If reincarnation ever becomes an option, pray you come back as a Parmesan. Where else do you get to cycle to work through traffic-light cobbled streets in uncrinkled Prada, lunch on fresh-from-the-attic prosciutto and aged parmigiano reggiano cheese, quaff full-bodied Sangiovese wine in regal art-nouveau cafes, and spend sultry summer evenings listening to classical music in architecturally dramatic opera houses? Smarting from its position as one of Italy's most prosperous cities, Parma has every right to feel smug. More metropolitan than Modena, yet less clamorous than Bologna, this is the city that gave the world Lamborghinis, a composer called Verdi and enough ham and cheese to start a deli chain. Stopping here isn't an option, it's a duty.
Parma destination guides
Francigena Way: Pavia to Parma
Take the Via Emilia from Pavia to Parma, past fields of wheat and corn and cities and towns housing architectural jewels
Francigena Way: Parma to Sarzana
Cross three Italian regions from the elegant Parma to the medieval Sarzana overlooking the Ligurian coast