In June, I visited my friend Becky who was studying on her year abroad in Parma, along with another friend, Maddy. I didn’t really know what to expect from this Italian city, but I was blown away by its regal, art-nouveau architecture and gastronomic heritage.
Friday night: Getting to Parma
Return flights from London Gatwick to Milan Malpensa cost me around £50, then you have to take either a coach or a train from the airport to Milan Centrale station. From the station it’s then about an hour and a half to Parma by train. As long as your train doesn’t break down (like mine did), the journey to Parma is pretty straight forward – just remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train!
Saturday: Exploring the city
Parma has a beautiful city centre, practically devoid of cars, which you can explore almost completely by foot. When we arrived there was a cooking show taking place in the main square with world-class chefs demonstrating how to make fresh pasta. You could while away an entire day here just walking around taking in the sights, shopping and of course, eating!
Just across the bridge and over the water is Parco Ducale, the perfect peaceful escape to take a blanket and a book for the afternoon. It’s a lovely walk in the sunshine and in the middle you’ll find Fontana del Trianon, home to fish and even turtles!
One place you HAVE to go for the best ice cream in Parma is Emilia Cremeria. Prepare to queue out the door, but it’s so worth it. They have the most amazing flavours to choose from including lemon meringue pie, pistachio, coconut and biscottini. They also pour chocolate into the bottom of your cone which is a nice surprise.
When it comes to the evening, a hugely popular thing to do is ‘aperativo’, something I’d not heard of before my visit. Aperativo is basically drinks and nibbles before dinner, but because it’s Italy and Parma is the “gastronomic heart” of the country, it’s way better than that.
We went to Arte & Gusto around 9pm and all you need to purchase is a drink, so I got a mojito for 9 euros and then you have access to their incredible all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s cured meats and cheeses, stuffed aubergines, delicious pastas, pizzas, potatoes, amazing salads and the best part, it’s all free!
If you’re looking for a more traditional dinner arrangement however, I’d suggest paying the Trattoria Corrieri Parma restaurant a visit. The food is very fresh, simple and classically-Italian, making for a real authentic dining experience in a rustic setting.
Sunday: Taking a trip to Cinque Terre
With such great train connections, it’s really easy to visit the coast from Parma. A trip I’d definitely recommend is town hopping through Cinque Terre, a string of 5 old seaside villages along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline.
The train is direct and takes 2 and a half hours (so get up early and bring snacks!), and once you’re there you can either buy a day pass to all 5 stops, or buy as you go. Each town costs 4 euros to get to by train. We managed to see 3 out of the 5 towns in one day.
First stop, Riomaggiore.
With colourful houses that cling to steep terraces and harbours filled with fishing boats, this magical little village is an absolute must-see.
Next we visited the glorious beach of Monterosso al Mare for a spot of sunbathing.
There’s plenty of seafront restaurants to stop off at for lunch or just a coffee with a view.
And lastly, we managed to visit the quaint hilltop town of Corniglia, which offers incredible views of sweeping sea vistas and dramatic cliff faces.
I’d recommend getting yourself an ice cream for the trek back down to the station (382 steps!)
Overall, Parma is a great city for a food-filled weekend away and the perfect base for loads of possible day trips around Italy and down to the coast. I’d say it’s perfect for a girls weekend or romantic trip for two.
And don’t forget to make enough time to explore Milan on the way home…
I hope this post has given you some ideas if you’re planning a city break in the sun this summer. For more advice on travelling in Italy, check out my post on exploring the Amalfi Coast on a budget. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message!