๐Ÿง€ Parma, Italy Day Trip: 13 Great Things To Do + Itinerary

A woman leaning against a balcony going over a river.

Parma is a small city in northern Italy and a culinary gem renowned for producing Parmigiano Reggiano (i.e., the regulated version of Parmesan cheese) and Prosciutto di Parma.

Uncrowded and authentic, Parma deserves a one-day stop in your Italy itinerary when you’re visiting the Emilia-Romagna region.

I did a day trip to Parma, and here, I share practical tips on planning a day trip there. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿง€ Parma, Modena, vs. Bologna
  • โญ๏ธ Top things to do in Parma
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ A full-day optimized itinerary
  • ๐Ÿ“ Parma map with key places
  • ๐Ÿš‡ How to get around

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. When you buy with my affiliate link, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

Which Is the Best to Visit: Parma, Modena or Bologna?

The three most famous cities in the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy are Parma, Modena, and Bologna. All three are known to have some of the best restaurants in the world.

They’re similar enough that you don’t need to visit all three, but they also have enough differences to merit prioritizing them based on your interests.

Here are three key differences between Parma, Modena, and Bologna:

๐ŸŒ† Size and Atmosphere

The three Emilia-Rogmagna cities vary in size and atmosphere:

  • Bologna โ€“ The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is the largest and most vibrant of the three cities. It’s described as having both a small-town charm and big-city things to do. It’s also famous for its distinctive red and orange-colored buildings.
  • Parma โ€“ Parma is the smallest city out of the three. It’s a perfect place to spend a slow day.
  • Modena โ€“ Modena is between Parma and Bologna in size and atmosphere but leans more rural. It has a lively atmosphere on some days, but it’s smaller than Bologna.

This means that you can spend more time in Bologna than in Modena or Parma:

DestinationIdeal Length of Stay
Bologna2 days
Modena1 day
Parma1 day
# of Days to Stay in Bologna, Modena, and Parma

๐Ÿ Food Specialization

Parma, Bologna, and Modena are known for their culinary prowess, but each has their own specialty dishes:

  • Bologna โ€“ Bologna is known for bolognese, tortellini and tortelloni. Some say it’s hard to visit Bologna and not love one of those dishes as almost all restaurants serve it.
  • Modena โ€“ Modena is known for balsamic vinegar and Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine that’s one of my favorite types of wine.
  • Parma โ€“ As mentioned above, Parma is known for excellent Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham as it’s the origin place for both.

All three places boast Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s a good idea to pick which one to visit based simply on the restaurants you’re interested in dining at.

A plate of tortellini with some spice and oil.
Tortellini cooking class in Bologna. (Photo by my friend, Vivian Huang.)

โœจ Main Attractions

Each city also has its own distinct main attractions:

  • Bologna โ€“ Being bigger and more touristy, Bologna has the most things to do for visitors. It has lively markets, historic architecture, one of the oldest universities in the world, and an active music and art scene. The Piazza Maggiore and Two Towers (Due Torri) are its top attractions.
  • Parma โ€“ A more contained city, Parma can be visited on foot. Its top attractions include the Parma Cathedral and the Teatro Farnese.
  • Modena โ€“ Modena has its own cathedral and is a unique place for luxury car enthusiasts as it is home to the Ferrari and Maserati museums.
A shop selling jams, cured meat and cheese.
A cured meat and cheese shop in Modena. (Photo by my friend, Vivian Huang.)

Parma at a Glance

Hereโ€™s some general information on Parma to help you plan your trip.

๐Ÿง€ What Is Parma Known For?

Parma is primarily known for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano (i.e., the regulated version of Parmesan cheese) and Prosciutto di Parma.

It also boasts the annual Parma Ham Festival in September and several architectural landmarks.

A board covered with cured meat, bread, cheese and jam.
Tasting in Parma. (Photo by my friend, Vivian Huang.)

๐Ÿ“ Where Is Parma Located?

Parma is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It’s about a 30-minute train ride from Modena and a 50-minute train ride from Bologna.

Due to its location, it’s also possible to visit Parma as a day trip from major cities like Milan, Florence, and Genoa. You can access Parma in less than three hours from all three places if you take the train.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Parma?

The best way to visit Parma is as a day trip from Modena or Bologna. One day will give you enough time to visit the top attractions and eat plenty of cheese and Parma ham.

Since Parma is a fairly quiet city, I don’t recommend staying longer than two days unless you’ve visited Italy multiple times and are looking for slower travel.

Hereโ€™s how to efficiently plan a trip to Italy.

โ˜€๏ธ Best Time To Visit Parma

Parma has mild weather and fewer crowds compared to other more popular Italy destinations, making it a place you can visit almost all year round.

That said, the best time to visit Parma is during the spring (April to June) and the fall (September to November). The average temperature tends to stay between 60 ยฐF and 70 ยฐF The summer months tend to be hot, rising to 95 ยฐF.

I visited Parma in May and wore long pants and a light jacket most of the time.

๐Ÿ’ฐ How Much Is a Day Trip to Parma?

The cost of doing a day trip to Parma depends on where you’re coming from, where you’re eating, and whether you do a guided tour. Some attractions also have an entrance fee.

You can expect to spend $30 to $150 when visiting Parma for a day.

I spent $40 in Parma for a day. My train ticket from Modena to Parma was a little under $7, and I spent over $30 at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

See all my travel expenses in this Italy budget breakdown.

All prices mentioned here are in USD ๐Ÿ’ต .

3 Essential Tips for Visiting Parma

Here are three practical tips when visiting the city of Parma.

๐Ÿ’ฌ 1. Expect locals to have a lower English proficiency.

Roughly 13% of the Italian population speaks basic English, and that percentage drops when you visit smaller cities like Parma.

Compared to other cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice, I found it much harder to order food and ask questions in Parma as an English speaker.

Expect to use a language translation app more often and/or brush up on some common Italian phrases while visiting Parma.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2. Avoid visiting Parma on certain days.

Parma is a small city, so it can become a slow and sleepy area when many places are closed.

Parma shops are generally closed on Sundays and holidays. Some are even closed on Saturday afternoons and Monday mornings.

I was in Parma on a Monday afternoon, and things seemed generally open.

A grocery store fridge filled with different selections of cured ham.
Parma grocery store open on a Monday.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ 3. Wear comfortable shoes.

Due to its contained size, Parma is a pedestrian-friendly town that’s also very bikable. See below for more details on how to get around Parma.

How To Get Around Parma

Most visitors travel to Modena or Bologna and then take a train to Parma for a day trip.

Once you’re in Parma, you can get around the city by walking, biking, taking the bus, or calling a taxi.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Option 1: Walking

Parma’s center is small enough that you can get to most attractions on foot. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end of the city center to the other without making stops.

Walking is how I primarily got around Parma, and I found it efficient.

๐Ÿšฒ Option 2: Rental Bike

Biking is an efficient and cost-effective way to get around Parma. You can rent a bike for about โ‚ฌ12 per day from several places. For example, Cicletteria is located next to the Parma train station.

๐ŸšŒ Option 3: Parma Bus

Parma has a bus system that you can use; see the Tep bus’s official website for more details. You can buy a daily bus ticket for as little as โ‚ฌ4.80 (a little over $5).

๐Ÿš• Option 4: Taxi

If you need to go further out of the city’s center (e.g., to go to a specific restaurant), you can also call a taxi in Parma.

However, taxis are usually expensive by Parma’s standards, with rides costing more than $10.

Parma Map

This map has all the Parma attractions mentioned in this post.

Day Trip Itinerary for Parma

Below is a great way to visit Parma in a day.

To help you plan efficiently, Iโ€™ve included suggested times for each activity based on my firsthand experience.

๐Ÿš†Train to Parma from Modena or BolognaBefore 8:15 am
๐Ÿง€Take a Parmigiano Reggiano factory tour8:30 amโ€“1 pm
๐Ÿ›๏ธExplore Parma Centro’s shopping area and grab lunch1:30โ€“4 pm
๐Ÿ‘ŸCross Ponte Verdi4โ€“4:15 pm
๐ŸŒณWalk through Parco Ducale4:15โ€“5:15 pm
๐ŸHave an early dinner in Parma or head back to Modena/Bologna After 6 pm

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ With More Time in Parma

Most visitors come to Parma to eat. If you have more time in Parma, you can check out some of the city’s attractions.

The three most famous attractions in Parma are:

  • Parma Cathedral โ€“ showcases stunning medieval architecture
  • Teatro Farnese โ€“ a historically significant theater
  • Palazzo della Pilotta โ€“ an area surrounded by significant buildings and landmarks

5 Top Things To Do in Parma

Having collectively spent two days in Parma, I share my and my friends’ recommendations on the best things to do in Parma, listed in rough order of priority.

1. Eat Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma

๐Ÿง€ Why: Parma specializes in producing high-quality Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham (aka prosciutto). No Parma trip is complete without eating both of these things.

Parma also boasts some of the best restaurants in the world.

Thin cured ham sitting on a plate.
Parma ham at Cocchi Restaurant.

๐Ÿท Where To Eat: You can eat Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham at a restaurant or on a food tour.

As is true in many places in Italy, make a reservation for well-known restaurants in Parma to guarantee seating. You might have to contact the restaurant through email or WhatsApp (I made my reservations through email) and wait more than 24 hours for a confirmation, so plan ahead.

  • Food Tour โ€“ Almost all food tours in Parma will include Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma tastings. This highly-rated private Parma walking food tour lets you sample different cured meats, wine, cheese, gelato, and more.

One unique thing you can eat in Parma is horse meat. Several restaurants prepare and serve it.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: Parma’s high-quality restaurants are generally more affordable than many US restaurants. I spent $34 per person for lunch at a Michelin Guide restaurant that included drinks, several entrees, and dessert. Expect to spend about $90 for a Parma half-day food tour.

โฐ Suggested Duration: Eating in Italy is a leisure activity, so expect to spend over an hour dining. My lunch in Parma took almost two hours on a weekday.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: I made reservations at Cocchi, a Michelin Guide restaurant that’s well-loved by Parma locals. As someone who loves eating cheese and cured meats, I thought their Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham were exceptional. I also really enjoyed their tortelli.

One of the best things I discovered in Italy is Lambrusco, a type of sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region. It’s not specifically a Parma wine, but it’s hard to find it elsewhere in Italy, so I recommended trying a glass in Parma.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

2. Take a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory Tour

๐Ÿง€ Why: As mentioned above, Parma specializes in producing Parmigiano Reggiano, so this is the best place to learn about Parmesan’s production techniques and process.

Taking a factory tour is one of the most common and well-rated things to do in Parma.

A room full stack of round barrels of cheese.
Parmigiano Reggiano factory tour.

๐ŸšŒ Organized Tours: Parma tour operators will provide transportation either by bus or more rarely, by bike. They conduct one Parmigiano Reggiano tour per day because the factories make only one batch daily, usually at 9 am. Here are two highly-rated factory tours:

  • This Parmigiano Reggiano guided tour has almost only five-star ratings and includes a short bike ride to the cheese factory. You then bike back into town for a cured ham and Parma wine tasting.
  • This excellent Parma tour visits both a Parmigiano Reggiano and a Parma ham factory if you want to learn about both processes.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: Parmigiano Reggiano factory tours start at around $90 for a half-day tour and increase to $200 for a full-day, private tour.

โฐ Suggested Duration: Most factory-guided tours in Parma will last three to five hours.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Going on a Parmigiano Reggiano factory tour is a great way to sample the cheese and cured ham that Parma is famous for without having to do too much research on which restaurants serve it best.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

3. Walk Around Parma’s Central Area

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Why: One of the ways in which Parma is unique from its neighboring cities, Modena and Bologna, is that it has a small-town atmosphere while still offering lively markets and shopping streets.

A woman walking through an European, narrow street.
Walking around Parma.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Where To Walk: One of the best streets to shop in Parma is Strada Cavour because it offers a mix of local and international brands. The streets are also lined with cafes, gelaterias, and restaurants to check out when you need to take a break.

โฐ Suggested Duration: You can spend 30 minutes to three hours window shopping and exploring Parma’s city center.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Wandering around Parma’s city center without a clear destination was a great way to enjoy the town and embed myself in its lively small-town atmosphere.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

4. Visit Parco Ducale

๐ŸŒณ Why: Parco Ducale is one of Parma’s main attractions and is worth visiting. It’s a relatively large park with beautiful gardens, historical landmarks, and a lot of space for relaxation.

A quiet, pedestrian-friendly walkway in a park surrounded by trees.
Parco Ducale.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Getting There: Parco Ducale is located in the heart of Parma’s city center.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: There’s no entrance fee to Parco Ducale, so it’s free.

โฐ Suggested Duration: You can spend 30 minutes to an hour walking through Parma’s park.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Parco Ducale is a great place to end your Parma day trip if you want to slow down and have a tranquil walk after a busy day of doing a factory tour and exploring the more bustling streets of Parma. I sat down at a bench in Parco Ducale, and people watched for more than 20 minutes.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

5. Cross the Ponte Verdi

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Why: Ponte Verdi is a historic bridge in Parma that’s pedestrian-friendly and located above Torrente Parma, which is a river that flows through the city.

A river running through a small town.
The view from Ponte Verdi.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Getting There: Ponte Verdi is located right next to Parco Ducale and is often seen as the gateway to the park.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Expected Cost: There’s no entrance fee to Ponte Verdi, so it’s free.

โฐ Suggested Duration: Ponte Verdi is a quick visit. You can spend 10 to 15 minutes walking across the bridge to enjoy the river’s tranquility.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: Ponte Verdi is a great spot to enjoy Parma’s natural beauty and charming atmosphere. The bridge and the surrounding area are quiet and well-kept. Compared to the bridges in other Italian cities, it has a much more rural vibe.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

8 Other Great Things To Do in Parma

Here are other seven great things to do in Parma if you have more time or are especially interested in history, art, and architecture.

I don’t recommend prioritizing these attractions if you’re only doing a day trip to Parma because I think you can find more renowned and interesting alternatives to these in other parts of Italy. But if you have more time, then definitely visit some of these.

1. Palazzo della Pilotta

Palazzo della Pilotta is a collection of buildings with cultural and artistic significance with roots back to the Middle Ages. The center includes Biblioteca Palatina, Teatro Farnese, the National Gallery of Parma, and others.

I walked around the buildings on the outside and thought it was a nice atmosphere, but I didn’t feel compelled to pay the entrance fee to go inside any of the buildings during my day trip.

2. Palazzo Ducale

Ducal Palace is a palace with a small park in front of it. The palace was closed when I visited in May, but it has since opened.

It’s a nice, quiet park area to walk around if you have extra time in Parma, but I would prioritize Parco Ducale above it.

3. Galleria Nazionale di Parma

The National Gallery of Parma is a small museum with a fairly diverse art collection from the 12th and 18th centuries. It even has a Leonardo da Vinci painting.

4. Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo is the historic center of Parma and features the Parma cathedral, called the Duomo di Parma.

The cathedral showcases the Romanesque style and is one of the most notable contributions of Benedetto Antelami, a sculptor with significant influence on Parma. It also showcases the Gothic Styles

Since Parma is a smaller and quieter city, their Piazza del Duomo is more humble compared to others in Italy.

5. Teatro Farnese

Farnese Theater is Parma’s wooden Renaissance theater that is known for its architectural beauty. History theater buffs really enjoy this place.

6. Teatro Regio di Parma

For a less well-known theater, Teatro Regio is an old, beautiful one where you can also get a paid 30-minute guided tour to learn more about its history.

7. Piazza Garibaldi

Piazza Garibaldi is a main square and one of the busiest places in Parma. Aside from having the Palazzo del Governatore, the square also has a few shops, restaurants, and bars.

8. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Parma

The National Archaeological Museum of Parma houses an extensive collection of archaeological artifacts, ranging from prehistoric times to the Roman era.

Italy Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

Lists by Lukiih is Readers-Supported

If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea๐Ÿง‹!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *