If you love Italian cooking, 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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Our Recommendations For The Top Parma Italy Hotels
|Parma Hotel||Best For||Rates From||Where To Book|
|Hotel Palace Maria Luigia||🏙️ Best City Center Hotel||€150||💶 Check Rates|
|Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati||🏅Best Four Star Hotel||€220||💶 Check Rates|
|Best Western Farnese||👨👩👧👦 Best For Families||€120||💶 Check Rates|
|Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais||🚜 Best Agriturismi||€190||💶 Check Rates|
|Hostaria Da’Ivan in Roccabianca||🍽 Best Guesthouse For Food||€110||💶 Check Rates|
|Villino di Porporano||🇮🇹 Best For A Historic Stay||€155||💶 Check Rates|
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. Parma is not the most beautiful city in Italy, especially compared to the likes of Rome and Florence. But it’s still worth visiting, especially for food.
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 tourist season in Parma is from June to August. If you can avoid these months, especially August do so. While this is the best time for US travelers, most of Europe is shut down. Across Spain, Portugal, and Italy shops, bars, and restaurants are closed for the month. Avoid August 15, or Ferragosto, which is an Italian national holiday when shops and restaurants close and residents flee to the beach.
Additionally, the weather in Italy in August can be unbearable. Temperatures in Italy can easily reach into the upper 80s or low 90s Fahrenheit. Creature comforts like ice and air conditioning are still an afterthought in Italy.
Food Events In Parma Italy
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. This is just another reason why Eric and I love traveling to Parma. Any region that puts on a festival dedicated to pork, is alright with us.
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 Hotels In Parma
When it comes to where to stay in Parma Italy there are several options. You’ll find great hotels both in the city center as well as the surrounding areas.
If you are traveling to Parma by train, we recommend a couple of hotels in the Parma city center. Several are within a few minutes walk or a short taxi ride from the train station.
Additionally, some of the best places to stay in Parma are in the agriturismi and country hotels. These hotels give you a better feel for the region as a whole. Many including Antica Corte Palla Vicina feature amazing Italian cuisine and are pet friendly.
Needless to say, these hotels are best for travelers visiting Parma with a car. Public transportation to these rural hotels outside of Parma doesn’t exist. If you are thinking about taking a taxi, a word of caution, it will be very expensive.
One of our top traveling tips for Italy is not to be afraid to stay in the countryside, or outside of the big cities. There’s something special about the Italian countryside that simply must be experienced.
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. In addition to the Piazza del Duomo and the National Gallery, many of the best hotels in Parma are near many of Parma’s beautiful parks and outdoor spaces.
In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at how walkable Parma is. I’m not sure if this was by design or because Parma is a university city. Regardless, it’s one of the reasons why we love visiting Parma.
Sina Maria Luigia: This four-star hotel in the heart of Parma features over a hundred rooms, in a historic building.
Sina Maria Luigia is a short walk to the most famous attractions of Parma, including the National Gallery (Galleria Nazionale di Parma), the Victory Monument, and the Parma Opera House (Teatro Regio). It is also very close to the train station. Sina Maria Luigia is pet friendly for a fee. Additionally, the hotel offers parking for a fee. Get the best rates for Sina Maria Luigia 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 for Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati here.
Best Western Farnese: The Best Western Farnese is a part of the well-known Western hotel chain. This modern hotel offers a little more atmosphere and comfort compared to traditional Best Western hotels in the U.S. For family travelers to Parma, the Best Western Farnese is the ideal choice.
The Best Western Farnese is approximately a 15-20 minute walk from the hotel into the center of town. For families looking to avoid the nightlife in Parma, the Best Western Farnese is a good compromise. It’s close enough to all the tourist attractions in Parma, but far enough away for quiet and a good night’s sleep.
The hotel has a pool, along with an inviting terrace during the summer. Room rates begin at €64 with breakfast. Get the best rates for the Best Western Farnese 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. For those not familiar with the term “agriturismo”, an agriturismo is an Italian farm that has been converted into a restaurant or a hotel. In the United States, the closest example of an agriturismo is a farm stay.
During our travels to Italy, we’ve stayed at a number of agriturismos. Aside from the occasional spotty Wifi, we’ve always enjoyed the experience. For one thing, the Italian cuisine at an agriturismo is always top-notch. Why? You’re staying on a farm with fresh ingredients.
Recommended Agriturismos And Rural Hotels In Parma
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 for Antica Corte Palla Vicina 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 for Hostaria Da’Ivan here.
Villino di 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.
If you are traveling in Italy by car, Villino di Porprano does offer free parking. Rooms start at €85 in the low season. Get the best rates for Villino di Porporano 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. This should be helpful for first time travelers as well as those returning to Italy. Even with 20+ years of experience traveling to Italy, we can find getting around Italy a bit confusing or frustrating.
Not many people, including Eric (the aviation lover), know that Parma has an airport. Giuseppe Verdi Airport was built in 1991. It’s a very small airport that has virtually no flights.
FlyOne and RyanAir offer flights out of Giuseppe Verdi Airport. FlyOne has a flight to Chișinău in Moldova while RyanAir has limited flights from Parma to Cagliari on Sardinia, Palmero on Sicily, and Malta.
With flights to Parma limited, most international travelers to Parma arrive from Bologna Airport or Milan Airport.
How To Get To Parma – Train And Bus
Getting to Parma By Train: Stazione di Parma is the main train 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. This puts Milan and other parts of northern Italy within range of visiting.
*Pro Tip: As a general rule of thumb, we recommend avoiding hotels immediately around any train station. This isn’t specific to the Parma rail station as we’ve never stayed near Stazione di Parma. However, mistakes from previous stays near train stations have given us this “rule”.
These areas are generally loud all day long. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft are more common. Scammers are also more common around train stations. It’s just best never to stay in a hotel near a train station.
Getting to Parma 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 Parma public transport system 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.
Get the best price for a Parma Walking Tour and confirm before leaving home
Travel Insurance For Parma
To buy travel insurance or not to buy travel insurance. This is easily one of the most asked questions we receive since Eric and I started writing about food travel 10 years ago. And to be honest, it’s a topic we have very little experience with.
With the exception of one or two “dangerous” countries, we’ve never bought insurance. This is simply a personal preference. I’m not going to say one way or another if you “need” insurance.
After all, things happen. People get sick and can’t travel. Bags get stolen when traveling. And the list goes on and on.
But what about buying travel insurance for Parma, Italy? Again, from a personal preference standpoint, we’ve never bought insurance when traveling to Italy.
And we’ve been traveling to Italy for 20+ years. Italy is relatively safe and easy to travel around. There is no need for insurance. But if you are a first time traveler and having insurance puts your mind at ease, then, by all means, buy it.
Day Trips From Parma
Because of the proximity of Parma to Bologna and Modena, it is possible, but not recommended, to stay in Parma and do a day trip to Bologna and Modena. Why is it not recommended? Because Bologna and Modena are equally amazing cities that you can’t see in a day. Trust us.
That said, if you are short on time and really want to see Bologna and Modena, it is possible to visit both cities from Parma. The Parma to Bologna train takes between 45 minutes and an hour and twenty minutes. This depends on whether it is the high-speed train or the local train. The Parma to Modena train is only 35 minutes. This train is only the local train.
Train tickets to either Bologna or Modena can be purchased on the day of travel at the station. Or you can book ahead of time using Trainline. This is a train booking app we’ve been using for years and use whenever we travel by train.
Other Day Trips From Parma
For first time travelers to Parma, there are a handful of other trips from Parma worth checking out. The smaller Italian towns of Reggio Emilia and Piacenza are both great day trips from Parma. Both Reggio Emilia and Piacenza are nearly equidistant from Parma. And both can easily be reached by train from Parma.
If you want to go “crazy” and explore outside of Emilia-Romagna, La Spezia, home of Cinque Terre, is only two hours by train. This is a stretch and we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this. Cinque Terre is too beautiful to see only in one day. Book a separate trip and do it right.
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 of 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 reached via high-speed train, car, or train in about an hour. Parma is in the region of Emilia-Romagna.
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.