Is a short stopover in Parma is worth your time? Here’s how we spent less than 24 hours in Parma, a beautiful compact town in the Emilia-Romagna Region.
We had the shortest of short stopovers of less than 24 hours in Parma. We arrived at midday and left the next morning. Why such a short stopover?
I wanted to see the town but an extended stay didn’t fit in our itinerary. We were spending 5 days expanding our waistlines in the Emila-Romagna Region. After some debating, I decided to focus most of our time in Bologna, and settled for less than 24 hours in Parma.
What can you see in less than 24 hours in Parma? To be honest, not a lot, but you can see a couple highlights and eat some great food! Single night stopovers are not usually a good idea. But when the itinerary calls for it, I find a short stay a good way of testing out a place. If it’s worth it, there’s always time to fit it in on another trip.
Start by strolling through the town centre
Like every Italian town on the tourist map, you’ll find some common places. A main piazza or gathering place, a piazza with a cathedral and a strolling and a pedestrian only shopping street. Parma is no different and once you enter the historic centre, it’s a lovely town to wander through. Because the town is fairly compact, I’d suggest heading in a direction and seeing what you can find.
Coming from the river, we entered the historic centre via ‘Palazzo della Pilotta’. This huge and dominating piazza houses the National Gallery, Teatro Farnese and 2 museums. From there, we headed south along strada Luigi Carlo Farini.
Right in the middle of the old town, you’ll cross through Piazza Garibaldi, the historic hub of the town. It’s bordered by beautiful buildings, including the Governor’s Palace (Palazzo del Governatore) on one end and the church of San Pietro on another.
Gelato at Emilia Cremeria
Located on Luigi Carlo Farini, this gelateria was a real treat. I’d been googling ‘Best Gelato In Italy” (as you do) and it was on Conde Naste Traveler’s list of the best of the best. Here’s a link to the article. It was our first taste of Parma, and it was dam good. Gelato for lunch? Don’t mind if I do! And what else do you do in a gelateria than to take a group picture with said gelato …
Parma Cathedral and its Baptistery
Like the rest of Italy, Parma has a collection of churches spread throughout in centre. The biggest of the big is the Cathedral, located in the Piazza del Duomo, in the centre of the historic old town. Its Baptistery sits next to it in the same square. It never ceases to amaze me how each town, no matter how big or small, has its very own gigantic and fully decorated cathedral. Parma’s version is worth quick visit.
Where we ate and drank
For a late lunch, we had sandwiches made to order at Antica Salumeria Rastelli (on Str. della Repubblica, 54). We found it while aimlessly wandering around town. Picking your sandwich toppings from a huge display case where everything looks amazing can be difficult. It’s worth the ‘stress’ because I’ve yet to have a sandwich that disappoints. It’s also a super cheap meal and I find it quite fun to chat to the locals. Sometimes they’ll even let you try a variety of meat and cheeses while you decide.
For pre-dinner drinks, we came across a small wine bar called Tabarro. While smallish inside, we stood outside drinking wine off of wine barrels converted into tables. There were lots of wines by the glass to choose from. Despite the chilly evening, and being a Monday, there was a good vibe in the bar. Highly recommended!
For our one meal in Parma, we ate at the deceptively large Trattoria della Tribunale. To pick our dining spot, we continued down Strada Luigi Carlo Farini and saw a few people outside a restaurant in a laneway. I tend to pick the ‘hidden’ places so this seemed to be a great idea. Come to find out, this hidden gem was not so hidden and was humongous inside!
Great news for us though, the food was fantastic. We started with a meat platter to share (we were in the land of Parma Ham after all) and then some mains. After the mid afternoon gelato and the wine, this was more than enough food for the day.
Where we stayed
With four of us traveling, I opted for a two bedroom apartment located just outside of the town centre. This meant a 15 minute walk into town, but it also gave us plenty of space for a fraction of the cost of staying in the centre. It was in an apartment building next to the river, so the walk in and out of town was very scenic. I would easily stay there again.
The apartment was called Apartment Ponte delle Nazioni and I booked using Booking.com a few months in advance. All the space for the night was a bit of a luxury! The host was waiting for us when we arrived (I’d told her our approximate arrival time in advanced) and she was absolutely lovely. I would stay there again if I returned in Parma and needed two bedrooms.