Parma has a great historical and cultural tradition. Already significant in the middle ages, the Duchy of Parma under the Farnese family between 1545 and 1731 was of relevance within Italy but successively, under the Bourbons, the city became of European significance and was a true beacon of modern culture. With the creation of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla the city experienced a further flowering under the guide of the Habsburgs: the new Duchess Maria Luigia of Austria was both daughter of the Emperor Francesco I and second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and with the splendor of her court Parma flourished as a ‘petite capitale’.
Architectural monuments and artistic masterpieces are preserved in the city and the surrounding area, all bearing witness to the city’s glorious past. From the high middle ages of Piazza Duomo with the imposing Romanesque Cathedral and the innovative octagonal construction of the Baptistery in pink marble, to the works of the XVI century and the frescoes of Correggio and Parmigianino and the splendid XVII century Farnese Theatre. The cultural heritage of the Duchy of Maria Luigia of Austria is represented by the Teatro Regio and the Ducal Palace with its charming park.
There are about thirty Castles and fortified Manors to be found in the provincial area of Parma: these are grouped together as the Castles of the Duchy and bear witness to the power of the feudal and renaissance families which governed the territory between the XV and XVIII centuries. Amongst the highest expressions of court art to be found in Europe is the Reggia of Colorno, considered by many to be a small Versailles, the Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato and the Meli Lupi Rocca in Soragna. The splendid Castle of Torrechiara stands alone overlooking the Parma river valley, and its Golden Chamber, attributed to Benedetto Bembo, celebrates the love story between Pier Maria Rossi, ‘il Magnifico’, and Bianca Pellegrino but also underlines the vast power of the dynasty through its depiction of all the castles within the feudal holding.
Parma occupies a significant position within the circuit of Great Italian Gardens which groups together over 100 renaissance, baroque and modern gardens in 12 regions. Parma can, in fact, boast a unique heritage of botanical varieties and garden designs thanks to its history. Certainly worth a visit is the Ducal Garden in the heart of the city, constructed at the behest of Ottavio Farnese in the XVI century and currently to be seen in the French style assumed in the XVIII century under Filippo II Bourbon. The historical garden of the Reggia of Colorno was created in the second half of the XV century and is also today to be seen in the French style after a meticulous programme of re-planting undertaken using the original plans. The Labyrinth of Franco Maria Ricci in Fontanellato with its star shape covering 7 hectares will be open for visits from Spring 2015.
Because of its geographical position and the good network of communications provided by roads and railways, Parma is an ideal base from which to explore other towns with their art treasures, their history and their typical wine and food products. Modena, for example, is the city of Balsamic Vinegar as well as of the Ferrari car and its main square, Piazza Grande, together with the Cathedral and the Tower of the Ghirlandina, are all on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. Bologna, with its two towers, Piazza Maggiore, its arcaded streets and its tortellini, is also within easy reach. Further destinations could be Milan with its Duomo, the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, La Scala Theatre and Da Vinci’s Last Supper, or Cremona with its tradition of Stradivari violins, La Spezia and the Cinque Terre, Mantua and the Gonzaga, Florence and the renaissance, Siena and San Gimignano, Palermo and the Sicilian Baroque, Catania and Magna Grecia...come and discover all the tours we have on offer!
Verdi, Stradivari and Monteverdi, land of maestri and much more
UNESCO sites along the Via Emilia
Weekend in Parma: Days full of experiences
Festival Verdi or Opera season - Parma and its surroundings: music, flavors and much more
The best Italian Gardens in Emilia Romagna
The Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza
Castles and mushrooms, stories and ghosts