Rome vs Parma: Which city should you choose for an Italian break?
Italy is synonymous with food, fashion and culture but what can you expect if you’re going to see Ireland versus Italy in this weekend’s Six Nations matches?
Irish fans will travel in numbers to cheer on their two teams, with the Irish women playing in Parma while the men play in Rome. Ireland will be favourites in the rugby but which of the host cities would come out on top in a tourism head-to-head?
What they say
Rome: “A heady mix of haunting ruins, awe-inspiring art and vibrant street life, Italy’s hot-blooded capital is one of the world’s most romantic and inspiring cities.” – Lonely Planet
Parma: “If reincarnation ever becomes an option, pray you come back as a Parmesan. Where else do you get to cycle to work through streets virtually devoid of cars, lunch on fresh-from-the-attic prosciutto and aged parmigiano reggiano, quaff crisp, refreshing Lambrusco wine in regal art-nouveau cafes, and spend sultry summer evenings listening to classical music in architecturally dramatic opera houses?” – Lonely Planet
Where to go
Rome: First-time visitors can’t go wrong with the historic centre, with many of Rome’s famous attractions within easy walking distance. Another place on everybody’s checklist should be Vatican City, the city within a city. Tourists are often told to seek out the “real” Rome in the medieval neighbourhood of Trastevere while Monti is a hip area that’s dotted with wine bars and restaurants.
Parma: Head for the Piazzo del Duomo in the centre of the Old Town to see some of Parma’s most striking buildings and explore the historical heart of the city. Parma is all about food and fashion and the city centre is full of restaurants and boutiques selling clothes, leather goods and more. Off the Piazza della Pilotta, you’ll find Pilotta Palace with its museum, library and other cultural attractions.
Where to eat
Rome: Armando al Pantheon offers traditional Roman fare in the shadow of the Pantheon or you could treat yourself at the Michelin-starred Metamorfosi. For a twist on a classic Italian dish, try a deconstructed pizza at Trapizzino, or grab a pizza bianca (a plain pizza bread sprinkled with coarse salt and olive oil) at a late night bakery.
Parma: There’s more to Parma than just ham and cheese – this paradise for foodies is famous for its delicious local dishes and ingredients. Just off Piazza Garibaldi, you’ll see shops that specialise in Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and salted meats. It’s perfect for a snack on the go but you’ll also stumble across plenty of traditional eateries that serve stunning food. Try a sit down meal in the celebrated La Greppia, the tortellini di nocciola in Osteria del 36, or one of Pepèn’s famous sandwiches.
Activities to try
Rome: A tour of any of Rome’s major attractions will not disappoint, whether it’s exploring the ancient catacombs or seeing the Sistine Chapel. A night time tour of the city’s ancient remains is one way to see it in a different light. It’s traditional to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain if you want to return to Rome and who wouldn’t want to return? If you’re around for a few days, why not take a day trip to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius?
Parma: You can’t go to the home of Parmesan cheese and not see how it’s made. Likewise, the region is famous for its prosciutto di Parma, which is arguably the country’s best ham. The Three Kings Food Tour takes in a visit to the Parmigiano Reggiano factory, a Parma ham factory and a traditional balsamic vinegar producer. Parma’s Teatro Regio is regarded as one of the best opera houses in Italy so it’s an obvious pilgrimage for music lovers. The area around the city is also pretty flat so it’s a perfect place to rent a bike and explore the Italian countryside.
Things to see
Rome: You can barely throw a stone in the Eternal City without hitting a stunning historical site - the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum… the list goes on and on. Few cities can compare to Rome when it comes to the beauty, scale and drama of its historical monuments.
Parma: Check out Parma Cathedral with its fantastic interior frescos by Correggio. The nearby Parma Baptistery is a striking octagonal tower that boasts more amazing frescos inside. If you’re over with your family, the botanical garden of Orto Botanico di Parma is an ideal place to enjoy some fresh air and amazing plants.
Which one is for you?
Rome is Rome and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you want a city that’s steeped in history, full of grand architectural delights and awash in romance, the Italian capital is an obvious choice.
However, Parma’s pedestrianised streets and slower pace of life allow visitors to relax and soak up the finer things in life. It’s a food lover’s paradise that also has an impressive art and music scene.
The Irish women will play Italy in Parma on Friday, February 23, with the men playing in Rome on the following day. Travelling Irish supporters can look forward to some great rugby action and a chance to live la dolce vita, whether they’re going to Rome, Parma or both cities.
Aer Lingus is the official airline of the Irish rugby team. If you can’t make it to the match to bring home advantage, why not follow the Guinness Six Nations away game trail and explore these great rugby cities?
Aer Lingus flies to Rome twice a day from Dublin. When travelling to Parma, fly to nearby Milan up to 14 times per week or Bologna three times a week (from May 16 – 28 September 28, 2019). See the Aer Lingus website for latest offers.