The 20 best sights of Parma – descriptions and photos

29 most interesting sights of Parma

Attractions of Parma

Italian Parma is rich in ancient sights and is divided into two parts by the river of the same name. Most of the attractions are on the east bank of the river in the historic part. You can move from one part to the other on foot by crossing the bridge over the small river. Parma is located in the province of Emilia-Romagna, the capital of which is Bologna. In addition the province in close proximity are such tourist cities in Italy as: Rimini, Raven, a little further away, in the neighboring area the world famous Venice and Padua is located nearby. After visiting Parma we suggest you to visit Siena, which is located to the south in the province of Tuscany, the capital of which is Florence, rich in historical beauty. It is also worth visiting Bergamo and Milan, in the province of Lombardy, with which Emilia-Romagna is bordered to the north.

What sights to see in the city of Parma in one day by yourself

Attractions of Parma

Street cafes in the ancient streets of the city

All the sights of the “old” city are within walking distance of each other. If you have limited time, you can see the three main ones on your own:

  1. Piazza Duomo.
  2. Piazza Garibaldi.
  3. Piazza Pilotto.

It is possible to get on a gastronomic tour with “TASTYBUS”, a group tour in Russian. Departure for the tour with a guide from Piazza Garibaldi every Monday. Duration of the tour: 4-5 hours.

Attractions of Parma

In Parma every house is an architectural monument or an ancient castle.

There are well known to every person values concentrated here. The antiquity of the streets will bring back memories of your favorite fairy tales from childhood. Admirers of the works of Dan Brown will ponder the special significance of this or that detail as they visit each church and examine its plan, altars and facade. Everyone who visits even for a short time will have time to enjoy the atmosphere of the city and fall in love with it for life.

Parma Cathedral

In Parma’s Cathedral Square (Piazza Duomo) next to the bell tower and the baptistery. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori has been under construction since 1059. The last rebuilding of the cathedral was completed in the 12th century. In this form the cathedral is preserved to this day. The dome of the cathedral has frescoes depicting the four patrons of Parma, painted by Antonio da Correggio. The painting of the dome of the cathedral was the first serious work of the young provincial artist, which brought him fame. The plan of the building is made in the form of a Latin cross.


On the right side of the cathedral is a baptistery, lined with pink Veronese marble. The plan of the building is in the form of a regular octagon (designed by the sculptor Benedetto Antelami). The sculptor made many reliefs and sculptures inside and outside the building. Construction and decoration were completed by 1270. The total duration of the decoration is about 80 years.

Piazza Garibaldi

The square is one of the main attractions of Parma. Opposite the governor’s palace there is a monument to the fighter for the unification of Italy Giuseppe Garibaldi. There is a unique 16th century sundial, which shows the time in different parts of the world. On weekends on the square there is a big fair. In the market stalls you can buy souvenirs and taste the cheese “Parmeggianoreggiano” and ham “Prosciutto di Parma”.

Palazzo Pilotta

The Pilotta Palace was conceived as a corridor connecting the Ducal Palace with the fortress on the banks of the river Parma. Construction of the palace began in 1583. The Tuscan sculptor Giovanni Boscoli took part in the project. In 1611, work was suspended due to the need to arrange the interior. The building remained unfinished (without the facade).

Palazzo della Pilotta

Palazzo della Pilotta is located between Piazzale della Pace and the Lungoparma promenade. The architectural complex includes three buildings: the Cortile di San Pietro Martire (Cortile della Pilotta), the Cortile del Guazzatoio, the Cortile della Rocchetta. In 2015, the Palazzo della Pilotta added:

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National Archaeological Museum; Tosca School of Art; Bodoni Museum; baroque Teatro Farnese; National Gallery of Parma.

The name comes from the name of the Basque ball game “pelota.” The pelota was once played in this place by soldiers from Spain stationed in Parma.

Ducal Palace

The Ducal Palace is located on Via Vadei Farnese. The distance from the Duke’s Palace to the Piazza del Duomo is 700-750 meters. In the middle of the 16th century the Duke of Parma, Ottavio Farnese, decided to build a permanent residence in Parma (project by the architect Vignole). The luxurious interior decoration is a unique work of art. An interesting time was the period when Napoleon’s second wife Marie-Louise of Austria lived in the palace.

Museum of Parma ham

Prosciutto ham production originated in the town of Langirano (a suburb of Parma). Here in the Middle Ages was the center of the cattle and meat trade of Emilia-Romagna. The Museum of Parma Ham tells not only about the way the meat product is made, but also about the development of agriculture in the region. You can learn about the gastronomic masterpieces of the neighbors: salami from Fellin, for example, or mortadella from Bologna. In the museum you can order a lunch of locally produced products with wine. “Prosciutto” is a dried pork ham. Sold as a whole piece of meat or sliced into thin slices.

Parmesan Museum

Cheese Factory Museum is located in the small town of Soragna, a distance of 30 km from Parma. The idea for the Parmesan Museum belonged to Senor Zanonni, a connoisseur of cheese-making. In the museum you can see the whole cycle of the “Parmeggiano-Reggiano” from the collection of milk to the ways of serving the famous product on the table. A tasting is a mandatory part of the museum tour.

Santa Maria della Steccata

The Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata is the first church built in the center of the city. The plan of the building is a Greek cross. The church is richly decorated with frescoes by Parmigianino, Michelangelo and Francesco Mazzola. In the church is the world famous miraculous icon of St. John the Baptist. Pilgrims from all over the world flock here to strengthen their faith and receive forgiveness.

San Giovanni Evangelista – the Abbey of St. John the Evangelist

San Giovanni Evangelista is a popular religious site located at 120 meters from Piazza del Duomo:

Church of San Giovanni Evangelista (John the Evangelist); Benedictine monastery; ancient pharmacy.

The complex has been open and working until today since 1201. San Giovanni Evangelista houses one of Antonio Allegri’s grandiose works – the fresco in the dome, “John’s Ascension to Heaven”. The uniqueness of the fresco is the sense of an open sky overhead.

Ducal Park

One kilometer from Cathedral Square is the best place to relax after long walks on foot and busy excursions. The Ducal Park has a pond and the Trianon Fountain. The park is located around the Ducal Palace and covers an area of 20 hectares. Earlier it was decorated with marble sculptures of ancient gods and heroes of ancient myths. Recently the sculptures were replaced with copies. The original sculptures from the park are now in the gallery of the Palazzo Eucerio Sanvitale. The park was adapted for open visits only after the unification of Italy. After this event it was given the status of a city park.

Teatro Regio

The current Regio Opera House (Nuovo Teatro Ducale/ Teatro Ducale – Ducal Theater) is located on Via Garibaldi near the Cathedral Square. The theater became popular in the 1930s after the work of the composer Giuseppe Verdi. All of his operas were staged there. The hall with 1400 seats was opened in 1829 on May 16. The name “Reggio” was given to the theater after the unification of Italy in 1861.

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Lombardi Museum

The Lombardi Museum (Museo Glauco Lombardi) bears the name of its creator, Professor Glauco Lombardi. Located at Strada G. Garibaldi, 15. The museum is called the “Window to France. It has all the history of the city and its rulers from the 18th to the 19th centuries. A lot of personal things of Napoleon and his second wife Maria-Louise of Austria. There are paintings by Fragonard, Chardin, Watteau and David.

Convento San Paolo – former Convent of St. Paul

Interior of Convento San Paolo The convent is no longer in operation, but it can be visited by tourists

300 meters from the Cathedral Square is the Convento San Paolo, the inactive monastery of St. Paul. San Paolo is famous for a fresco by Antonio Correggio. In 2002, the Pinacoteca Stuard Art Gallery opened in its right wing. The founder is the collector and patron of the arts, Giuseppe Stuard. Twenty-two rooms house more than 300 paintings created between the 14th and 20th centuries by great artists:

Bernardo Duddy; Paolo Uccello; Filippino Lippi; Parmigianino; Guido Reni.

Church of St. Francis

The Gothic church of St. Francis (Chiesa di San Francesco) is located at 400 metres north-east of the Cathedral Square between Piazzale San Francesco and Via del Prato. The church was built probably in the middle of the 13th century with donations from the inhabitants of the city. At the time of Napoleon’s conquest of the city the church served as a prison. After its destruction by Napoleon’s troops the interior decoration of the church was never restored.

Teatro Farnese

The Teatro Farnese is the counterpart of the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (designed by Aleotti, a pupil of the famous Palladio). The difference is the size of the building. The auditorium is twice the length of the Olimpico hall. Its capacity is up to four thousand people. The depth of the stage allows the use of various technical possibilities. The Teatro Farnese is one of the few theaters in Italy, built four centuries ago, which have survived to this day. The theater in Berlin and St. Louis (USA) were designed by the Farnese Theater.

Palazzo Tirelli

A typical Renaissance nobleman’s palace combined with the Lombard style. It is 500 meters from the Piazza del Duomo and is located on “borgo San Vitale”, 6. The owners of the palace in the 14th century were the Counts of Bayardi. In the 17th century it was owned by the Garimberti counts. By the early 19th century there were no descendants of the Garimberti family left and the building passed into the ownership of the Marquises Tirelli. The heirs of the Tirelli family still own the castle. The main façade is divided into three tiers. The vaults of the vestibule still bear 15th century paintings.

Church of Our Lady of Mercy

The church of Our Lady of Mercy is 800 metres from Piazza delle Soborno, in via dei Farnese. It was built in 1617 as a building to house the venerated image of Our Lady of Mercy. In 1621 the image was carried in a solemn procession to the church. The building was rebuilt in 1644 by the architect Girolamo Rinaldi to improve the light. An octagonal lantern and eight window openings were added. The dome of the church was painted by the artist Sebastiano Galeotti.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Gothic church of the Holy Sepulchre is 800m away from the Cathedral Square and is located on the “strada della Repubblica”, 76. It was built in the 13th century on the site of a ruined temple. From the 13th century until the 18th century the church was part of the monastic complex. Later the monastery was abolished and the church became a parish church. The main attractions of the church:

“Our Lady with the Child and Saints Francis, Peter, Paul and Augustine” (Pierantonio Bernabei, 17th century); “Guardian Angel” (Gianbettino Cignaroli, 18th century).

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Church of St. Christina

The Church of Santa Cristina is situated at 400 metres south of the Piazza del Duomo in via “Borgo Santa Chiara”, nr. 5. The first information about the construction of the church dates back to the 10th century. Together with the convent complex in the 17th century, the church was rebuilt. It was based on the project of the church of St. Vincent in Piacenza (architect Pietro Caracciolo). Due to a lack of funding, the façade of the church was not completed. The apsidal area was also not finished. The artistic decoration of the church was done in 1661.

Church of Santissima Annunziata

The Church of Santissima Annunziata/Basilica del Paradiso is a Catholic church of the Holy Annunciation and is part of the monastic complex. It is located on Via Massimo D’Acello. Construction began in 1566 under the direction of the architect Gianbattista Fornovo. It was completed by 1688. Inside, the church is decorated with a copy of Correggio’s fresco “Annunciation” and a depiction of Saints Gervasio and Protasio (work of Biagio Martini).

Church of St. Vitali

The attraction is located on the “strada della Repubblica”. The first mention of the church dates back to the 11th century. The construction of the church, which survives to this day, began in 1651. It is considered the oldest church in Italy (architect Cristoforo Ragnoni). Inside the church of St. Vitali (Church of San Vitale) is decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Battista Caccioli and Antonio Betti. It is believed that this church has the best organ in the city. In 1996 the church was damaged in an earthquake. It was closed for restoration and reopened nine years later.

Park Citadel

Park Citadel is about 1.3 km from the Cathedral Square. On the territory of the park is a fortress-prison with the same name. The area of the park is about 120 hectares. The fortress was built by Francesco Paciotto and Smeraldo Smeraldi at the end of the 19th century. The Dukes of Parma used the Citadel as a prison and barracks. The Citadel is mentioned in Stendhal’s The Abode of Parma. However, in the novel the writer does not reflect the true reality of what is happening within its walls.

The House of Arturo Toscanini

House Museum of Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini is located on Via Borgo Rodolfo Tanzi, 13. For lovers of classical music in the museum you can learn about the childhood and adolescence of the conductor. The creative period during his years of residence in the U.S. is of interest. The last years of the conductor’s life are presented here in illustrated form. The materials are shown with audiovisual accompaniment.

Church of Our Lady by the military apartments

The church is in the “Oltretorrente” quarter on the “Strada del Quartiere” (1.5 km south-west of Cathedral Square). It is so called because of the cantonment of the military in the quarter. The building was built between 1604 and 1619 (project by the Ferrara architect Giambattisto Aleotti). In the 17th century a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary from an ancient chapel was moved into the church. The fresco decorated the main altar (carved by Michelangelo Asquieri, 1638).

Villa Lanfranchi

Villa Lanfranchi is named after its last owner, filmmaker Mario Lanfranchi. The Farnese era villa-castle is in the small town of Lesignano de Bagni, 20 km north of Parma. It was built in the 16th century and is one of the oldest in the province. The garden around the villa was designed by Antonio Vitali in 1997. Decorated with sculptures of the 17-18 centuries. Next to the villa is the chapel of Maria Maglalena. A decoration of the villa is the legend of the deep well in the basement. Into it dropped unwanted for the host guests.

The Cartesian Monastery

The remoteness of the monastery from the Cathedral Square is 4 km. It is located on the road to Mantua. About 500 years ago the monastery complex was under the rule of the Carthusians. The first monastery began to be built in 1285. It has not survived to this day. The monastery includes:

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Basilica (Baroque style); Bell Tower (dated 1723); living quarters; sacristy; large and small courtyards; and outbuildings.

Fondazione Magnani Rocca

The Magnani Rocca Foundation is located in a country villa 20 km from Parma. It is located in Mamiano (municipality of Traversetolo), in Via Fondazione Magnani Rocca, 4. The villa is surrounded by an “English romantic” park with rare trees and peacocks. The building was erected by the architect Antonio Citterio. The foundation was created in 1977. It acquired the status of a museum in 1990. The museum collection includes paintings, frescoes, furnishings and household items.

The Castle of Bardi

Castle Bardi is remarkable for its location on the “red” rock (made of red jasper). The date of construction is unknown. Removed from Parma at 60 km. Located in the village of the same name. The first owner of the castle was a bishop who turned the structure into a fortress. Until the 12th century, the castle belonged to the noble family of Bardi. In 1257, the castle seized by Umbertino Landi. The last owners of the castle – representatives of the families of Farnese. At present time the castle is the property of the state.

The 20 best sights of Parma – descriptions and photos

In the heart of Parma, in the medieval Cathedral Square under the barrel of the cathedral, rises an octagonal building lined with delicate pink marble. This is the Baptistery of Parma, which has become a symbol of the city and one of its most important landmarks.

Parma Cathedral

The history of the Cathedral of Parma goes back centuries. Already in the 5th century there was an early Christian basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which existed until the 9th century, and then burned down in a major fire.

Abbey of St. John the Evangelist

A stone’s throw from Piazza Duomo, in the heart of Parma, you will find the Abbey of St. John the Evangelist, an important urban landmark that impresses not only with its age but also with its unique frescoes, which have been perfectly preserved to this day.

Ducal Palace of Parma

In the mid-16th century a certain Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma, wanted to build a beautiful residence, comfortable inside and attractive outside. To realize his dream, he chose a renowned Renaissance architect of the time, the architect Vignole.

The Pilotta Palace in Parma

In the historical center of Parma, in the middle of the green and ornate district rises the gray, unpleasant bulk of the Pilotta Palace, which looks more like a medieval fortress or even a stern prison. This visual impression is created mainly because of the incompleteness of the grandiose construction.

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Parmesan Museum in Parma

Not only for its cultural riches and high fashion achievements the Apennine “cobbler” became famous all over the world. Amazing Italian cuisine, generously enriched with lush vegetables and fragrant spices, has long ago won the hearts of fans of a tasty and nourishing meal.

Museum of Parma ham

Parma Ham Museum is located in Langirano, a suburb of Parma, 25 km from it. It takes refuge in the remains of the former market of cattle, where animals from all the environs around Langirano were taken for sale.

National Gallery of Parma

There are dozens of reasons why you’d trade a beautiful sunny day in Emilia-Romagna for the semi-darkness of the magnificent halls of the National Gallery of Parma. For example, you can wait out the sweltering siesta hours here for the benefit of your body and your soul.

Teatro Farnese in Parma

All guests of Italian Parma have a wonderful opportunity not only to buy authentic Parmesan and appreciate the fragrance of local violets, but also to visit the famous Teatro Farnese. This is one of the few Italian theaters built four centuries ago and preserved to this day.

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A small even by Italian standards city of Parma (less than 200 thousand people live there) is famous all over the world. In everyday life everyone knows Parmesan and prosciutto, which were born thanks to the local medieval craftsmen. It is also famous for its special architectural color, unique elegance and boundless musical and cultural heritage. Parma’s history goes back to the Neolithic period and the Romans conquered it in the 2nd century B.C., calling it Chrysopolis – “the City of Gold”. After waves of invasions by the Huns and other barbarian tribes, the city passed to the Byzantines, then to the Lombards, to the Franks and finally to the Holy Roman Empire. Such a tumultuous history could not fail to be reflected in the urban architecture and culture of Parma. Indeed, the city itself and the surrounding area contain a considerable number of valuable historical monuments.

Parma brought the world not only gastronomic and architectural discoveries, but also many human talents.

Famous natives

Parma has brought the world not only gastronomic and architectural discoveries, but also many human talents. Composer Giuseppe Verdi and conductor Arturo Toscanini spent their fruitful years in this city, the painter Correggio and sculptor Antelami were born and worked in Parma, the printer Bondoni also left a good memory of himself. People of Parma cherish the works of famous ancestors, so tourists have the opportunity to enjoy the original ancient frescoes, paintings and architectural monuments. Interesting in this regard are the Cathedral and the Baptistery, located in the historic center – on Piazza Duomo. Frescoes by Correggio and Parmigianino, bas-reliefs and sculptures by local masters still inspire and serve as models for creativity.

Correggio’s works are also preserved in another church, in the Abbey of St. John the Evangelist, completed in the 15th century.

For further cultural enrichment a visit to the Palazzo Pilotta is a must. At first glance, its not at all palace-like building looks stark and unassuming. But once inside, you’ll get lost in the intricate corridors and staircases that connect the grandiose halls filled with works of art.

And there’s plenty to visit: the Pilotta Palace shelters the National Gallery, the Archaeological Museum, the Farnese Theater, the Bodoni Museum, and the Palatine Library.

Other attractions in Parma include the Palazzo Sanvitale, famous for its interiors and fresco by Parmigianino, the Old Hospital (Ospedale Vecchio) from the Renaissance, now occupied by the State Archives and the Library. Also worth seeing are Palazzo del Comune, Palazzo del Governatore and the Bishop’s Palace.

Gastronomic attractions

The gastronomic fame of Parma has long since gone beyond Italy. Hardly anyone who has never heard of the famous prosciutto ham or Parmesan cheese, and yet the world owes these delicacies to Parma. Residents of the province of Parma are so revered for their discoveries that they opened gastronomic museums in their honor.

The Parmesan Museum is housed in a home cheese factory located in the town of Soragna, a suburb of Parma. The exhibit tells the history of cheese and the technology of production, and there are various tools and a collection of special knives used to break the cheese.

The indispensable and perhaps the most welcome part of the tour is a tasting of different varieties of authentic Parmesan.

The prosciutto museum is another item on the list of attractions in the province. It is opened on the territory of the former cattle market, on 500 square meters of exhibition area there are numerous exhibits that introduce the museum guests to the subtleties of making the “right” dried pork. And finally, the protagonist of the third museum, dedicated to food, is Signor Tomato. The Museum of Tomato is located in the town of Collectio and introduces tourists to the history of the vegetable, which arrived from America, with all sorts of equipment for its cultivation and harvesting.

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