We visited Parma in the middle of winter and still found a ton of things to do despite rainy weather! Parma has a rich history and delicious food. Walking around Parma felt like we stepped back in time.
Parma is located in the region of Emilia-Romagna and is the second biggest city in region. It has a ton of history and has been inhabited for thousands of years (some scholars estimate that people could have lived in the area since 1500 BC. It is known for many things, including prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Things to See in Parma
Note: all of the places listed here are within walking distance!
Cattedrale di Parma
The Cattedrale (or cathedral) of Parma, was my favorite thing that we saw in Parma. It is a very historical structure and was built in 1059. It is large from the outside and located in a cobblestoned plaza. From the outside, it doesn’t look particularly extravagant, but just wait until you step inside. Inside the cathedral is filled with extraordinary frescoes and artworks. The ceiling is absolutely incredible.
One thing about visiting the Cattedrale di Parma, is that it is free to visit, but to turn the lights on, you have to pay a Euro or two to a little box on the wall. (We call it “pay-to-play” lol). I was skeptical that turning on the ceiling lights would make much a difference, but trust me when I say it is worth it. The lights on the frescoes make them light up and you can see them to their full extent.
Piazza del Duomo
Just outside the Cattedrale di Parma is the Piazza del Duomo. It is the large open space outside the main cathedral. We went on a weekday morning, so it was pretty quiet, but it is a nice little square surrounded on all sides but historic buildings.
Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista
If you walk down the street to the right of the Cattedrale di Parma, you will find the Chiesa San Giovanni Evangelista right behind the main cathedral. This church building has a completely different style than the main cathedral. You can go inside for free during their open hours.
Palazzo della Pilotta
The Palazzo della Pilotta is a very popular place in Parma. It is a old palace complex that contains many museums and the Teatro Farnese. The Teaatro Farnese, National Gallery of Parma, Museo (museum) Bodoniano, Paolo Toschi Art School and National Archaeological Museum all live in the Palazzo della Pilotta.
You can visit the Palazzo della Pilotta complex for around 12 Euros. To purchase tickets to the palace, checkout their website. Note that the palace and museums are all closed on Mondays. All of the museums and theater are included in the ticket to the Palazzo della Pilotta, except for the Museo Bodoniano, which is 2 euros more if you have a ticket to the main palace.
Teatro Regio di Parma
South of the Palazzo della Pilotta, you can find the Teatro Regio di Parma. This theater is a famous Italian theater that still has ballets, operas, and performances. Inside you will find red velvet seats and ornate decoration throughout the theater. Tickets for the various performances can be found on their website. We were unable to see a performance, so we walked around outside.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata is a short distance from the Teatro Regio di Parma. This is a less visited basilica, but it is pretty gorgeous inside. It is smaller than the main cathedral of Parma, but it is very ornate with a lot of gold and many frescoes.
Just like the cathedral of Parma, it is “pay-to-play” meaning you must pay to turn on the lights in multiple places. Make sure you have one euro coins so that you can turn on the lights and see the beautiful artwork.
Monumento al Parmigianino
To the right of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata, you will find a fountain and statue of Parmigianino, a famous painter from Parma. He is carved out of marble and standing on a pedestal that is a fountain.
Personally I found the fountain quite funny because the water is coming out of people’s mouths, but the fountain doesn’t appear to have been cleaned lately and it appears as if the people are vomiting. Apparently, the water is supposed to be drinkable, but I would not recommend drinking the barf-fountain water.
Palazzo del Governatore
The Palazzo del Governatore is another palace that you can visit that has art inside. The piazza outside of this palace has several bars and restaurants you could grab a lovely cappuccino at.
Go on a food tour
Parma is known for delicious food, including prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. We visited Caseificio Ugolotti, a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory, and had the best time! There are many cheese factories and meat factories in the area in and around Parma. You can book either directly with a factory or book a group tour that goes to multiple factories in one day.
For more information about visiting a cheese or meat factory, check out my blog post about our experience visiting a cheese factory.
I created a Google Map with all of the places talked about in this article. Check out the locations of all the places on this Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/KXB2Yn2PiBmuaVSa7
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I hope that this guide helps you in planning your trip to Parma! Let me know if you have any comments or questions below!
Thanks for reading!