rooms themselves are sumptuous, with hardwood floors and exposed stonework. Rooms start at €85 in the low season. Get the best rates here.
Parma Travel Tips – How To Get To Parma Italy
In this section of our Parma blog, we share tips on how to get to Parma and how to get around the city. Parma has an airport, technically called Giuseppe Verdi Airport.
Built in 1991, the airport has virtually no flights. RyanAir does offer one flight to Parma from Cagliari on Sardinia. Most travelers to Parma arrive from Bologna Airport or Milan Airport.
How To Get To Parma – Train And Bus
By Train: Stazione di Parma is the main rail station for Param, Italy. Located on the northern edge of Parma, the station is a 10-15 minute walk to the main tourist area. Both local and long-distance train service arrives in Parma.
The Frecciarossa high-speed train from Milan to Rome stops at Parma. The high-speed train from Milan to Parma is an hour and ten-minute journey. Local train service from Bologna is a 50-minute journey.
By Bus: Parma is accessible by bus from points around Italy. International destinations including those in Germany, France, and Switzerland arrive at Parma. The main bus station is located approximately 2 miles (1.5km) from the centre of Parma.
Getting Around Parma
Parma is still a pedestrian friendly and walkable city. With good public transport throughout Parma, it’s possible to see most of the city even during a short stay. To protect its history, Parma does have restrictions on where motorists can drive and when they can access older parts of the city by car.
Restricted areas, or Limited Traffic Zones, are enforced in some areas by traffic cameras with fines sent in the mail. If you are renting a car, check with your hotel before arrival to see if they are in a Limited Traffic Zone and what is the best way to reach them.
The public transport system in Parma consists of electrified buses. Tickets for the bus are purchased from the driver. The cost is €2 for a one-hour ticket or a daily ticket for €3. Give the driver exact change as they do not provide change.
Day Trips From Modena or Bologna to Parma
Because of the proximity of Bologna, Modena, and Parma, it is possible to stay in one of the three cities and travel between them to explore. A Parma day trip is a perfect way to see the city when staying in Modena and Bologna. Of the three, we’ve always been partial to Modena.
The Bologna to Parma train takes between 45 minutes and an hour and twenty minutes depending on whether it is the high-speed train or the local train. The Modena to Parma train is less as Modena is located between Parma and Bologna.
FAQs – How To Visit Parma Italy
100% Yes! You must visit Roma, Florence, and Venice when it Italy. However, many of the smaller cities like Parma should also be on your list. They are most walkable, easier to explore, and give you a sense what it’s like to live in Italy.
Can you say amazing food? Parma is famous for two of the most iconic foods in Italy; Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma. Both of these are worth the trip.
Parma is located less than 100 miles from the northern Italian city of Milan. It can be reach via high speed train, car, or train in about an hour.
Culinary Travel To Italy
Our Italy Travel Experience
Our first trip to Italy was in 2000, and since then, we’ve taken dozens of trips to Italy to almost every region. Our most recent trip was in 2022.
This is easier for us as we live in Europe. We’ve taken food tours, cooking classes, visited wineries, and dined at some of the best restaurants in Italy. We are experts at Italy travel and, more importantly, eating in Italy.
Check out Amber’s book, the Food Traveler’s Guide To Emilia Romagna, which is available on Amazon. In addition to being a culinary travel guide to the region, it walks through how many of the typical Italian food products are made, like mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano.