Once a city of instability and uncertainty, the Parma of today is full of history and culture. As the saying goes, “big things come in small packages” and that is proven in this small city in Northern Italy. Parma may see less tourism than its larger Italian counterparts, yet those that visit come to experience the architecture, art, fine cuisine, and rich history. It is the full package!

The city was initially founded by the Etruscans who named it Parma, meaning “circular shield,” and subsequently the Romans founded a colony on the site of the Etruscan settlement in 183 B.C. Located along the Via Emilia, an important trading route that played a significant role in Ancient Rome’s connection to Northern Europe, Parma became a key regional hub for Rome. These ties allowed for considerable growth…until Rome fell. This devastation led to Parma seeing many changes in power throughout history, including its ruling under the papal controlled Farnese family. Despite the obstacles and hardships, the city was recognized as a piece of the Unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Now, the city flourishes with a strong economy, environment, and population.

Located in Northern Italy between Milan to the north and Florence and Tuscany to the south, the city of Parma is the largest in its province and the second largest city in its region. Nature is at the forefront in the area, from the flatlands to the mountaintops. There are numerous lakes throughout Italy and Parma has its very own to enjoy. The beautiful Lake Santo is among the biggest in the region with a maximum length of 1,410 feet and a maximum width of 720 feet.

From car to airplane, the city is accessible via a range of transportation options. Once within the city, the area has public trolley lines that make navigating the area that much easier. Additionally, Parma is located along the railway running between Milan and Bologna. Many locals and travelers opt to take in the city by foot as the overall area is compact at approximately 100 square miles.

Amongst the historic architecture is one of the earliest universities worldwide, the University of Parma. While the school dates back to the tenth century, it was officially recognized as a university in 1412. It currently sees enrollment of approximately 26,000 students and is split into nine areas of study, including Medicine and Surgery, Economics and Management, Food and Pharmacy, and Veterinary Science.


Situated between the Apennine Mountains to its south and along the Po River to the north, the city of Parma is the second largest in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Visitors will find that the province of Parma’s roughly 1,300 square miles of terrain evolves from plains that are just 196 feet above sea level to rolling hills and mountains when traveling from north to south.

The subtropical climate in Parma is greatly impacted by its inland location and resulting continental pressure. It is said to be an “urban heat island” as it is frequently much warmer than other cities in Northern Italy such as Genoa. It sees four seasons with a warm, humid summer and a cold winter that can be rainy. Temperatures typically peak in July with an average high of about 75 °F and bottom out in January with an average low around 36 °F. October sees the highest level of precipitation with an average of 31 inches.


One of the city’s most iconic sites that should not be missed is the historic Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. This well-preserved piece of architecture dates back to 1092, with the earliest portion being the marble façade still present today. The interior has seen changes over the years, yet several original statues and fresco paintings remain on display in the cupolas and hall of the Cathedral. Next to the Cathedral is the Baptistery of Parma, which amazes visitors with its distinct architecture and is revered as one of Europe’s most important medieval buildings.

Sightseeing in Parma would not be complete without music and theater. Opera is deeply rooted in the culture of the region as the province is the origin of well-known composer Giuseppe Verdi and conductor Arturo Toscanini. Performances can be enjoyed at the Auditorium Paganini and Teatro Regio as well as the yearly opera festival. For theater goers, the Farnese Theater is located in the palace Palazzo della Pilotta. The venue was constructed in the seventeenth century and stands well preserved today. The beautiful architecture along with the distinctive ambiance makes the Farnese Theater a cultural experience not to be missed.

The food found in this province of Italy must not be forgotten! Birthplace to some of Italy’s finest cuisine, locals and travelers alike flock to Parma to get it directly from where it all started. Two of the area’s most well-known foods are Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The first is a pork product that has become a fundamental element of the country’s cuisine. The latter is the leader among Italy’s cheese roster and can by law only be produced in a few provinces of the Emilia-Romagna region, including Parma. Both are local favorites and should be enjoyed during any excursion to the region. In an area where cheese reigns, visitors can take the experience a step further by visiting a local Parmigiano-Reggiano producer to learn more regarding the history of its creation and the skill behind its production.

Parma is, without a doubt, one of the finest culinary destinations in all of Italy. In between tasting the fabulous Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano produced here, travelers will marvel at the beauty of the city’s art and architecture as well as its tranquil atmosphere and verdant natural surroundings.

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