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How to Spend the Perfect One Day in Parma, Italy

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Are you planning to spend one day in Parma, Italy? We’re sharing all you need to know in this guide!

This small city in Emilia Romagna has so much to offer. From the stunning frescoes of the Parma Cathedral and its Baptistery to some of the best food in Italy. There is something for everyone here.

You can easily visit Parma on a day trip from Bologna, Modena, and Milan. The train ride takes an hour or less from all of these cities. Alternatively, if you have time, we suggest spending the night in this beautiful city to give you a little more time here.

We’ve been to Parma three separate times on day trips from Bologna, and we can confidently say that it’s one of our favorite places in Italy to visit over and over again.

With one day in Parma, you’ll have enough time to see the main sights, try some local cuisine, and even have time to wander around the city.

If you’re looking for a more food-focused day trip, such as visiting a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, check out our additional foodie itinerary that we’ve included here.

Here is our guide to Parma, plus all of our tips to help you plan the perfect day trip!

One Day in Parma Itinerary

In this detailed one day in Parma itinerary, we’re sharing all of our favorite hidden gems and top tips, so you can make the most out of your day.

Start Your Day off at Caffe Cavour

We recommend starting the day off at one of our favorite cafes. Caffe Cavour is a great spot for a leisurely breakfast. Come here and enjoy cappuccino, espresso, or macchiato prepared by a local barista. 

You can also get a snack to eat, like croissants, cookies, and muffins. We suggest opting for a brioche and cappuccino to set you up for the day. After you’ve had your morning caffeine fix it’s time to move on to the next stop.

Make Your Way to Palazzo della Pilotta

Spend the morning at Palazzo della Pilotta. This complex of buildings, once a former palace in Parma, is now home to several important cultural institutions, such as the Teatro Farnese, the Palatine Library, and the National Gallery. 

The Renaissance building is located in the heart of Parma and is considered one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. To do everything justice, we suggest spending at least 2 hours here.

For more information on opening hours, ticket prices, and the history of the palace, check out the Palazzo della Pilotta’s website.

Visit the National Gallery

The National Gallery is home to some of the most spectacular and valuable artworks in Italy. It includes works from Renaissance masters as well as Baroque artists. 

In addition to the artwork, you can explore the grand chambers of this former palace, including the exquisite Palace Room with its red velvet curtains and gilded frames. The Palazzo della Pilotta also houses a museum dedicated to modern art and a gallery devoted to local Parma artists.

You can take advantage of one of the guided tours which will take you through centuries of history in just an hour, or just wander through the galleries at your own pace. 

PRACTICAL INFO: The National Gallery is open from 10:30am until 7:00pm Tuesday to Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays. Admission to the Pilotta Palace complex is €13 per adult.

Farnese Theater

This Baroque theatre was built in 1618 and features original stucco decorations, alcoves, and statues depicting classical scenes. It is one of the most important examples of Italian baroque architecture, with extravagant plays that used to take place on the stage.

This is one of the most magnificent and unique theaters we have seen in all of our European travels. Make sure to take time to admire its grandeur from the pristine wooden balcony seating.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Farnese Theater is open from 10:30am until 7:00pm Tuesday to Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays. Admission to the Pilotta Palace complex is €13 per adult.

Palatine Library

The Palatine Library is home to some of the world’s most precious books and manuscripts. It houses over 700,000 books and manuscripts. The library also has many rare books by Italian authors such as Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio.

The library takes just a few minutes to visit and was one of our favorite parts of the entire palace.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Palatine Library is open from 10:30am until 7:00pm Tuesday to Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays. Admission to the Pilotta Palace complex is €13 per adult.

Stop by the Chamber of Saint Paul

The Chamber of Saint Paul is a hidden gem in Parma and is worthy of a quick visit. Located inside of a former monastery, the ceiling in the chamber features 16th century frescoes by Correggio. The artwork is considered a Renaissance masterpiece and is truly spectacular.

On the other end of the monastery, you can visit Saint Catherine’s Cell, which also features beautiful frescoes.

It’s open on Monday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30am to 5:30pm; Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am to 6:30pm. Tickets cost €5 per person.

Have Lunch at Da Pepen

Da Pepen is a small take-out place in Parma that is popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s a great spot to stop for lunch, and the specialty of the house is the horse meat sandwich! The restaurant also features other traditional Italian street food like paninis. 

If you’re not into horse meat, then we suggest getting a slice of carciofa from Da Pepen. It’s an artichoke pie that’s been mixed with cheese and meat creating the perfect savory combination.

After grabbing your lunch, head to Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi – the city’s main piazza to sit and eat as you take in the atmosphere of the city.

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi is surrounded by some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Palazzo del Governatore, a baroque building that was once the seat of the governor. The piazza itself is popular with locals and visitors alike; it’s a great place to people-watch.

Want to learn more about the local cuisine from an expert foodie? Check out this walking food tour in Parma.

Visit the Parma Duomo

The Parma Duomo is an impressive Romanesque-style Roman Catholic cathedral located in the center of the city. It was built between the late 11th to early 12th century on the site of a previous church that was destroyed by fire in the 9th century.

Inside, you can admire the detailed frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings. Don’t miss the dome featuring an incredible fresco painted by Antonio Correggio. Another place to explore is the crypts where many of Parma’s bishops are buried.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Duomo is open every day from 7:30 am until 12:00pm noon and then again from 3:00 pm until 7:30 pm. The church is free to visit.

Visit the Baptistry

This stunning octagonal Baptistry was built between 1196 and 1307. The outside is adorned with sculptures depicting biblical scenes, alcoves, and turrets. Once inside you can admire the colorful and intricate dome, supported by pinkish marble columns that carry it.

The baptistery is made of Verona marble and has eight sides. It has four levels of open loggias with a row of arches and a pinnacle on top. The base of the baptistery is surrounded by decorated friezes with sculptures of animals, mythical creatures, beasts, monsters, centaurs, mermaids, unicorns, and Zodiac signs. 

We were unsure about visiting the Baptistry because it can get tiring seeing all of the church sights in Europe. However, the Parma Baptistry is 100% worth visiting. We were blown away by the interior artwork and detailing.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Baptistry is open daily from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. Admission is €12 per adult. Tickets can be purchased at the Diocesan Museum across the square.

Quick Visit to Diocesan Museum

Located in the historic Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop’s Palace), it houses vast collections of artwork and religious artifacts from the 11th century onwards. 

The museum is divided into two main sections: one dedicated to sacred art, where you can admire paintings, vestments, and liturgical objects, and another devoted to showcasing the history of the Diocese itself.

PRACTICAL INFO: The Diocesan Museum is open daily from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. Admission is €12 – this is a combined ticket with the baptistry.

Visit Church of San Giovanni Evangelista

Located behind the Duomo you’ll find the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista. It was originally built in the 10th century but then rebuilt in its present form in the 15th century, and it’s changed very little over the hundred of years. 

The apse and nave are both adorned with detailed frescoes, as well as detailed stucco and intricate marble work. The ceiling is painted with detailed depictions of the Crucifixion and other religious scenes.

PRACTICAL INFO: The church is open from 8.30 am until 11.45 am, and then again from 3.30 am until 7.30 am. Entry is free. 

Grab Gelato at Ciacco Gelato

Unarguably, you’ll find the best Gelato in the city at Ciacco. Ciacco is a popular gelato shop located near the Piazza Garibaldi and is an essential stop during your day in Parma!

Here, you can find every flavor imaginable. Their gelato is made from local ingredients and you’ll find the likes of pistachio, chocolate, and crema, along with unique flavors like pineapple with rosemary and lemon cheese.

Ciacco is open from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday.

Wander Through the Charming Streets

Parma is filled with gorgeous photogenic cobblestone streets. One of the best things to do in Parma is to wander and explore them. 

Start around Centro Storico, the old town, which is filled with vibrant street life and cafes. Then make your way along the banks of the Parma river, or to one of the local parks like Ducale Park or Cittadella Park.

Take a Stroll and Relax Through Parco Ducale

Parco Ducale is an expansive public park in the city of Parma that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. The park is full of sprawling gardens, fountains, and sculptures of famous Italian figures. 

There’s also a cafe called daMAT that serves drinks and is the perfect spot to grab an aperitivo before dinner.

The park is open from 6:00 am to midnight and is free to enter.

We visited the Parco Ducale in the early fall and spent two hours slowly making our way around the park on a Saturday afternoon. If you’re there on a decent weather day, it’s one of the best places to relax and people watch.

Parma Foodie Itinerary Suggestion

Located in Italy’s food valley, Parma is known for its excellent cuisine. Rather than visit the historical monuments for the entire day, you could instead focus on doing a food-based itinerary for the first half of the day and then spend the second half in Parma itself.

The best way to do this is on a guided tour with a local guide, which is what we’ve done. They will point out all the best things to try, along with the top places to find them. You’ll also get to try loads of samples of everything.

If you’re a food-lover like us, then we suggest starting your day with either a walking food tour of Parma or a visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory and Parma ham factory.

We recently did the Parmesan cheese factory tour and highly recommend it if you enjoy learning about the process behind foods! It was one of our favorite activities to do in Emilia Romagna.

Here’s a sample itinerary for your foodie day in Parma:

Map for your Parma Day Trip

Below, you’ll find a map of all of the spots listed in this itinerary to help you best navigate your way around Parma. To view the map on your phone, click the box on the right and it will open up in Google Maps.

How to Get To Parma?

Getting to Parma is quite easy from neighboring cities. If you’re planning a Parma day trip, then the two best options we suggest are by using the train and going by car. If you want the ultimate stress-free day trip, then book a tour where transportation is included.

Parma day trip by Train 

The train is the best and most convenient way to get to Parma. There are plenty of connections from other major cities, it’s also the most affordable way to get to Parma if you book tickets in advance. 

Here are the two most popular routes:

  • Bologna to Parma: The quickest journey takes 49 minutes, and prices start from €8
  • Milan to Parma: The quickest journey takes 47 mites, and prices start from €11.80

Book your tickets on the Trenitalia website or app beforehand. This is the official site to book trains in Italy. For Parma, you should only need to book tickets a day or two in advance. However, it’s always best to book at least a week before for the best prices.

If you’re planning a list minute day trip to Parma, then you can easily book your tickets at the station on the day of.

Parma day trip by Car

Going by car is a great option if you want more flexibility, or you’re visiting Parma as part of an extended break to Italy.

If you’re planning to drive, here’s what you can expect:

  • Bologna to Parma – Is approximately 100km, taking approximately 1 hr 25 minutes to drive
  • Modena to Parma – Is approximately 60km, taking approximately 1 hr to drive

You can easily book a car rental just for the day through Discover Cars, our go-to rental site for cars in Italy. We’ve done this several times and have only had positive experiences.

Where to Eat In Parma

Parma is famous for its excellent cuisine, so it’s no surprise that there’s no shortage of great restaurants to choose from. Everything we ate during our time in Parma was delicious, however, these restaurants stood out from the rest. 

A few tips on booking restaurants in Parma. Make sure to reserve for restaurants in advance, at least two days if you can, as spots fill up quickly. Otherwise, you can try to get to the restaurant right as it opens and you may get a spot. Usually, restaurants will save a couple of tables for walk-ins and we’ve had success doing it this way when we haven’t had time to make reservations in advance.

  • Ristorante Cocchi – One of the best restaurants in the city and known for its stuffed pasta (tortelli).
  • Officina Alimentare Dedicata – Go here to get a taste of classic Emilia Romagna food.
  • Ristorante Gallo d’Oro – Try the Torta Fritta (fried dough) with cured meats and cheeses. This is a staple in Emilia Romagna. They also have fantastic tortelli and cappelletti – both are stuffed pastas.
  • Ciacco Gelato – Our favorite gelato spot in the city.
  • Da Pepen – The place to go to try the famous horse meat sandwich or carciofa pie (artichoke pie).

Foods to Try in Parma 

As one of the best regions in the world for food, we recommend trying everything at least once. Here are some of the best foods to try in Parma.

  • Parmesan Cheese – This hard, granular cheese is usually made from cow’s milk and aged for up to two years. It has a salty, nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with other Italian specialties like prosciutto and pasta dishes. The real Parmesan cheese is only produced in the Parma region due to its climate and local resources
  • Parma Ham – This is one of the most famous and iconic dishes from Parma. It is an air-dried, cured ham made from the hind legs of a specially bred-pig. Parma Ham has a deep pink color and a sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with its complementary ingredients like Parmesan cheese, figs, and melon. The dish is usually served sliced very thin and can be enjoyed on its own or as part of an appetizer or pasta dish.
  • Horse Meat – Horse meat has been a part of the Italian diet for centuries. Horse meat is lean and high in protein, it’s also packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In Parma specifically, horse meat can be cooked up in delicious sauces or served as cutlets with roasted vegetables. Horse meat is often served as part of a larger meal like tagliatelle al ragù di cavallo or ravioli ripieni di carne di cavallo e burro e salvia.
  • Tortelli – This classic local dish consists of pasta filled with a cheese or vegetable filling and is usually served in a buttery sauce.
  • Torta Fritta – Usually served with cold meats and cheeses, Torta Fritta is a classic appetizer in Emilia Romagna. It’s a fried bread made of yeast, water, and lard and then it’s fried in lard.

Where to Stay In Parma?

If you are planning to spend the night in Parma, then we highly suggest staying at the Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati. This hotel is located right next to the Parma Duomo in the city center. The rooms are fabulous and the hotel is located in a historic palace. We’ve personally taken a tour of the hotel and everything about it is fantastic!

Alternatively, for a more luxurious experience, the Grand Hotel De La Ville is a 5-star hotel located within 10-minutes from the city center.

One Day in Parma Frequently Asked Questions

Is Parma, Italy Walkable?

Yes, the city is quite small, in fact, walking is the best way to experience it. You can easily reach most of the city’s attractions on foot.

What Is Parma Famous For? 

Parma is most famously known for its Parmesan cheese, as well as its ham and other cured meats. Parma is also known for its art galleries, historic architecture, and local cuisine.

Is One Day Enough in Parma?

One day in Parma, Italy is enough to experience the main attractions, however, we recommended allowing an additional day for a foodie day trip. That way you can sample all the culinary delights the city has to offer.

More Information for your Italy Trip

BOLOGNA: If you’re planning to visit the capital of Emilia Romagna during your trip, check out our guide on the 25 Best Things to do in Bologna and our Bologna Food Guide. You may also like our article on the Best Gelato Shops in Bologna and a step-by-step guide to walking the Portico San Luca (the longest portico in the world)!

FLORENCE: Looking to stop by Florence for a day or two? Our 2-day Florence Itinerary can help you plan out your trip.

RAVENNA: Visit the stunning 5th century Byzantine Mosaics in Ravenna, and read all about this incredible on our 20 Best Things to do in Ravenna post.

ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

2 COMMENTS:

    1. Hello!

      Yes, Parma is a great place to visit in the winter, as you can still visit all of the local food producers and museums during this time. Of course, the city is more beautiful overall in the summer but the hearty food is more enjoyable to eat when it’s cooler outside.

      Jenoa

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