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PARMA: Things to do in the Italian capital of culture 2020+21

A short list of useful information and advice on how to visit Parma and its countryside in the best possible way

Located in the western part of Emilia, Parma is one of the most visited small cities in Northern Italy. Famous for its history and above all its gastronomy, it is the ideal destination for those who want to benefit from artistic beauties without giving up a stop to enjoy good food and good local wine.

Famous not only for its gastronomy, Parma is the Italian capital of culture 2020+21. With its squares and its monumental beauties, it is ideal for long walks, and visits to its beautiful churches, and rich museums cannot be missed, all accompanied by gastronomic tours at the delicious typical taverns.

1. Stroll along the Parma creek and through the city parks

The city is famous for its green areas. If you decide to leave the alleys of the historic center, dotted with taverns and delicious typical restaurants, Parma offers the opportunity to enjoy a little quiet and serenity in various parks and gardens. Among the most famous, there is the Ducale Park, built in the mid-sixteenth century and populated by fountains and neoclassical structures. The Cittadella Park is also one of the most visited. It occupies the interior spaces and part of the moat of the ancient fortress from the end of the 16th century. If you prefer waterways to parks, a relaxing walk alternative could be a stroll along the Parma creek (the Lungoparma) that crosses the city and offers very Romanesque views and a view of the pretty bridges of the downtown.

2. Visit the churches of Parma

Piazza Duomo in Parma is one of the most interesting medieval squares in Italy. The Cathedral, a superb example of late Romanesque architecture, was begun around 1100. In 1526 the artist Correggio created the extraordinary cycle of frescoes in the dome, inspired by the theme of the Assumption of the Virgin. Next to the church is the Baptisterywhich began a little over a century later . Also worth a visit is the Monastery of San Giovanni formed by the church, the monastery and the Ancient Apothecary. The church was frescoed by Correggio, while the old pharmacy offers a curious journey into the history of medicine.

3. Visit the museums of Parma

The monumental complex of Palazzo della Pilotta was built in 1583, and currently houses the National Archaeological Museum, the Farnese Theater, the Palatine Library, the National Gallery and the Bodonian Museum.

The National Gallery of Parma preserves the works of the Farnese collection and those of the Duchess of Parma and Piacenza Maria Luigia of Austria, the Napoleon’s wife. Among the most important artists the following deserve a mention: Beato Angelico, Correggio, Parmigianino, Carracci, Guercino, El Greco, Van Dyck, Tintoretto, Canaletto, and even a drawing by Leonardo. The Farnese Theater was built between 1616 and 1618at the behest of the Farnese dukes. Its peculiarity lies in the innovative technique used: the stage was mobile and the characters could be lowered from above. In 1944, during the World War II, it was partially destroyed by a bomb, but restorers have rebuilt it according to the original design.

4. In the countryside

A few steps from Parma city, you can visit delightful small villages such as:

Busseto, the city that gave birth to the musician Giuseppe Verdi, the father of Italian melodrama;

Fontanellato, with its fortress, one of the best preserved in the area. A few kilometers from the village is the Masone Labyrinth, a unique cultural park of its kind: a bamboo labyrinth (the largest in the world) and the interesting art collection by Franco Maria Ricci, a famous editor of refined art magazines and literary editions;

The surroundings of Parma are also famous for the well-preserved castles and fortresses that stand in numerous small medieval villages, like that of Torrechiara with its elegant castle overlooking the valley below, or Soragna, with its fortress still inhabited by the last descendant of the Marquises Meli-Lupi;

Also worth a visit is the Ducal Palace of Colorno, one of the favorite residences of the Duchess Maria Luigia of Austria, with its splendid French garden.

Finally, you cannot miss a stop in Polesine-Zibello, the land of the famous Culatello (a delicious product of the local butchery).

5. Enjoy the delicious local foods

In December 2015 Parma has been certified "UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy and indeed, while visiting the city, you cannot fail to stop in the many restaurants, bistros or taverns (trattorie) offering local foods.

The cornerstones of Parma's culinary tradition are: raw ham, stuffed pasta (anolini and tortelli), and Parmigiano cheese. But the city offers so much more to taste such as the wide variety of cold cuts traditionally served with fried "pie" to which are added “tagliatelle”, “lasagne”, “risotto”, stewed or roasted game and poultry (hare, pheasant, rabbit, etc.).

Finally, among the wines, it is impossible not to mention the famous Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine perfect to accompany all these delicacies.

The Food Museums system (Musei del Cibo della Provincia di Parma) enhances all these delicacies in the eyes of visitors:

- the Museum of Parmigiano-Reggiano housed in a historic dairy belonging to the Meli-Lupi fortress in Soragna;

- the Culatello Museum at the Antica Corte Pallavicina in Zibello;

- the Salame Museum housed in the castle of Felino;

- the Porcino Mushroom Museum in Borgotaro;

- the Wine Museum, housed in the magnificent fortress Sanvitale in Sala Baganza;

- the Parma Ham Museum in Langhirano;

- the Tomato Museum and Pasta Museum at the Court of Giarola, a medieval agri-food processing plant located on the right bank of the Taro river.

6. Cycling along the various cycle paths

Cycling allows you to fully enjoy the surrounding area without polluting the environment or subjecting to schedules and complications of road or rail transport. So it could be a very pleasant experience to cycle alone or in a small group along the various cycle paths that branch off from the city in different directions.

Several travel agencies organize guided tours, also providing bicycles or e-bikes.


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