Parma: History, Gastronomy and Verdi 2024

Status: open

22 Sep – 2 Oct 2024


Parma: History, Gastronomy and Verdi 2024
Tour Highlights

Parma was the Italian Capital of Culture in 2020 and 2021, and has been named a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy. Spend 11 days in and around Parma, experiencing the rich history and gastronomic culture of this unique area. Your tour leaders are two University of Melbourne academics: Matt Absalom, an Italianist with a long history of leading tours in Italy; and Elisabetta Ferrari, Italianist, academic and Parma local. Experienced local guides add their own expertise to give you unique insights into the culture and hidden treasures of the area.

We welcome bookings from the University of Melbourne’s alumni community as well as travellers who enjoy art, architecture, music and gastronomy.

  • Encounter Parma’s past through its majestic buildings, such as the Cathedral, Baptistery, the Farnese Theatre, the Library and Pharmacy of St John.
  • With Roberta Gasparini, a resident of the city, uncover the ‘real’ Parma by touring places where only locals go to.
  • Enjoy a night at the Opera during Parma’s annual Verdi Festival.
  • Explore ancient churches, castles and fortresses and learn about Italy’s rich past. Tour great Medieval and Renaissance palaces with rooms magnificently decorated with fine frescoes.
  • Cruise along the Po River, Italy’s largest river, and visit historic Mantova (Mantua) once home to the important Renaissance family, the Gonzaga.
  • Learn about the history and production of some stalwarts of Italian cuisine in the food valley of the Po River: Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar of Modena. Take a leisurely bike ride into the Pianura Padana and see how Parmigiano Reggiano is made.
  • Dine is traditional local restaurants, sample delicious pastries, and learn new recipes at a cooking class on a working farm.
  • In Modena, enjoy a special degustation lunch with paired wines at chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana.

11-Day Music, Food and Culture tour of Parma and surrounds

Overnight Parma (10 nights)

About Parma

Parma, a city of around 200,000 inhabitants in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, boasts a colourful millennial history which can be traced back to the Bronze Age. As a city, Parma was probably founded by the Etruscans and then colonised by the Romans in 183BC. Over the ensuing centuries, it was ruled over by quite a collection of outside influences. From the 1300s, it fell under the control of Milan, through important families like the Sforza (who employed Leonardo da Vinci at their court in Milan, for instance). Parma has a history of engagement with France, first coming under their rule in 1500. Between the late 1500s and the 1730s, Parma was held as a Duchy by the Farnese family after which it was once again annexed by France and remained in French control until the early 1800s. With the emergence of the Kingdom of Italy, the former Duchy of Parma was integrated into the newly formed province of Emilia. A site of strong partisan resistance during World War II, Parma was subject to allied bombing which destroyed or damaged key buildings close to its historic centre, including the Palazzo Farnese. Parma is surrounded by a network of castles and fortresses, all with notable histories behind them. We are in the lands of Matilda, Countess of Canossa (remembered for her role in the conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman emperor in the 11th century) and Duchess Maria Luigia of Hapsburg-Lorraine, wife of Napoleon, (sent to rule over the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla after the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau). Today, Parma is the gateway to the Po’s food valley, and boasts a proud gastronomic tradition and a thriving arts and culture scene – this is a city well deserving of its ‘Capital of Culture’ title.



The following itinerary lists a range of sites and activities which we have planned. While many are accessible to the public, some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, and confirmation of visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, some lunches, evening aperitivi or dinners, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, A=aperitivo/apericena & D=dinner.

Parma - 10 nights

Day 1: Sunday 22 September, Arrive in Parma
  • Welcome Meeting and Welcome Drinks

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 6.00pm in the foyer of the hotel in central Parma. We commence our program with a Welcome Meeting followed by drinks with your tour leaders and local guide, Roberta Gasparini. (Overnight Parma) A

Day 2: Monday 23 September, Parma
  • Guided walking tour of Parma incl. the Duomo complex, Historical Centre and Teatro Farnese
  • Welcome Lunch in a typical osteria
  • Afternoon at leisure

After breakfast, we will begin a walking tour of Parma taking in the key features of the historic centre. Parma’s Duomo dates back to 1074 and is dedicated to the assumption of the Virgin Mary. An important Romanesque cathedral, the Duomo features a dome decorated by famous Renaissance painter Correggio and bas-relief sculpture from the 12th century by Benedetto Antelami, who also designed the octagonal Baptistery of pink Verona marble which flanks the cathedral. A visit to the Baptistery reveals the influence of Byzantine art on the frescoed interior while its architectural style traces the important transition from Romanesque to Gothic. Both Duomo and Baptistery have significant decoration on their exteriors. The nearby Bishop’s palace shows the influence of successive architectural styles combining Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque features. The Diocesan Museum houses the original Angiol d’Or or Golden Angel (known as l’Angiolen dal Dom – the cathedral’s angel), a replica of which stands on today’s bell tower. From Piazza Duomo we will wind through the streets of the historic centre taking in other notable sites such as Piazza Garibaldi with its monument to Garibaldi and the Governor’s Palace, Palazzo del Podestà, Piazza della Pace and ending with a tour of the Teatro Farnese in the Palazzo della Pilotta. This is one of only three remaining historic theatres of its kind in existence. The Palazzo della Pilotta also houses the Galleria Nazionale and Museo Archeologico – you may wish to stay on and visit these at your leisure.

We then enjoy a Welcome Lunch of local specialties at Trattoria Sorelle Picchi. The rest of the afternoon at will be at leisure. (Overnight Parma) BL

Day 3: Tuesday 24 September, Parma
  • Morning at Leisure
  • Guided walking tour off the beaten track, with visits to Farmacia San Filippo and Teatro Farnese
  • Afternoon tea: Tè con la Duchessa at Pasticceria San Biagio

We will meet in the mid-afternoon and begin uncovering some special places of Parma. The Teatro Farnese is one of only three remaining historic theatres of its kind in existence. The Teatro Farnese is in the Palazzo della Pilotta which also houses the Galleria Nazionale and Museo Archeologico which can be visited at the end of our tour.

We will explore boutiques offering unusual products such as the Violetta di Parma, and your tastebuds will come alive during our afternoon tea. (Overnight Parma) BA

Day 4: Wednesday 25 September, Parma – Antica Corte Pallavicina – Parma
  • Visit a working farm
  • Discover the history of culatello
  • Cooking class and lunch

The Antica Corte Pallavicina today comprises a working farm, luxury hotel and one-star Michelin restaurant. The property was built as a customs house on the River Po in the 14th century. Maria Luigia, Duchess of Parma and wife of Napoleon, garrisoned her frontier guards here in the late 1700s. Once we arrive at the Antica Corte Pallavicina in our private coach, our program begins with a visit to the farm followed by a tour of noble rooms and ending in the Museo del culatello. The Culatello di Zibello is a cured ham only produced in Parma where the combination of fog and low temperature during the autumn and winter allows it to age gracefully creating its characteristic sweetness.

At the end of our tour, we will be fully immersed in all the secrets of pasta making during a three-hour pasta workshop. This will culminate with a convivial meal accompanied by local wines. (Overnight Parma) BL

Day 5: Thursday 26 September, Parma – Modena – Parma
  • Guided Tour of Acetaia Picci, Balsamic Vinegar producer
  • City tour of Modena
  • Degustation Lunch with Wine Pairing at Osteria Francescana at Maria Luigia

This morning we travel to Modena. En-route we will visit the producer of one of the region’s famous condiments: Balsamic vinegar. On arrival in Modena we will visit the historic centre briefly before arriving at Casa Maria Luigia for a special degustation lunch with wine pairing. Casa Maria Luigia is a recent project of the three-star Michelin chef, Massimo Bottura. His restaurant, Osteria Francescana, has twice been named no. 1 in the world. Our menu will consist of Bottura’s signature dishes matched with appropriate wines.

After lunch we will have a chance to explore the grounds of Casa Maria Luigia before returning to Parma where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Parma) BL

Day 6: Friday 27 September, Parma – the Po Valley – Parma
  • Rocca Sanvitale, Fontanellato
  • Lunch at a local restaurant
  • Rocca Meli Lupi, Soragna

This morning we drive to the charming little town of Fontanellato where our local guide, Roberta Gasparini, will lead us through the Rocca Sanvitale. This castle surrounded by a moat was home to the Sanvitale family and remained such until the 1930s. It includes one of the few optical chambers (camera ottica) in Europe and houses frescoes by Parmigianino. We will then enjoy a typical lunch based on local specialties at Restaurant 12 Monaci.

Our next destination is the Rocca Meli Lupi in Soragna, the home of Prince Meli Lupi. This regal residence will delight those interested in formal gardens, sumptuous decoration, Baroque style and gold. (Overnight Parma) BL

Day 7: Saturday 28 September, Parma – Torrechiara – Mamiano – Parma
  • Castle of Torrechiara
  • Prosciutto making demonstration at a local prosciuttificio
  • Fondazione Magnani Rocca

Torrechiara is the archetypical castle and it even has a ‘fairy tale’ love story in its history! Its austere exteriors hide a highly decorated interior which moves from rich grotesque frescoes to the flowery Camera d’Oro. Our local guide, Roberta Gasparini, will enchant you with the history of this stunning place during our morning visit.

From here, we visit a prosciuttificio to introduce you to the process behind the making of prosciutto en-route to the Fondazione Magnani Rocca. After a scrumptious lunch, we will visit the Magnani collection which includes works by Gentile da Fabriano, Filippo Lippi, Carpaccio, Dürer, Tiziano, Rubens, Van Dyck and contemporary artists such as Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, up to de Chirico, De Pisis, fifty of Morandi’s works, and sculptures by Canova and Bartolini. (Overnight Parma) BL

Day 8: Sunday 29 September, Parma
  • Tour of Parma’s grand theatre, the Teatro Regio
  • Performance at Verdi Festival (subject to performance schedule)
  • Pre- or Post-performance Aperitivo

This morning we will head to the Teatro Regio, originally called the New Ducal Theatre and built at the request of Duchess Maria Luigia of Hapsburg-Lorraine, the wife of Napoleon. In neo-classical style, the theatre eloquently illustrates the important cultural history of Parma. Our tour will take in the foyer, the ridotta – a large salon where Maria Luigia’s throne was to be found, the theatre itself with its lavish decorations and theatre curtain by Giovan Battista Borghesi.

Following time at leisure we attend an afternoon or evening performance of a Giuseppe Verdi’s opera as part of the 2024 Verdi Festival (subject to the performance schedule to be released in early 2024). (Overnight Parma) BA

Day 9: Monday 30 September, Parma’s countryside
  • Bike ride to a caseificio with a parmigiano reggiano making demonstration

Today, we will be joined by Davide Pagani, owner of Bike Food Stories, who will lead us on a bike ride to a caseificio where we will see how the world famous parmigiano is made. After the tour there will be a tasting and the opportunity to stock up on parmigiano. We’ll jump back on our bikes and go for a leisurely ride through the typical countryside of the Po Valley before heading back to Parma. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax and recharge.

For those not wishing to ride a bike, a private coach will ferry you to and from the caseificio. (Overnight Parma) B

Day 10: Tuesday 1 October, Parma – Po River – Mantua – Parma
  • Cruise and lunch on the Po River
  • Historic Mantua, incl. Rotonda di San Lorenzo

This morning we travel to Mantua, the great historic city on the banks of the River Po. We will take a cruise along the River, through the Mantuan lakes and the Mincio Oasis. Lunch will be served on board. On our return to Mantua we will visit the historic centre of the city of the Gonzagas. A highlight will be the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, a medieval church with a circular design. This evening we return to Parma where we gather for a farewell aperitivo. (Overnight Parma) BLA

Day 11: Wednesday 2 October, Depart Parma
  • Tour ends after breakfast

Our tour ends today in Parma. You may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B



11 days in Italy

  • Parma (10 nights): 4-star SINA Maria Luigia – a modern hotel with excellent facilities located in the ‘North Centro’ district (about 750m from the cathedral). www.sinahotels.com

Notehotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single use is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $1000.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA programs relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 11-day Cultural Tour involves:
  • A moderate amount of walking, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain, and/or standing, interspersed with short coach travel.
  • Short trips by coach on minor roads.
  • 4-star hotel with no hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $7990.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 Sep 2023

AUD $8190.00 Land Content Only

AUD $960.00 Double (as single) Supplement

Tour Price includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in a 4-star hotel
  • Breakfast daily, lunches, evening aperitivi or dinners, indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, A=aperitivo/apericena & D=dinner.
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals, and the Massimo Bottura experience. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site visit program
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Parma; Parma-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $1000.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: your initial deposit of $1000.00 is non-refundable.**
  • 75-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**$500.00 of this amount (ie 50% of your deposit) may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

Interested in this tour?
Take the next step

Make an Enquiry now

or alternatively Download PDF Reservation Application