A Weekend In Parma – Your Ultimate City Guide
If you’re looking for a weekend spring break then instead of thinking about the usual suspects why not choose a destination that perhaps isn’t on your radar, but ticks all of the right boxes. Parma is one of those cities that I first visited back in 2015 and was pleasantly surprised. It has so much more to offer than just Parma ham and Parmegiano Reggiano. Parma is the Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy, so while food plays a big part, there are also plenty of cultural offerings too. In 2020 this city will be the Italian capital of culture, so as you can see lots to explore and do. Below is a list of things to do, see, eat and of course shop to your heart’s content…
If you happen to be in Parma in March then perhaps do not miss out on the Spring edition of Mercanteinfiera (2nd– 10thMarch). This is Europe’s oldest International Fair, dedicated to antiques, modernism and vintage collectables, the largest event of its kind in Italy, with over 50,000 visitors from all over the world. This enormous, eclectic market has over 1,000 international exhibitors and is a unique treasure trove selling everything from antiques and retro-modern furniture, to vintage jewellery and fashion pieces… Some of the vintage fashion pieces are amazing! Make sure to go back in time into the old-fashioned atmosphere of pavilion 6: dozens of eye-catching stalls full of glasses, clothes and bags from the glorious decades of the XX Century which you will be mesmerised by their elegance. One of the exhibitions I am also really looking forward to is ‘Let’s Play’, an extraordinary collection of children’s vintage games which can only evoke magic. Each year the fair offers a spring edition and an autumn edition – so organising your trip around this time is always ideal I reckon. If there is one tip I can give you, wear the most comfortable shoes you have, your feet will thank you at the end of the day.
There’s no hiding that in Parma it really is about enjoying good food, which doesn’t come as a surprise being an Italian city. When it comes to food Parma is not for the faint hearted – expect very big portions and lots of courses! Aside form Parma ham and Parmegiano Reggiano, there is so much more to try. Pumpkin ravioli being one of their many specialities, then you have ‘torta fritta’, small round pieces of lightly fried dough balls that are heavenly when eaten with onions and soft cheese. If you’re into cured meats, then one must try Culatello di Zibello, you can thank me later.Because food is such a big part of the city, hereare a few restaurants that I’ve put together that are worth exploring.
If you’re looking for a traditional restaurant with the ambience of a typical country trattoria, then Ai Due Platani is the place for you. The menu features Emilian specialties such as tortelli pasta stuffed with pumpkin, pappardelle pasta with a duck and pine nut ragù, and veal fillet with a traditional tuna sauce. Cocchi is another delicious historic traditional restaurant not to be missed. Anolini in brodo (round pasta pockets stuffed with different kind of meats and parmigiano reggiano in broth) is a firm favourite and definitely worth a try. Another great choice is Bistrot Il Cerchio. Located a few kilometres from the city centre, this modern & contemporary bistrot offers a variety of great dishes with also a great selection of wines. For acontemporary twist, try Meme Restaurant. This recently opened and modern restaurant offers a range of innovative dishes for both meat and fish lovers, recommended for the Row fish. Expect beautifully styled dishes and scrumptious food.
The sacred aperitivo is probably one the best Italian traditions to ever exist! I mean having a glass of wine or cocktail accompanied with delicious snacks. Now when I say snacks I don’t mean our British equivalent of peanuts and crisps. On the contrary, I’m talking about cheeses, cured meats, bread and so much more…
Vineria Giramondo is an excellent place for trying a wide range of wines by the glass. Plenty of organic, small vineyard or unusual grape varieties to try. Not to mention the locally sourced organic cheeses and charcuterie. Another place to try is Enoteca Fontana, a small and busy wine bar offering a great wine selection and traditional Parma dishes and also grilled Panini’s which are always welcomed! Le Malve right in the city centre, is another great choice for an aperitivo before heading out for dinner, in this contemporary ambience. Lots of wine/drinks to choose from and as usual delicious nibbles to keep you company. If you’re looking for the perfect romantic setting, then Le Petit Café is the one for you. Next to the river, this cute vintage style café is always highly recommended.
A visit to the city of food would not be complete without actually bringing back some authentic Parma products. Be it ham, cheese, balsamic vinegar, Chocolates you name it. Here is a selection of some of the best gastronomy shops in Parma.
La Drogheria is the perfect shop to tantalisethe senses full of food, wine, beer, tea and coffee. The perfect delicatessens to take home. For the chocolate lovers out there, let me introduce you to Banchini the historic chocolate parlour. In this gorgeous small shop you’ll find the company’s chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars and even chocolate “salami”, in case you’re wondering, that would be a chocolate tube in the form of a cured meat. If ham is your thing then a must visit is La Prosciutteria, already a landmark in the city for all Parmesans, and for tourists who want to enjoy “a piece of Parma”. In addition to ham, you can find many varieties of Parmegiano Reggiano, salami, a wide selection of gourmet specialities and fresh bread. Fancy a beer? Then stop off at Idea Birra, an array of beers of all types to choose from will be waiting for you.
Parma truly is a historical and cultural haven. For a city of such small dimensions it really does have a lot to offer. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what a tiny gem Parma really is. Did you know that Parma is the native country of leading Italian opera composer of the 19th century, Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi. Noted for operas suchas La traviata, Aida, Otello and so many more. The Opera House known as Teatro Regio di Parmais such a beautiful spectacle, even though it is not so grand in size, the interiors truly are mind blowing. It is considered by opera buffs to be one of the true homes of the great Italian tradition.
Lets take another stop to a villa surrounded by an ancient park that houses the Magnani Rocca Foundation. Opened in 1990 in order to host the prestigious collection of art belonging to Luigi Magnani. Among several masterpieces, visitors will be able to admire many impressive pieces especially from the likes ofMonet, Renoir, Cezanne, De Chirico, de Pisis, Carrà, Guttuso just to name a few. All displayed in the rooms of the villa, together with sculptures by Canova, Bartolini and Manzù.
For something quite mesmerising and a trip down history lane, then take a step inside the enchanting Castle of Torrechiara. Rebuilt between 1448 and 1460 by Pier Maria Rossi in honor of the beloved Bianca Pellegrini, the castle perfectly preserves its square-shaped, late-medieval structure, comprised of four towers and an imposing crenellated curtain wall. Upstairs there is the beautiful Sala Degli Acrobati, decorated by artists from the Baglione school and Paganino which cannot be missed.
So apart from the cute deli’s and the restaurants to wet your appetite, Parma is noticeably great for a bit of retail therapy! A lovely place to go shopping in Parma is on the main street called ‘Strada Luigi Carlo Farini’. One of my favourite fashion boutiques is Marisa Castaldini, offering an exclusive range of Italian and international brands. Another fantastic shop is Store 333, super stylish you’d easily mistake it for a boutique in New York or Paris. Again with a great choice of independent brands, there’s also an exciting new addition which is the Scandinavian inspired home decor selection downstairs. Not to be missed. Not leaving anything out for the men, Olivier is definitely worth a visit. Their philosophy and mission is to offer a range of timeless items and brands which stand the test of time.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from when staying in Parma. A great one is Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati, with the perfect location right in the city centre overlooking il Duomo. A charming old building with spacious rooms, some have an antique décor feel to them and some are modern fancy. A great place featuring also apartments for longer stays. Definitely one to check out!
So there you have it! A city to capture your heart and definitely your taste buds! It’s the perfect weekend destination with plenty to do and see. Parma may be small but it is such a gem and a big force to be reckoned with. Word of advice: leave plenty of room in your suitcases and elastic waist pants are ideal! 😉
AD – This Post is a paid collaboration with Mercanteinfiera, however all views and love for this city are my own.