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Overview

To the literati, the city’s name may recall Stendhal's Charterhouse of Parma, but to foodies, it means Parmesan cheese, and Parma hams – more specifically Italy’s premier prosciutto. This small city in the fertile Po Valley is one of Italy’s food capitals, no small distinction. It is a city of open spaces, with spacious piazze ringed by cafes whose tables spill out onto their pavement. Nearby in its heart are its most important sites. Duomo di Parma is a 12th-century Romanesque cathedral whose ceiling fresco of the Assumption, by Correggio, is regarded as a Renaissance masterpiece, but only part of the Renaissance treasures it holds. ...

To the literati, the city’s name may recall Stendhal's Charterhouse of Parma, but to foodies, it means Parmesan cheese, and Parma hams – more specifically Italy’s premier prosciutto. This small city in the fertile Po Valley is one of Italy’s food capitals, no small distinction. It is a city of open spaces, with spacious piazze ringed by cafes whose tables spill out onto their pavement. Nearby in its heart are its most important sites. Duomo di Parma is a 12th-century Romanesque cathedral whose ceiling fresco of the Assumption, by Correggio, is regarded as a Renaissance masterpiece, but only part of the Renaissance treasures it holds. Two more masterworks of the Emilia-Romagna native Antonio da Correggio are the Camera di San Paolo, two frescoed rooms in the Benedictine convent of San Paolo. Across from the Duomo is the tall octagonal Baptistery of pink Verona marble, a fine example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture, begun in the late 1100s and completed over a century later. A few steps away is Teatro Regio, one of Italy’s great opera houses. Parma’s connection to music is assured, since it’s the birthplace of conductor Arturo Toscanini, whose home is now a museum. It is also known as The Land of Verde, and celebrates that composer in a festival each October. Among several palaces are the Palazzo della Pilotta (1583), now home to the Academy of Fine Arts, the National Gallery – with its collection of Baroque paintings — and the Archaeological Museum. The Ducal Palace, surrounded by gardens, has a fresco by Parmigianino.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Summer is very hot in the Po Valley and winter can be oppressively gray. The opera season at Teatro Regio runs from January to mid-April.