Elisa's guide to Parma, Italy's "Food Valley"

Elisa Barbieri, founder of communication studio 00:am – Roomorama blog

City guide: Parma

Elisa is a mother, storyteller and a graphic designer. She's an enthusiastic traveller who finds happiness in exploring the world. Together with her husband, they are the founders of the communication studio: 00:am and the crowdsourced design platform: Garagedesign. Elisa pens her thoughts and poems under the artistic name, Giulietta Kelly. Elisa lives in Parma, and we ask her about this Italian city she calls home.

You live in Parma - tell us what you love and hate about Parma.

I love walking and cycling by the river that crosses the city - a bit like The Great Beauty’s Jep Gambardella walking along the Tiber. Our flat is just next to the river so we get to be surrounded by nature even though we actually live in a place full of art history and monumental architecture. Having said that, I hate this city sometimes because of its pretentious temperament. Most of my friends here come from elsewhere!

What is the food like in Parma? What are some typical dishes and foods from Parma?

Parma's second name is “food valley” - can you imagine how important food is to us?

Our main products are nothing less than Mr. Parmesan cheese and Mrs. Parma ham - which you can find here in their best form.

If you feel like having a traditional menu, you should try out the tortelli d'erbetta (ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, nutmeg and spinach), followed by the delicious Rosa di Parma meatloaf and finally the Duchessa di Parma (Parma duchess) - a rich cake with zabaglione and chocolate ganache dedicated to the beloved Austrian Maria Luigia Duchess (Napoleon’s wife).

In Parma, you can also find excellent wine like the white Malvasia and the real Lambrusco (which has nothing to do with the industrial drink bearing the same name).

What are some of your favourite restaurants in Parma?

For a traditional menu my favourite place to go to is 2 platani. For experimental cuisine, Borgo 20 and Ohibò. For a vegan meal, La foglia bio. Mentana 104 offers a good wine list and cool background music. Lastly, if you're looking for coffee in a wool shop, go to Misterlino Officina Lancia Caffè.

La foglia bio Mentana 104

Pictured above: La foglia bio (credit: Mattia Iotti), Mentana 104

What are some reasons for visitors to come and see Parma?

In Parma you can relax, do some café-hopping and hang around the lively streets. Parma has a slow city life where nobody really seems to work seriously. It offers you plenty of things to do for at least a week without making you feel overwhelmed with an impossible itinerary.

What is there to do in Parma that people may not know about?

On Wednesday and Saturday nights, some streets (like Via Farini and Via D'Azeglio) gets really crowded with young people. They turn the streets into some sort of open air party with music and drinks - we call it Parma movida.

When is a good time of year to visit Parma?

All year round, except August (usually too hot and empty, because everybody goes on a holiday). Anyway, the most beautiful month in Parma is September. It has plenty of cultural events and magic light shows.

You are a designer - are there some cool shops and galleries and places you go to for designer objects, inspiration, etc?

Oh yes!! Borgo Nazario Sauro and Borgo Giacomo Tommasini are tiny streets full of cool antique, vintage and design shops. Don’t miss the rare and custom-made glasses at the optical shop (via Nazario Sauro 5B, Parma Emilia-Romagna, Italy) and the natural garments and shoes for kids at Nesting. Of course, not forgetting the designers’ fashion mecca: O’ and Store 333, which has a nordic minimalistic style.

You should also discover our little “rive gauche”, the so-called bohemian Oltretorrente - which is a perfect area for cool discoveries. You can find a colourful bio farmers market on Saturday mornings there, as well as Roxette, a boutique where you can find designer goods (such as Martin Margiela, who is one of my favourite designers).

Optical Shop Store 333

Pictured above: Optical Shop (credit: Manuel Cortegoso), Store 333 (credit: frenchieblu)

Are there are any cool museums and galleries in Parma?

Contemporary art lovers should not miss Lenz Theatre with its visionary performances in a former industrial area. You should also not miss out on the brand new CSAC museum, based in the beautiful Valserena Abbey, just 10 minutes outside the city.

CSAC Museum

Pictured above: CSAC Museum (credit: Paolo Rosselli)

Do you have some local tips for someone who is visiting the city?

My five top tips are:

  1. Take a walk in the historical Parco Ducale (via John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 10, 43100 Parma PR, Italy)
  2. Visit the Farnese theatre (Piazzale della Pilotta, 15, Parma PR, Italy) which is a unique example of baroque theatre
  3. Have a dream-like ice-cream experience at Ciacco
  4. A tour around a real hidden treasure - the Renaissance library inside the San Giovanni monastery
  5. Have an unforgettable wine-tasting session and shop with view at the Torrechiara castle at Lamoretti Winery.


Pictured above: Ciacco (credit: Alberto Feltrin)

Stylish places to stay in Parma

This elegant apartment is part of a historic residence in the city centre of Parma.

Short term vacation rental apartments in Parma – Roomorama blog Holiday rental apartment in Parma – Roomorama blog

Going to Italy? Check out more places to stay in Italy on Roomorama.