Intro: Parma is the sort of picturesque, quaint Italian town that you’d imagine in your head or see in old Italian cinema. At 100,000 people, it is too small to have its own Serie A football team, but too large to traverse without the help of a bicycle or bus ticket. The town is often overlooked for historic neighbors such as Florence, Bologna, or Milan, but with these world-class cities come big-time crowds and a mark of excessive tourism that isn’t easy to erase. Parma, on the other hand, is genuine and untainted.Contrary to popular belief, this town is no day trip. It has too much for a quick stopover. It produces the finest of two pillars of Italian cuisine – parmesan cheese and prosciutto – and has top-rated restaurants, gelaterias, and sandwich shops to boot.
3 places you have to see:
1. Palazzo della Pilotta – an ancient palace and seat of the local government that doubles today as an art gallery and keeper of the original “Bodoni” font (which you can find on Microsoft Word). Its historical relevance stretches from the 17th century to World War II… since it was used by fascists, much of the fort was bombed out by the United States.
2. Parma Cathedral – you can find out more you need to know about an Italian city’s ancient history by visiting its cathedral, and Parma’s is no exception.
3. The ‘formaggio’ factory – With mozzarella producers aplenty in Parma and the surrounding Emilio-Romangna region, you won’t want to miss up a chance to see how the world-famous Parmiggiano Reggiano is produced, cultivated, and aged.
3 great places to eat:
1. Al Tramezzo (highly-rated, pricey dinner restaurant)
2. Pepen (sandwich shop)
3. Pizzeria Orfeo (exactly what it sounds like, best in the city)
Cool day trip to visit: ALMA. Elite Italian culinary institute that has world-famous alumni and three tracks: restaurant management, wine, and of course, cooking. Less than an hour drive from Parma
Hidden Cultural gems: Aperitvo on Strada Garibaldi. This street has a handful of high quality restaurants that put out all-you-can-eat finger food for the Italian equivalent of Happy Hour. At just 5 euros (along with a drink of your choice), you can get as much as you want, all while enjoying the bustling street alongside born-and-bred parmiggiani.
Q&A with Mayor of Parma (he likes to make himself accessible to people visiting the city)