A small city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is rich with history and known worldwide for the food created there. Parmesan cheese, anyone? Visiting a city drenched in so much history and with so much to see and do, it’s not easy to decide how to spend your days during your visit. To help you out with that, we’ve created a list of the 10 best things to do in Parma, Italy in 2021.
Parma has seemingly endless opportunities for exploring historic buildings, relaxing in incredible parks, and enjoying authentic Italian delicacies. It just comes down to determining what you want to spend time doing while you’re visiting.
As you’re planning your trip, use this list to make it a breeze. Here are the 10 best things to do in Parma!
Start at Piazza del Duomo
As a general rule of thumb while in these smaller Italian cities, if you’re unsure of what to go or how to start your day, just go to the main public square of the city. In many cases, this will be the square that houses the city’s main cathedral. That’s the case with Parma, and you should start your trip at the social hub known as the Piazza del Duomo.
In this open public space, you’ll find many important structures lining the area, such as the Cathedral of Parma, the Baptistry, and more. You’ll also find plenty of hustle and bustle of visitors and locals alike, so there’s always something new to look at in the square. A visit to Parma cannot be considered complete until you’ve taken in the culture all around the main public square.
Visit the Duomo of Parma
While you’re exploring the Piazza del Duomo mentioned above, it’s impossible to see the impressive Duomo of Parma dominating most of the square. The Parma Cathedral was built over 900 years ago in the popular Romanesque style. The impressive cathedral features an unfathomable 206-foot high tower soaring into the sky. While the exterior of the cathedral sure is impressive, you’ll love what you see inside as well.
Step in and immediately take a look at the ceiling above to see the incredible artwork by Corregio. While it’s not quite Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it’s not too far away in terms of sheer beauty. Take a look around and peek at all the different artwork adorning the cathedral walls before heading downstairs into the crypt. Explore the underground area to see even more fantastic architecture, construction, and artwork everywhere you look.
Walk Through Parma Vecchia
As is the case with lots of the cities you might explore as part of your trip to Italy, there is an old or historic part of town that’s worth visiting as well. When it comes to Parma, this rings true as well, and the area is known as Parma Vecchia. Leave the tightly packed city center of Parma and cross the Parma River to get to the oldest sections of the city, where you can find all sorts of historically significant structures and buildings worth taking a look at.
One of the first that you’ll come across as you make your way to Parma Vecchia is Ponte di Mezzo, which was likely the bridge you crossed to enter the old part of town. Next, you’ll come up to the 16th-century Church of Santissima Annunziata, among many others. With all the history as well as all the cafes and restaurants you’ll find in Parma Vecchia, you could easily spend half a day or more just exploring the area.
Visit the National Gallery of Parma
An art-lovers perfect escape from the busy streets of Parma, the National Gallery of Parma will allow you to check out some pieces of work by some of the most well-known artists in the country’s history. Not a very big museum, it’s perfect for stopping in unexpectedly or pencil a couple of hours into your schedule to see.
Inside, you’ll find work by some of the most famous artists of the area, including Corregio (who painted the ceiling of the Parma Cathedral), and even some by the famous Leonardo da Vinci. The works in this gallery were collected over hundreds of years and mainly span the time between the 17th and 19th centuries. So stop in and take a look; you won’t be disappointed.
Check Out Piazza Garibaldi
Although Piazza del Duomo gets all the credit due to the accompanying Duomo of Parma, it’s not the liveliest social hub in all of Parma. That title goes to Piazza Garibaldi, so you’ll want to spend some time at this public square as well while you’re visiting the city.
The square is home to the city’s governmental offices as well as an endless number of cafes and restaurants lining the streets. So if you really want to get into the thick of the culture of Parma and take it all in, grab a coffee from one of the cafes, sit at a table outside, and watch the world go by all around you.
Visit Battistero di Parma
Although the Duomo of Parma dominates much of the aforementioned Piazza del Duomo, it’s not the only significant structure in the area. The Battistero di Parma (Baptistery of Parma) is the second large religious structure lining the sides of the popular square. Located very close to the Duomo, it would be easy to assume they were part of the same facility due to their impressive stonework and massive size.
The building’s construction began in the same Romanesque style of the towering Duomo in the late 12th century but was finished nearly 100 years later in the Gothic style that was taking over Italy at the time. That’s why you can see such a drastic difference in design between the top and bottom halves of the structure. Its marble construction and octagonal architecture make it one of the most interesting buildings in Parma and one that you do not want to miss.
Spend Your Night Wine-Tasting at Enoteca Fontana
For all you wine-lovers out there, spending your evening enjoying some delicious wine at Enoteca Fontana is a dream come true. You’ll have nearly limitless options to choose from. So if you like reds or whites, sweet or dry, it doesn’t matter — Enoteca Fontana will have options that you’ll love.
Not only is the wine here delicious, but the prices are also some of the cheapest you’ll find in all of Italy. So you certainly won’t be the only ones with the same idea. Enoteca Fontana gets extremely crowded in the evenings during the high travel season. But if you don’t mind crowds, you won’t find higher quality Italian wine at a better price.
Stroll Through Parco Ducale
One of the best ways to escape from the tourist-filled streets of Parma’s city center is to venture to the popular Parco Ducale and relax. Originally constructed as the grounds of the massive palace of the same name, Palazzo Ducale, the park has become one of the best places to go in Parma to take a break and relax on the many benches the park has to offer.
After facing significant destruction during the Second World War, the park has been rebuilt and restored to its former glory, and it’s as beautiful and relaxing as ever. Walk along the river, have a picnic with that special someone, or take a guided tour through the impressive palace. However you choose to enjoy it, Parco Ducale has got something for everyone.
Visit the Shrine of Santa Maria Della Steccata
If you want to see one of the most detailed church interiors in all of Italy, then you’ve come to the right place when you decide to visit Parma. One of the most opulent churches in the city, the Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata is truly something to marvel at. The entire interior of the church could be considered a masterpiece of ancient art.
Constructed in the mid 16th century, the Shrine of Santa Maria dell Staccata was originally constructed to be the home of an image of St. John the Baptist as well as an incredible statue of the Virgin Mary and Child. Once these artifacts were in place, many artists added to the Shrine, adorning nearly every surface in incredible artwork. Where there isn’t art, you’ll find gilded surfaces, dramatic draperies, and more.
Catch the Opera at Teatro Regio
If you’ve been to Palermo and seen the grandiose Teatro Massimo, you might be incredibly underwhelmed when you walk up to Parma’s signature Opera House. But don’t let the mundane exterior fool you or keep you away. Step inside the theater to be transported into one of the most ornately-decorated and well-kept theaters in all of Italy.
If you’re in the area the night of the Opera, you’ll regret it if you miss your chance to see one person. Teatro Regio is known for having the toughest audience in all of Italy, so you can rest assured knowing that the show better be incredible, or the audience will let the performers know. Seeing a show at this famous theater is a night out that you will never forget.