Knowing we wanted to spend a month in Italy, we decided to stay in Parma for two weeks. We knew nothing about Parma. We’d never heard of it, and didn’t research the area at all before booking our stay there. We ended up in Parma because we looked at a map of Italy and Parma seemed to be right about in the middle of northern Italy. As it turns out, it was.
Parma is a mid-sized town with a college and a historic downtown. It seemed like it would be a great place to live. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, events happening every weekend, and lots of young people injecting the town with a lively spirit.
One of the best things about Parma, though, is that it is very central and has a train station. Within a few hours you can reach Venice, Bologna, Milan, or any number of other cities you might be interested in visiting. We booked our train tickets in advance, but in reality you could just show up at the train station and buy the next available ticket. It was very simple. During our stay we managed to make it to Verona, Milan, and Pisa.
If you have a car even more opportunities open up. The region is full of dozens of castles and small towns worth visiting. We managed to bus to one of the castles, Torrechiara, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences we had in Italy. While most of the sights we had seen in the major cities were packed full of people, there were almost no other visitors at Torrechiara. For the three euro entrance fee, we got to see some fantastical frescoes and feel like we had the run of the castle.
We didn’t know what to expect from Parma, but it turned out to be a nice city with some great day tripping opportunities.