Having visited all tourist hot spots you might want to get off-the-beaten track to see Italy beyond the obvious. Parma, an attractive historic town in the Emilia-Romagna region, is one of those hidden gems that can be discovered on a customized Italy vacation.
The city is famous for art, beautiful architecture , delicious prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and handmade pastas. It is a great weekend destination with plenty of sites to keep you occupied for two-three days and many interesting day trips for those who want to stay longer.
The beautiful central square, Piazza del Duomo, is a good place to start your walk around Parma. Here you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the 12th century Cathedral, the Baptistery built in pink Verona marble and the Bishop’s Palace. The Cathedral has some outstanding masterpieces including the dome with spectacular frescoes by Correggio and Benedetto Antelami. You do not need to be an art buff to appreciate works by another celebrated local, Parmigianino, in the Church of the Madonna della Steccata and in the Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista.
Be prepared to walk around the old center of Parma filled with awe in front of magnificent palaces and churches that have been beautifully preserved throughout centuries. The impressive complex of the Palazzo della Pilotta built in the 16th century by the powerful Duke Farnese today houses the National Archaeological Museum, the Farnese Library and Theater, an art school, the Bodoni Museum and the National Gallery filled with works by Correggio, Parmigianino, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Tiepolo, and Canova.
Local cuisine in Parma is a masterpiece in its own right. Tortellini, cappelletti, anolini hand-made pasta varieties are delicious under any sauce. Typical hearty main dishes include beef stew (stracotto) with polenta, tripe and stuffed breast of veal (picàja). The desserts will only reaffirm the city’s status as a foodies’ paradise: rice tort, almond cake, honey pastries, candied violets. Make sure you stock up on local delicacies at Salumeria Garibaldi (Via Garibaldi 42) and Salumeria Verdi (Via Garibaldi 69a).
Photos by: Turismo Emilia Romagna/Flickr, Antonio Trogu, Phillip Wong.