Everything you need to know to plan a perfectly food-centric day in Parma, Emilia Romagna!
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Sitting in the middle of Italian foodie heaven, Parma is an easy day trip from Bologna, Modena, or Milan! Here’s everything you need for a relaxing, food-centric day in Parma with history and architecture thrown in.
A Foodie’s Guide to a day in Parma
The number one thing to do in Emilia Romagna (especially for a day in Parma), is to sample some of the local specialties!
Prosciutto di Parma is widely considered the best prosciutto in the country! They’re meticulous when it comes to raising the pigs and curing the meat. Doing a tour is a great way to learn more about how much goes into each slice of prosciutto!
Another iconic ingredient from this region is Parmigiano Reggiano. True parmesan is a thing of beauty, and tours do an excellent job showing the entire process from milk to aged Parmigiano Reggiano! It’s impressive to watch them work – it’s much more of a physically exerting process than I thought.
Not from Parma, but nearby Modena is the home to traditional balsamic vinegar. I love it so much that I wrote a whole post telling about my experience visiting a family-run acetaia, or vinegar house!
Doing a tour & tasting to one of these producers is such a quintessential way to experience Emilia Romagna. There are plenty of options perfect for a day in Parma!
Parma Restaurants & Foodie Stops
Since we’re framing this as a day trip, I focused in on the best restaurant options at two different price points.
Osteria Dello Zingaro
If you only eat one meal in Parma, head to Osteria Dello Zingaro. They serve homestyle food to a room full of mostly locals. It’s not too expensive, and if you’re feeling brave you can order the horse fillet!
If you’re looking for something a bit nicer, head to Il Trovatore. They focus on local ingredients but cook dishes from all over Italy! So if you’re craving something not normally found in Emilia Romagna, this is the spot.
If you want to take a break and sample the local wines, go to OsteMagno. It’s a cute, no-frills wine bar with an extensive wine list! They also offer antipasti and pasta dishes if you’re hungry, but the focus is wine.
When it comes to gelato, Ciacco is the best in town! They do a mix of classic and unique flavors, and everything is good. You can’t go wrong. They also do stunning cakes and desserts.
What to see in Parma
Since you’re already spending a day in Parma, here are the non-food-related sights you may want to check out!
If you only see one building in Parma, see the Cathedral. Don’t let the simplistic front fool you – the inside is amazing! Every surface is intricately painted, giving you so much to soak in. Entrance to the cathedral is free, or you can buy a combo ticket to see the great cathedral complex including the baptistery and the museum. I don’t know that that’s necessary; the cathedral is the best part.
Pilotta Palace & Farnese Theater
I’m using the Palazzo della Pilotta/Pilotta Palace as an umbrella for everything it contains! Historically, this was the Ducal Palace (read: fortress) for the ruling family. Built in the 1500’s, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. But the inside houses a series of museums that can easily take the whole afternoon if you like art.
The major thing to see is the Farnese Theater. It’s known for being one of the first modern style theaters in the world, with the stage set apart on one wall. It’s largely recreated after being significantly damaged from WWII bombing.
The Palazzo also includes the National Archaeology Museum of Parma (one of the oldest in Italy), National Gallery, and an extensive historic library.
Out the back of the Palazzo della Pilotta is the Parco Ducale, formerly the palazzo’s ground. Nowadays its free to the public and good for a walk or a break if you need some fresh air. It’s an optional stop, but good for a change of pace or a stroll with gelato in hand.
The Teatro Regio is a beautiful historic theater built in the early 1800s. It’s also famous because Verdi was born nearby and staged nearly all of his operas here first.It’s open to tours but you need to book in advance! They’re reasonably priced – 7€ per person as of spring 2023. You can also get tickets to performances here if you stay overnight!
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
Piazza Garibaldi is the main square of Parma. It dates back to medieval times and has been the center of city action since then. Currently, it holds more modern buildings for the town hall and the governor’s palace. It’s a good spot to have an apertivo and people-watch!
I have all this and more on my Parma day trip Thatch guide! It offers all this in an interactive map form, perfect for checking on the go. It also has recommendations for stops in the countryside on the way: medieval castles, cute hillside towns, and my favorite producers of Parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto!