A local’s guide to Parma, Italy: food markets, vineyards and backstreet bars

Food and wine critic Andrea Grignaffini reveals his favourite haunts in his home city – a gourmand’s delight with wine bars galore


Food in Parma is all about our unique products – parmesan cheese, Parma ham – and the way we prepare them, as antipasti or as fillings for pasta. The best quality is found at the traditional salumerie and cheese shops on Piazza Ghiaia. Cibivari, half a mile away on Strada XXII Luglio, is a bakery and deli recently opened by the dynamic Roberta Boni, using local, seasonal produce in simple home cooking – focaccia, aubergine parmigiana. Take it away for a picnic or eat in at one of the small tables.

parma ham spot on page

In Parma you are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out. Inkiostro surprises me every time I go – its talented young chef, Salvatore Morello, creates exceptional fine dining menus, including a wonderful vegetarian version. For a complete contrast, try lunch (it doesn’t open in the evening) at Da Antonia, a typical, homely trattoria: eating there is like being in a 1950s Italian movie, with the signora stirring pots from early morning, and daily dishes that include trippa and succulent bollito misto.


Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma. Photograph: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images

I always find myself going back to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata, where my father took me to mass when I was a child. The lavish interiors still take my breath away, and this is where my love for the baroque began. Just behind the basilica is the lesser-known Chiostri di San Giovanni , a magical 10th-century monastery that is the perfect place to listen to a choral concert. And the one thing all visitors must discover is the Teatro Farnese – . If you can’t get a ticket for a concert here, there is a good guided tour. I would happily be the caretaker and live here permanently.


Our city is divided by the Parma River, which we affectionately call the Torrente. On one side is the historical centre, with all the tourist sites, while the other, Oltretorrente, is a city within a city, filled more with working people than nobili. It is typified by Osteria Virgilio, which attracts older residents and teenagers, artists and students.

There is an excellent food market every Saturday in Strada Imbriani, where fresh produce from the province is sold by farmers. Stop off at Piazzale Inzani, where there is a statue of the Franciscan Padre Lino Maupas, known as the “father of the poor”.

Green space

While we are blessed with big green spaces right in the centre, including the Parco Ducale, a French-style landscaped park with tree-lined walkways and an ornate lake, my preferred spot is more of a secret garden, the small Orto Botanico, an 18th-century jewel with a special section for medicinal plants and an exquisite 1793 glass house.

Parma is surrounded by lush countryside, and most visitors head off to the Valle di Langhirano to visit artisan producers of cheese and ham. But to really discover our unspoilt countryside, hire a bike and head to the Parco Fluviale del Taro, about six miles out of town: it’s a protected nature zone running along the Taro River, and great for picnics and hiking.


Parma cannot claim to be one of Italy’s nightlife capitals, but some of its backstreet bars and osterie are real gems. Gazebo di Nottingham is an offshoot of Milan’s famed Nottingham Forest, pioneer of molecular cocktails, with an enchanting garden on the banks of the Torrente.

After dark, the city is split into two zones: Oltretorrente for old-fashioned osterie, and the stretch of Via Farini just south of Piazza Garibaldi, which is packed with bars. Tabarro, in the middle, has a terrific selection of wines: owner Diego Sorba tracks down small, quality viticoltori.

For a different slice of local life, stop off for a glass of malvasia wine at OsteMagno, a historic osteria that has recently moved to Piazza Pilotta. Everyone goes there to chat.


There are cheaper places, but I suggest Palazzo dalla Rosa Prati (doubles from €140) to friends so they can experience the palatial style of Parma in days gone by.

Andrea Grignaffini is a food critic, author and founder of the Alma school of Italian cuisine in Parma


Interview by John Brunton

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
A local’s guide to Perugia, Italy: five great things to do
The ancient walls, papal fortress and creative quarter of Umbria’s 2,500-year-old capital make a happy haunt for flâneur Gianluigi Bettin

Interview by Liz Boulter

16, Oct, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Lecce, Italy: baroque beauty and rural cuisine
Puglian winemaker Massimiliano Apollonio shares tips on the best cafes, museums, parks and bike rides in his beautiful southern city

Interview by John Brunton

30, May, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
A local’s guide to Bologna: from belt-busting pasta to craft cocktails
Lonely Planet writer Kevin Raub offers a tour of the Italian city, taking in parks, museums dedicated to local heroes and artisinal bakeries

Kevin Raub

16, Jan, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Naples: pizza, palazzos and dancing under the stars
Restoration architect Mariano Mazzella knows where to find the best pizzerias, palazzos, bars and views of Vesuvius in Italy’s most vibrant city

Interview by Liz Boulter

18, Jul, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
A local’s guide to Hamburg: concerts, cocktails and dockyard cuisine
Concert pianist Alexander Krichel reveals his pick of the best bars, vintage stores, ferry rides and sailor-sized dishes of Germany’s second largest city

Interview by Paul Sullivan

20, Jun, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
A local’s guide to Palermo: sardines, spumante and spontaneous dancing
City food guide Marco Romeo on the sardines, spumante and street dancing that give the Sicilian capital its distinctive vibe

Interview by Serena Micalizzi-Coyle

29, Aug, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
A local’s guide to Turin: five great things to do
Slow food expert Silvia Ceriani celebrates the industrial past and sustainable future of ‘Italy’s Detroit’, with gourmet markets, grand palazzos and kitsch cocktail bars

Interview by John Brunton

20, Nov, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Dubrovnik: five great things to do
Gourmet walk guide Alex Cram shows us the historic city’s best places to eat, drink and relax away from the crowds

Interview by Mary Novakovich

30, Oct, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Ghent, Belgium: artisanal beer, bargain vintage and docklands clubbing
This Flemish city sparkles with creative cuisine, markets, cutting-edge clubs – and beer, says brewery founder Dimitri Messiaen

Interview by John Brunton

03, Oct, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
A local’s guide to Bilbao, Spain: home of the Guggenheim – and so much more
Gaizka Zuazo, director of the city’s school of design, knows where to find the best steaks, late-night bars and post-industrial cool

Interview by Stephen Burgen

22, Aug, 2022 @6:00 AM