Have you dreamed of Venice, with its sleepy canals, sleek gondolas, and winding alleyways? What about Parma, with its cobbled streets filled with handsome architecture, boutique shops, galleries, and, of course, wonderful restaurants? Each of these cities are terrific destinations for exploring on our walking vacations in Italy.
We’ve curated a list of highlights to give you an immersive taste of both bucket-list destinations and off-the-beaten-path discoveries throughout Venice and Parma.
We suggest avoiding the touristy streets, instead wandering a bit to find hidden corners and neighborhood markets, while along the way, discovering the rich culture and history of Venice. Walk the most scenic and uncrowded areas of classic Venice where life goes on today as it has for centuries.
Venice’s palazzos were built to be seen from the water. Take an amazing cruise on the Grand Canal to truly appreciate these spectacular examples of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture.
The gorgeous Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal is made of gleaming Istrian stone. There’s a market on the western side of the bridge that has been there for over 1000 years. While it’s not the trading hub of centuries past, there’s still a lively fish market and produce vendors, too.
You’ll know you’ve reached Piazza San Marco when you see the rolling domes of the basilica, the centuries-old cafes beneath the stately porticoes, and the vast Campanile throwing its shadow around the square. Buying souvenirs from Venice’s artisans who ply centuries-old trades make for wonderful handmade gifts – for yourself or friends back home.
Murano – Just a vaporetto ride from Venice, elegant Murano is a mini Venice with opulent waterfront palazzos, exquisite churches. Murano even boasts its own Grand Canal. It has been best known for centuries for its glass blowers. The art of glass-making was perfected in the Middle East. Venice’s medieval trade links with Syria allowed it to copy and take it to new heights.
Burano, with its candy-colored cottages houses by the sea, has been a fishing community since medieval times. It’s relative isolation in the north lagoon – a 45-minute Vaporetto ride (or four-hour paddle) from Venice – has kept its culture intact.
Think of Parma, and prosciutto ham and parmesan cheese probably spring to mind. But there are plenty of other delights to sink your teeth into in this ancient city. Alongside the many culinary offerings of Parma, it has world-leading art, the Romanesque cathedral, Roman ruins, Renaissance frescoes, and famous opera house to explore.
Parma was named Italy’s Capital of Culture in 2020 and 2021. Besides having amazing cuisine, it is also a cultural center with a wonderfully preserved historic center, many theaters, galleries. Parma University, one of the oldest universities in the world. Parma’s historic center is car-free and a world away from a tourist town, perfect for our walking tours. The iconic Palazzo della Pilotta, home to the Galleria Nazionale, houses the main art collection in the city. It is a must-visit spot for fans of Old Masters paintings. Over 700 pieces are on show here.
Parma is UNESCO’s Creative City for Gastronomy. The first Italian city to be given such a recognition. The region of Emilia-Romagna, where Parma is located, is home to globally renowned and protected food products. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto de Parma, and traditional balsamic vinegar are but a few. Venture into the countryside to visit artisan producers and learn about their rich culinary traditions. Pause for lunch at a terrace café or a festive table with a beautiful view over the vineyards.
Amazing food, deep traditions, and great company are part of every day in Venice and Parma. For more information about these special tours, or any of our walking vacations in Italy, click here.