PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
As you’d expect from a place that’s given the world Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma) and Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano), this city knows its food. Cafés live in peaches-and-cream townhouses, while Art Nouveau restaurants get creative with ingredients from the surrounding Emilia-Romagna countryside.
Parma is also the one-time workplace of Italian opera composer Verdi, so swing by the Teatro Farnese opera house on the Palazzo della Pilotta. This riverside palace and square houses the national gallery and archaeological museum, too.
Also remember to tread the age-polished streets to Piazza Duomo, where the 12th-century Parma Cathedral and marble Baptistery of Parma sit side by side. Alternatively, choose to cycle. Parma is one of the best cities in Italy for bike fans, as traffic avoids the historic centre.
Fancy a day trip? Head for the train station. High-speed trains zip to Bologna (1 hour), Milan (1 hour 15 minutes), Florence (1 hour 40 minutes) and Rimini (2 hours).
Prosciutto di Parma
When it comes to city specialities, the clue’s in the name. Parma is the home of Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma) – a salty meat that’s a bit of a labour of love. It’s been cured for at least a year before it ever hits the markets. In restaurants, chefs pair it with fruit, wrap it around white fish and drape it over antipasti boards.
Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) is another superstar ingredient born in Parma. Great pale wheels of it stack shops, while waiters shave Parmesan wedges over diners’ pasta and salad dishes. It also pops up in desserts, usually balanced with syrupy figs. Want to bring some home? Treat yourself to the vintage stuff – it’s more expensive, but has a richer flavour. The glowing yellow middle and two-year-long aging process set it apart from the stuff on our supermarket shelves.