Parma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of northeast Italy. In 2016 it had a population of just under 450,000, with 40% of them living in Parma city.
Cities and towns
- 1 Parma is the historic yet stylish chief city, full of culture and sights.
- 2 Bardi has a castle perched on an outcrop and a surprising Welsh ancestry.
- 3 Fornovo di Taro, scene of a great battle of 1495, has the church of Santa Maria Assunta.
- 4 Fidenza is the second city, stretching to the hills of Salsomaggiore. There's a cathedral, several churches and an abbey.
- 5 Colorno has the grand Ducal palace of the Farnese family.
- 6 Busseto has many sights associated with the composer Giuseppe Verdi.
- 7 Salsomaggiore Terme is an elegant spa town in the hills.
- 8 Collecchio produces many Parma specialties.
- 9 Montechiarugolo and Monticelli Terme are spa towns.
- 10 Traversetolo hosts the Fondazione Magnani-Rocca art collection.
- 11 Borgo Val di Taro is best known for its mushrooms.
- 12 Torrechiara is a village with a hilltop castle.
Parma Province spans from the broad plain of the Po valley up into the Apennine mountain chain. Parma was founded by the Romans in 183 AD as they colonised along the Via Aemilia, and the county or province was established in 774 AD. They were fought over by rival dynasties for centuries. Preeminent of these were the Farneses from 1521 to 1731: Alessandro Farnese (Pope Paul III) captured Parma and settled it with his offspring. It then passed to the Bourbons then fell to Napoleon. When the 1813 Treaty of Vienna carved up his territories, Parma was awarded to the Hapsburgs of Austria-Hungary. It changed hands twice more then joined the Kingdom of Italy. These rulers mostly embellished more than they destroyed, and in World War II there was serious but not widespread damage. The province therefore has a series of well-preserved old towns.
The fastest trains from Milan to Parma take only 50 min, and continue south to Reggio d'Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Cesena, Rimini and away south down the coast.
Regional trains also run from Piacenza to Parma, continuing to Reggio d'Emilia, Modena, Castelfranco d'Emilia and Bologna.
Regional trains run every hour or two over the hills from La Spezia, taking just over two hours to Parma.
TEP buses radiate out from Parma. They're inexpensive but sparse out of the city. You'll need a car to explore the mountains.
- Parma is the top attraction, with the cathedral, baptistry, National Gallery and Stuard art collection.
- Fidenza has another fine cathedral.
- Colorno has a grand ducal palace.
- Busseto has the Giuseppe Verdi museum.
- Thermal springs are found at Montechiarugolo, Salsomaggiore Terme and Medesano.
- Winter sports: there's skiing at Schia (1200-1500 m) and Prato Spilla (1300-1760m).
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham are famous local specialties. The ham is air-dried, never smoked, and served thin-sliced as prosciutto.
- Cold meats such as salami are often eaten with a breadcake fried in lard.
- Lambrusco, Fortana and Malvasia are the local wines.
- Local liqueurs are centerbe, nocino and bargnolino.
Standard advice about traffic safety and safeguarding valuables.
- West up the valley is Piacenza, with its Gothic town hall, gloomy cathedral and two major art galleries.
- East down the valley is historic Modena and must-see Bologna.
- Routes lead over the hills towards La Spezia on the coast, with transport to Cinque Terre and Genoa.