AN ART AND WELLNESS GETAWAY IN PARMA

18th March 2016

parma italy holiday

Parma is mostly known for ham and parmesan which, as you might have guessed, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Parma, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. And what better feeling is there than discovering activities, sights and food that are all in line with who you are and what you love! Parma turned out to be an unexpected little haven of health and vegan food – the art part obviously didn’t come as a surprise, but contributed to a lovely getaway I can’t recommend enough. Here is what I got up to.

vegan pizza parma

Wherever there is pizza, there is vegan pizza.

DISCOVERING THE MAIN SIGHTS

Upon arriving and checking in at Al Battistero d’Oro B&B, my lovely host Patrizia had arranged for me a short walking visit of the city’s main sights with a private guide from Explora Emilia. It was my second experience with hiring a private tour guide in the beginning of a holiday and I am absolutely sold on the idea now. Not only does it allow you to get your bearings quickly along with an overview of the main tourist attractions, it also makes picking and choosing what you will explore further a lot easier and is a great first human contact with a very knowledgeable local person who is more than happy to answer your every question. My guide Valeria was fun, easy going and interesting and I learned so much more from her than anything I would have read online or in guide books.

The Piazza del Duomo, Parma

The Piazza del Duomo where the beautiful marble Battistero is located.

parma duomo by correggio

The Assumption of the Virgin by Correggio is one of the most mesmerizing Renaissance paintings I have ever seen.

parma teatro farnese

The Teatro Farnese inside the Palazzo della Pilotta.

Biblioteca Palatina - Palazzo della Pilotta

The Biblioteca Palatina inside Palazzo della Pilotta

bodoni museum parma

If you are a design and typography geek like me, don’t miss the Bodoni Museum (also inside the Palazzo della Pilotta).

YOGA AND TIBETAN BOWL MASSAGE

My hotel in Parma was located right next door to a lovely spa called Le Monadi where I had a few yoga classes, which were conveniently taught in English (on request). The spa specializes in holistic naturopathy, with treatments combining Bach Flowers Remedies, Reiki, laughing yoga and Tibetan singing bowl massage. I was most curious about the latter and so I decided to give it a try. The treatment (which can be offered in Italian, French, English or Swedish) is more of a sound therapy than a massage and consists of placing various singing bowls on different parts of the body and letting the sounds and vibrations create a deep state of relaxation. This type of treatment is said to improve mental clarity, increase physical energy and improve sleeping patterns, and I have to say that it was indeed a relaxing and soothing experience. I am already a big fan of singing bowls when they are used in yoga classes and this felt like the deepest, most incredible hour-long savasana of all time and left me in a state of combined exhilaration and relaxation that I can’t quite describe with words. My body was buzzing and my mind was clear, and it totally enhanced the way I perceived and appreciated the city afterwards as I slowly walked around.

le monadi spa yoga parma italy

THE PERFECT VEGAN BITE

Parma surprisingly has a lot to offer in terms of vegan food for such a small city. Here are my top picks, but there are many more options on Happy Cow.

V BAR NATURAL

parma v bar naturale vegan

Lovely health food café with a funky upcycled décor. The owners’ aim is to teach locals how to eat healthy and vegan, and so all ingredients are carefully considered for their health benefits. You won’t find any sodas or nasties on the menu here, just healthy organic vegan salads and a daily changing vegan menu with items such as vellutata di cavolfiori al curry (curried cream of cauliflower), farifrittata alle zucchini (chickpea flower and zucchini frittata) or quiche di finnochi (fennel quiche). There is a small selection of certified vegan wine and beer, a few vegan and organic packaged foods for sale and a fantastic sense of community. A place to disconnect and recharge.
Directions // Facebook

JAKI CAFÉ & CUCINA NATURAL

parma jaki cafe vegan

90% vegan, fully organic, local eatery with a funky mid-century modern vibe and great music. The place is run by a very cute couple who is clearly passionate about local and organic quality ingredients. There is no menu, but rather 3 or 4 daily options that change according to the season. At the time I visited, there were a chickpea omelet with sundried tomato and pumpkin mayonnaise, a buckwheat pancake with potatoes and mushrooms or cabbage rolls stuffed with spelt, rice and potatoes with pumpkin sauce. Everything is grown in Parma or manufactured in Bologna (in the case of tofu, tempeh and seitan). The wine is also organic. Lovely.
Directions // Facebook

UNIVERSO VEGANO

universo vegano sandwich parma

More on the fast/comfort food side of things, Universo Vegano offers a good selection of sandwiches, burgers, “veghine” (wraps), pasta, risotto and salads and some fantastic desserts. The sandwiches are especially great. I wanted to roll around in the vegamisu as it made me very happy indeed.
Directions // Facebook

CENTRO MACROBIOTIC CERES

vegan mozarella italy

I love self-catering when I travel, and this was my favorite grocery store for organic produce and super interesting vegan products (yoghurt and cheese, namely). They sell an amazing rice milk mozzarella that you could potentially take to any restaurant and ask them to use instead of real mozzarella. I haven’t tried doing this, but I would totally do it – maybe telling them that I’m allergic to lactose, so they don’t think I’m too much of a douche 😉
Directions // Facebook


Parma is a compact and cute little gem of a city and I hope this has given you some ideas for your next holiday! Here is a map of everything mentioned in this article. Click here for a larger version.


Thanks to Al Battistero d’Oro, Le Monadi, Explora Emilia, V Bar Natural and Jaki Café for their hospitality. All opinions are my own.

19 thoughts on “AN ART AND WELLNESS GETAWAY IN PARMA

  1. Pingback: A RELAXING STAY AT AL BATTISTERO D’ORO PARMA | Mostly Amélie

  2. Michelle W

    These photos are really stunning! Also I never knew that there was even a place in Italy called Parma known for it’s parmesan cheese- the more you know! Also I love that you map pinned all of the place you discussed in your piece, I haven’t seen this done before and think it’s a great and very helpful idea!

    Reply
  3. Vicky and Buddy

    I think it’s so great when a place pleasantly surprises you. Parma looks really great. That library looks stunning; I’d love to spend a few hours there! Thanks for including the map!

    Reply
  4. anto

    It’s great that you are exploring some sides of Italy that nobody knows really. I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog about Parma before. Well done!

    Reply
  5. Laura

    I would make a horrible vegan. We were just in Bologna and went on the best Parmigiano-Reggiano and Proscuitto tour. I was really close to choosing Parma instead, but it would have been a similar trip. I’m glad you were able to find good food there and enjoy it. You can never go wrong with pizza.

    Reply
  6. Francesca @onegrloneworld

    I’ve been to Italy several times but still haven’t been to Parma! I really want to go, so I’ll have to bookmark Explora Emilia for my next trip! I’m really surprised you were able to find so many vegan options in Italy – especially mozzarella!! That’s really awesome though, and good to keep in mind for my vegan traveler friends!

    Reply
  7. Melissa Jones

    Good call on the pizza, I struggle in a lot of places abroad because I don’t eat meat but you usually find that if you look hard enough you can find somewhere that will surprise you and Happy Cow is always a great place to start looking. So glad that Parma has these options, I wish more places would do the same. Veggies and vegans don’t just live off salad, places need to give us more options! 🙁

    Reply
  8. Aileen Adalid

    Wow. I honestly have never heard of this place and it’s great to see it through your blog — I’m really looking forward to my trip to Italy later this year! Hope everything goes as planned and I wouldn’t mind putting Parma on my itinerary 😉

    Reply
  9. Elaine Masters

    This sounds so restorative. Couldn’t agree with you more about having a guide. I like small group walking tours for the company (and questions) but given a short stay, a private guide is delightful.

    Reply

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