You should definitely find accommodation centrally if possible, as strolling around the town's historic streets is part of the pleasure of Parma.

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Three buildings dominate the open space: the Duomo, the adjoining Campanile (belltower) and the striking Battistero (baptistery).

The Duomo is an attractive and venerable cathedral, in the Lombard-Romanesque style.

There's not a great deal by Parmigianino, but his exquisite painting of a coy young woman, identified as a Turkish slave, is a gem.

Other notable artists featured in the gallery include Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Cima da Conegliano, Paolo Veneziano, Canaletto, Hans Holbein the Younger and Van Dyck.

A good first port of call is Parma's tourist office on Strada Melloni, where you can pick up a free map of the town - Parma is big enough for this to be useful - and a list of museum opening times.

It is worth studying the latter; as is usual in Italy, many museums and churches are closed for several hours in the middle of the day, and also on Mondays, so you may want to plan your sightseeing accordingly.

Before you start paying admission fees, investigate the latest combined tickets - these aren't always well-publicised and you may be able to save a significant amount.

Locals get around on bicycles; if you want to hire a bike, there is a point by the Viale Toschi car park, a few minutes' walk straight ahead from the railway station.

It is not a particularly cheap town for visitors, but neither is it a rip-off, and the eating, shopping and hotels are good quality.

Parma is in the centre of northern Italy with frequent trains to Bologna, Milan and other useful destinations.

But the handful of visitors who arrive here will find an important art gallery, museums, frescoed churches, good shopping, charming historic lanes and of course the rich local cuisine.