One Day in Parma Itinerary: A Day Trip from Bologna

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by Olivia Ellis

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Planning a one day in Parma itinerary is the perfect amount of time to explore this charming Emilian city and sample some of its most famous gastronomic products.

Although Italy itself is a dream destination for food lovers, the Emilia Romagna region and the city of Parma specifically, is the holy grail. Known for the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma, Parma is a lively city in Northern Italy brimming with colourful buildings, history, Romanesque architecture, and stunning facades and frescoes painted throughout the city.

Conveniently located near the city of Bologna, Parma is the perfect complement to any Bologna itinerary for those searching for the tastiest corners of Italy.

How Many Days in Parma?

How many days to spend in Parma are ideal? The center of the city, where the main sights and highlights are located, is quite small. This makes visiting Parma in one day a feasible option to round out a foodie trip to Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region.

Moreover, the city center is extremely walkable giving a relaxed feel for a trip to Parma in just one day. All in all, it’s entirely possible to spend one day in Parma and see the small city and enjoy all of the delicious food products you can find in its surrounding area.

Parma Cathedral and Baptistry
Parma Cathedral and Baptistry

Getting To & Around Parma

Undoubtedly, the easiest way to reach Parma is by train. The Italian rail network is an excellent system and consists of high-speed trains, intercity, and regional trains and from just about anywhere in Italy you can efficiently reach Parma by train. If you’re flying in to visit Parma, the closest airports are Milan Malpensa or Bologna airport.

Specifically for this itinerary from Bologna Central Station to Parma Station, you have a few different train options. For the cheapest option, the intercity train from Bologna to Parma takes about an hour and 10 minutes.

If you’re looking to cut a little time out of your schedule on a Bologna to Parma day trip and can spare a few more euros, you can catch the Frecciabianca train from Bologna to Parma in around 45 minutes. You can view train schedules here.

If you prefer to join an organised Parma day trip from Bologna then there are a few options such as this full-day tour that visits parmesan and prosciutto factories or this full-day tour that also visits the factories and includes lunch.

Parma is incredibly easy to navigate around as the city center is quite small and compact as well as exceptionally pedestrian friendly. Getting lost through the classic medieval alleyways of Parma is one of the best ways to discover the city as you never know what you may come across – to see or to eat.

A great local way to get around the city of Parma is by bicycle. The city has plenty of assigned streets and paths specifically for bicyclists, making it an easy mode of transport in the city.

One of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Parma is located in the center of the city and has influenced the biking culture of the city as the majority of students prefer to use a bike as their main mode of transport.

Just outside of the Parma train station, you’ll find “La Cicletteria di Parma”, a bicycle rental point with affordable costs, and all around the city you’ll also find designated lots with bicycles to rent from various phone apps.

If you’re unable to get around the city by foot or bicycle, Parma does have a bus system with routes throughout the entire city. 60-minute tickets are available to purchase from local tobacco shops and are only valid for each journey, meaning for each bus you take in the city you’ll need to purchase a new ticket.

Giuseppe Verdi Bridge in Parma
Giuseppe Verdi Bridge in Parma

1 Day in Parma Itinerary

While the main attraction to the city of Parma is its claim to fame through its food, there’s a large amount to be discovered in Parma apart from the cuisine.

With a pleasing city center with a large ode to the renaissance era, a thriving culture scene and lush greenery, you’ll soon discover that there are countless things to do in Parma and it is an ideal escape from large Italian cities and a great way to dive into Italy’s famous food corner.

Duomo di Parma & Baptistery

The best way to begin one day in Parma is to take advantage of the unique sights in the beautiful city center. While all of the stops on this itinerary are located in the city center, the beginning of the day is devoted to exploring the history of the city along with noteworthy points and spots within the center.

In the city center of Parma in Duomo Square you’ll come across one of the greatest examples of Romanesque architecture in all of Italy, the Parma Cathedral or Duomo di Parma.

Built over 900 years ago, the Duomo di Parma is the perfect example of grand Renaissance artistry and history.

With a ceiling lined with stunning frescoes of images of the Virgin Mary by the artist Correggio (make sure not to miss the elegantly painted fresco in the arch of the cathedral’s dome), a visit to the Duomo di Parma is a faultless way to understand the history of Parma through one of the city’s dearest treasures.

If you want to get a great aerial view over the city, also make sure to climb the cathedral’s bell tower. Visits to the Parma Cathedral are free and the Cathedral is open every day from 7:30 AM-7 PM.

Next to the Parma Cathedral on the south side of the Duomo Square is the hard-to-miss, beautiful pink marble Parma Baptistery gracing the city. Built after the Parma Cathedral between 1196 and 1307, the Parma Baptistery is a clear example of the drastic change of architecture in Italy from Romanesque to Gothic art styles.

The most notable part of the interior of the Parma Baptistery is “The months” by Antelami Workshop, with 14 remarkable statues signifying the months of the Roman Calendar.

Also next to the cathedral is the smaller church of San Giovanni Evangelista, which also contains Correggio-painted frescoes.

interior of Parma Cathedral
Interior of Parma Duomo

Garibaldi Square

If you’re searching for the heart and soul of Parma, head to central Garibaldi Square. A prominent square in the Parma city center and located on the site of an Ancient Roman forum, the Garibaldi Square is a wide and spacious cobblestoned classic Italian piazza.

Since Medieval times, Garibaldi has been the major point for local politics and to this day still retains its importance as the home to Town Hall and the Governor’s Palace.

Spending time in Piazza Garibaldi will give you the perfect spot to pass time with friends or family, peruse local shops, and head to a cafe to enjoy a hot espresso.

Ducal Park

For a dose of greenery and retreat from the city streets of Parma, with a walk through history, I suggest taking about a 10-minute walk west of the city and over the Parma River on the Guiseppe Verdi Bridge to the Ducal Park.

Ducal Park was designed by architect Jacopo Barozzi after being commissioned by the aristocratic Farnese family and was eventually built in 1561 with wide pathways, an artificial lake, stunning statues, and the familiar appearance of a peaceful English garden.

The Ducal Palace is a focal point within the gardens and although it’s not open for inside visits, you can go close to the palace to take in the stunning 18th-century palace. Within the park you’ll also find a quaint cafe, giving you the perfect opportunity to stop, enjoy a coffee or drink and enjoy local Parman life.

Ducal Palace
Ducal Palace

Parma Food Tour

No visit to Parma is complete without experiencing the delectable foods that the city of Parma is known for. Two of the most famous; Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma are the city’s gold and although you can enjoy them internationally, nothing compares to the experience of eating them both where they were born.

You can either take part in a local food tour in the city to experience the best food of Parma, including Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma or explore the gastronomic side of Parma independently.

By taking part in a food tour in Parma with a local guide, you’ll be able to learn plenty more about the city that you may not learn alone, as well as visit some of the best local food spots in the city. You can choose tours that visit many stops such as this traditional food tour or this private walking tour.

Alternatively, you can focus on one or two stops such as this 2-hour tour that visits a Parmigiano Reggiano factory or this 3.5-hour tour that visits a Parmigiano Reggiano dairy and a Parma ham factory.

While this is costlier than eating your way through Parma independently, you’ll be able to just enjoy Parma and its cuisine (while also learning the history behind it) without having to worry about any planning.

If you decide to discover Parma’s famous cuisine independently, these are my recommendations to make up your own food tour and a perfect mid-day lunch in Parma.

Inside a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory
Inside a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory

Frank Focaccia

Located on the southern end of Parma, Frank Focaccia is a classic local staple in Parma. With fresh Focaccia rolls, you have the option to create pretty much any sandwich of your dreams for an affordable price (around €4 per sandwich). I recommend taking it plain with Prosciutto di Parma to experience the delicious local Parma ham.

Officina Alimentare Dedicata

If you’re interested in trying a wide array of meat and cheese from the region with local wine to wash it down, an ideal spot to head to is the Officina Alimentare Dedicata.

With products such as local cold-cut meats and cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Officina Alimentare Dedicata offers affordable options for plates to sample whichever local delicacies you’d like.

You’ll also find local fried and hot food options as well if you’re looking to make more of a complete meal.

Gelateria Al Polo

To complete your Parma food tour with a sweet finale, I suggest a visit to Gelateria Al Polo west of the Parma River to taste what’s known as some of the best gelato in the city. The gelateria features local flavours with seasonal ingredients and just one visit will likely beg you to come back for more!

National Gallery of Parma

As a city so deeply rich in history and culture, no visit to Parma is complete without heading to the National Gallery of Parma.

Housed in the Palazzo della Pilotta complex in central Parma along with other noteworthy museums of the city, the National Gallery is home to famous Renaissance works of art from renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Agostino Caracci, and Fra Angelico.

Also located in the Pilotta Palace, worth visiting, are the famously grand Renaissance Farnese Theater and Archaeological Museum (one of the oldest museums in Italy).

All three are included in a combined admission ticket with the National Gallery for €12. Opening hours vary depending on the day, so make sure to check in advance before your visit.

Pilotta Palace
Pilotta Palace

Have 2 or 3 Days in Parma?

While a Parma day trip is certainly enough to see the main points of the city, you may be keen to explore further into the culture and region for another day or two.

If you’re particularly interested in the food culture of the city of Parma and the Emilia Romagna Region, a great way to dive deeper is to visit one of the food factories outside of the city. All of these dairy and meat factories are located outside of the respective cities and require tour and visit bookings in advance.

Another option is to book a tour with a third party such as this full-day tour that includes visiting producers of parmesan cheese, parma ham and balsamic vinegar or this half-day tour that visits the factories as well as the village of Torrechiara.

Another option if you’re searching to experience more culinary specialties in the Emilia Romagna Region is to spend a day in Modena.

The home to the delicious syrupy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Modena is a historic town in the Emilia Romagna region located just a 45-minute train ride away from Parma and is another world in itself for food lovers.

Modena is a wonderful, relaxed town accentuating the true “slow living” Italian lifestyle and the perfect supplement to a trip to Parma.

Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower in Modena, Italy
Cathedral and Ghirlandina Tower in Modena, Italy

Where to Stay in Parma

Hotel Button – This 3-star hotel in the center of Parma is perfect for mid-range travelers who want to spend more than a day exploring this beautiful city. They have a range of rooms to choose from an a number of amenities to ensure your stay is a great one. Click here to see their availability

Starhotels Du Parc – Those after luxury will love this opulent hotel in the historic center of Parma. They have a myriad of plush and sophisticated rooms available along with countless lovely amenities to ensure you want for nothing while in the city. Click here to see their availability

Le Logge – These apartments are perfect for those who’d like their own space while staying in Parma. They’re centrally located and fully furnished with everything you may need. There are also a few options to choose from depending on the size of flat you’re after. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Parma hotels!

While Parma holds its fame mainly due to its deep roots in delicious Italian gastronomy, it’s a city with significantly more to experience and appreciate. Whether you’re looking to witness stunning Romanesque architecture in the city or get lost in Emilia Romagna’s own English garden, you’ll find there’s something for everyone in Parma.

Are you planning to visit Parma? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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