– Let’s see where the first train leaving tomorrow morning is headed?…It says Parma.
– Ok great! What’s in Parma?
– I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when we get there!
Walk into the Gonzaga-In-Florence computer lab on a Thursday afternoon and it is quite likely a similar conversation may be overheard by those students who haven’t already skipped town for the weekend. After having the above conversation with a couple of friends, we jumped on a train to Parma the next morning not knowing what we might find…
As it turns out, Parma is a fantastic day trip destination only a 2 hour train ride from Florence. Time it right and take the cheaper regional trains that run every four hours or so for about 19 euro each way. As we began our adventure we discovered that Parma is a small city in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. It is a great place to get a bit off the beaten track. It is not a well-known tourist destination and we were quite literally the only people there doing a bit of sightseeing, which is a nice change from the crowd of American students and tourists in Florence.
After getting off the train, walk up the street to the right. Turn left at the second bridge and you’ll find yourself under a colossal structure now housing the archeological museum and flea market stalls. Poke around for some deals or enjoy the grassy area next to the charming center of town. The tourist office provides free maps of the city with some of the main city sights and lunch recommendations. Making up a plan as we went, we wandered through the quaint streets of town; saw Parma’s Duomo and Baptistery, ornate theater buildings, and quiet piazzas. When hunger started gnawing, we walked to the first dot of a lunch place on our map. Dedicated to leaving this trip to chance, we flipped a coin outside the door to see if we would go in or continue on to the next dot. Tails it was, and we kept going until we reached our fourth restaurant. Heads finally won and we sat down in Trattoria Corrieri. The atmosphere was fantastic, the staff was very friendly, and the pasta was delicious. For those interested in something different, I’d recommend giving the ravioli con zucca (pumpkin-stuffed ravioli) a try! Buonissima!
Feeling reenergized after a good meal, we crossed the bridge and wandered in the city’s large spacious park. It seemed so out of place in this medieval city, but the wide paths lined with trees, the iced-over ponds, and grassy areas were a welcome sight and made for a peaceful stroll. We warmed up in a café with one of the best cappuccinos I’ve had in my life before taking the evening train back home.
In Parma we found the pleasant surprise of a relaxing day of wandering. It was a wonderful experience in a city that few others go visit, and I’d definitely recommend it to those searching for destination inspiration. Follow these suggestions in your own trip to Parma or merely use this inspiration to set out on your own spontaneous adventure to a completely random Italian town. I put forth the challenge to resist doing any research before you go, just show up! Don’t be afraid to make up a plan on the spot. Ask the locals for their recommendations. Try something new! It will make a great story no matter how the day turns out. Happy travels!
By Mariah Dodson
Categories: Life Abroad