If I had to pick a word to define Parma, I would say “gentle”. A very rich city in the very rich Emilia-Romagna northern Italian region, one day in Parma is not enough to explore its major highlights but it will still give you the time to appreciate its spirit.
Our 1-day Parma itinerary includes also a great place for breakfast and a local trattoria for a typical lunch where you can savory traditional dishes.
Even though we are considering only one day in Parma, at times, you might find the itinerary a bit tight. That’s OK, if you don’t feel like rushing too much, you can take your time and skip some of the monuments. They are all close to each other so it won’t jeopardise the rest of the tour.
Finally, you will find practical information on how to reach Parma and also a few suggestions on where to stay in case you want to extend your trip or are staying overnight before moving to your next destination. At the end of our post, you might even grasp why Parma is considered one of the best cities in Italy to live in.
One day in Parma itinerary – What to do
Breakfast at Cafè San Biagio
If you are not staying in Parma overnight, make sure you arrive early enough to kick off your day in style with a scrumptious breakfast at Cafè San Biagio, one of the locals’ favorites.
A great coffee and delicious pastries will keep you going until lunchtime.
- Where: Via Carlo Pisacane 14.
- When: Every day 7.30 am-8.30 pm.
The complex of Parma’s Duomo
3 minutes on foot from Cafè San Biagio
The Duomo was the first landmark in Parma I visited. I would suggest starting with La Pilotta complex because much bigger but since it opens at 10.30 am, if you start your tour earlier in the morning, you can tick off two of the main churches first.
Parma’s cathedral features famous frescoes by Correggio but I definitely recommend visiting also the Baptistery right next to the Duomo in the same square.
The Duomo is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture and the frescoes of Correggio decorate the ceiling of the dome. The interior of the Baptistery, on the other hand, shows the sculptures of Benedetto Antelami.
- Where: Piazza Duomo.
- When: Every day 7.45 am-7.20 pm.
Visit San Giovanni Evangelista Church
2 minutes on foot from Piazza Duomo
The church of San Giovanni Evangelista is very close to the Duomo so easy to include in your bucket list for one day in Parma. Inside, the dome features more frescoes from Correggio.
This church is worth visiting also because of its monastery, cloister, and the impressive 16th-century library. Unfortunately, when I visited in August, the monastery was closed. Definitely the first monument in Parma I will head to should I go back to the city.
- Where: Piazzale San Giovanni 1.
- When: Every day 8.30-11.45 am-3.30-7.30 pm.
Explore La Pilotta Complex
8 minutes on foot from San Giovanni Evangelista church
I suggest starting your one-day trip to Parma at Complesso della Pilotta because this is the landmark that will take you more time to explore.
The palace of the local Farnese family, la Pilotta is a monumental complex that includes several landmarks such as the important Archaeological Museum, the Farnese Theater, Parma National Gallery, and the Biblioteca Palatina library.
- Where: Piazza della Pilotta 3.
- When: Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 am-7 pm. Closed on Monday.
Lunch at Trattoria Corrieri
6 minutes on foot from La Pilotta complex
Treat yourself to at least half an hour of relax for lunch at a traditional trattoria where you can tuck into delicious local specialties Parma is so famous for.
The inn was founded in the 19th century at the times of the beloved Duchess Marie Louise of Habsburg when traders and messengers would stop to eat and let their horses rest tied to the rings on the wall still visible today.
This is the perfect place for a culinary and historical break during your 1-day Parma trip.
- Where: Strada Conservatorio 1.
- When: Every day 12-11.45 pm.
Duck into Santa Maria della Steccata Basilica
4 minutes on foot from Trattoria Corrieri
This Basilica is beautiful inside out. Plus, it’s in the heart of the historic center, so even if you have only a few hours to spend in Parma, it’s a must.
I included in my list of things to see in Parma in one day because it was standing majestically right next to the great Ciacco coffee shop. As a top tip, if you end up in the afternoon, try the chocolate gelato flavor at Ciacco’s, one of the best in Parma!
Getting back to our basilica, it’s an important example of the local Renaissance religious architectural style. Built between 1521 and 1539, on top of the main altar you can see the last great work of Parmigianino, The Three Wise Virgins and Three Foolish Virgins.
- Where: Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi 5.
- When: Every day 7.30 am-12 pm and 3-6.30 pm.
See the frescoes of San Paolo convent
3 minutes on foot from Santa Maria della Steccata
You are likely to stumble on this religious landmark on your way walking across the historic center. This is why, even if you are on only one-day trip to Parma, it’s not difficult to squeeze this in, especially because it doesn’t take long to visit.
I visited in August, which is one of the busiest tourist months, and there was no queue at the entrance. Inside, I shared my visiting route with very tourists so all in all, it took me around half an hour.
The complex is very big as there is also the cell of Saint Catherine but it wasn’t open to the public so my visit took very little. The chamber of Saint Paul in the convent is worth seeing because of the wonderful chamber with Correggio’s frescoes decorating the ceiling of the dome.
- Where: Strada Macedonio Melloni 3.
- When: Thursday to Monday 9.30 am-5.30 pm. Closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Visit the Museum of Maria Luigia Bonaparte
2 minutes on foot from San Paolo convent
Even though heavily devoted to the life of Maria Luigia d’Asburgo, the wife of Napoleon, the name of this fantastic museum set in a 17th-century mansion is actually Museo Glauco Lombardi.
From very personal objects such as clothes, jewelry, and letters, to paintings and decorations, this exhibition is a true step back in time.
Across its halls and corridors, you will travel into the local royal life and the history of Parma from the first Bourbon years to the Italian unification.
History buffs like me will love this small yet very interesting museum. However, if you are on a rush and want to squeeze as many landmarks as you can on one day in Parma, leave this to the end after the more famous monuments.
- Where: Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi 15.
- When: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 am-4 pm, Sunday and holidays until 7 pm. Sundays of July and August until 2 pm. Closed on Monday.
Planning your 1-day Parma itinerary – Step-by-step guide
Is Parma worth visiting?
Parma is a popular day trip from Bologna, from where it’s an easy 1-hour train ride. While it’s not one of the top Italian tourist destinations, if you can afford some time for a day trip, I totally recommend Parma.
It’s a small city, its historic center walkable and pleasant,
Foodies will also love trying the great recipes and restaurants Parma is famous for as well as visiting the museums devoted to the local specialties such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham.
How many days do you need in Parma?
Even though often travelers stay only one day in Parma, there are plenty of interesting historical and artistic landmarks to fill two or even three days.
How to reach Parma
The best way to reach Parma is by train. From Bologna is one direct train and it takes an hour.
If you take the high-speed Freccia, it takes less than an hour but it’s more expensive (around 20€), while the RV (regionale veloce) takes between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes and it costs 8€.
This makes it perfect if you only want to stay one day in Parma.
From Florence, there are one or two train changes and prices vary a lot depending on the train you take, ranging from 16 to up to 45€.
From Milan, you can find several direct trains to Parma daily. From the Freccia that takes 47 minutes and 25€ to the Intercity that takes an hour and a half and €18,50.
From Rome, we often go to Parma by car because we go to meet family and usually have too much luggage. However, for the next time, we will be planning to go by train because the road is really long and the traffic is mental!
From Rome to Parma, there is no direct train, there is always a change to be made in Bologna, so high-speed Freccia to Bologna and then a one-hour train ride to Parma.
Where to stay in one day in Parma
If you decide to stay one night in Parma, here are some options of comfortable and affordable accommodations.
- Hotel Residence. A 3-star hotel in the long Via Emilia Est, well-connected to the historic center with a 10-minute bus ride. We stayed here one night and enjoyed our stay because of the position in a lively street and its proximity to the large supermarket Esselunga that also features a coffee shop where you can have a nice breakfast.
- Villa Donatella. We booked this one when we went to Parma for a week in August. We enjoyed the position close to a park for children and the lively Via Emilia Est with the Esselunga supermarket. We were accommodated in the upper floor, which was quite comfortable for four people. The only issue was that it was on the fourth floor and there was no elevator. Villa Donatella features a common area with tea and coffee-making facilities as well as a fridge.
- Sina Maria Luigia. A bit more expensive, this 4-star accommodation is 10 minutes from Piazza Duomo on foot and features all the comforts. A diverse buffet breakfast is included in the room fare.
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