This palace, inside the Parco Ducale, is the Palazzo Ducale. It is where the Dukes lived, whereas the Palazzo Pilotta was used for functions and was the home of dignitaries.
This small palace was built in the XVI century, but it was completely changed two centuries later.
It is currently, and it has been for several years, the premises of the RIS (Reparto Investigazioni Scientifiche = Department of Scientific Investigations, the equivalent of CSI) in charge of scientific investigations for Northern Italy.
We visited Salumificio La Perla to see the production of the famous "Prosciutto di Parma". This family has been growing this business for 20 years. The Prosciutto is 100% natural and quite fat free - low percentage of cholesterol.
La Perla lies in Quinzano not far from Langhirano among the green hills of the Appennines.
We were told there were 55,000 hams curing. Here we saw all the steps of the production of the ham. There are tattoes on the legs when the process starts which is proof of real prosciutto. Salt from the sea is used for the curing process so the geographic location is important. The air from the hills and the sea make a climate to dry the meat. By law Parma Ham can only be produced in the Parma region using pigs born and bred in Italy. Only hams that have been aged for a aminimum of 12 months are given the Ducal Crown and allowed to be sold as Parma Ham.
This tour was followed by a complete meal made of mixed cold meat, Parmigiano Reggiano, bread, stuffed pasta, wine and homemade cakes.
The Pilotta Palace, built in1583, was the home of the powerful Farnese family. Giulia Farnese was the mistress of Pope Alexander VI, and her brother, Allesandro, became Pope Paul III. Allesandro’s son, Pier Luigi, became the Duke of Parma in 1545 and built the palace.
There was a church on the grounds, but Napoleon tore it down. Trees have been planted where the church pillars once stood. Two wings of the palace were rebuilt after the Allied bombing in 1944. One palace was not rebuilt—it had been the headquarters for the fascists, and the townspeople tore it down. There is a monument to the partisans in its former courtyard.
The buildings now contain the National Archaeological Museum, the Bodoni Museum, the Teatro Farnese, and the National Gallery.
The Cathedral was consecrated in 1109, destroyed by an earthquake in 1117, and quickly rebuilt. Additions continued to be made over several centuries.
The cupola has a fresco painted by Correggio. It took him 290 days to paint it, and it shows Mary rising to Heaven and her Son coming down to meet her.
A Romanesque carving by Antelemi that was part of the original altar hangs on a wall. Carvings over the outer door depict the months, starting with April, and illustrate the main activity for the month.
Hours: 9-12:30 and 3-7. Free
The Bishop's Palace (early 11th Century) is across the square from the Cathedral. Parma was on the pilgrimage route. Plates embedded in the outer walls of the Bishop’s Palace means that pilgrims could eat and rest there.
(If you got to Rome, you could put crossed keys on your cloak; a palm frond means you made it to Jerusalem.)
The Baptistry, started in 1176 and finished in the early 14th Century, is a pink marble octagon. The marble is from Verona—the dark pink represents blood, and the light pink is for purity. Carvings on the door depict King Herod at a banquet, Christ being washed, and Salome getting John’s head. For about 2 centuries, between 1100 and1300, Baptistries were in a separate building from the church.
Open every day from 9.00am to 12.30pm and from 3.00pm to 6.45pm.
Closed during services.
ENTRANCE: 6,00 euro
I wrote that there are several nice little things in this park: there is even a mock-ruin, built in those times when ruins were fashionable among aristocrats who pretended to live in Arcadia. In fact people call this "ruin" Tempio di Arcadia.
There are several parks in Parma, but the nicest one is certainly the Parco Ducale (this is the official name, we locals call it "Giardino Pubblico").
It used to be the private garden of the Dukes, and it became a public park when the Duchy of Parma became part of Italy.
Along the centuries it has undergone several changes, so it is full of nice things such as statues, and a pond with a small island.
There is also a cafe, open only in the summer.
A Benedictine abbey dedicated to St John, the Apostle and Evangelist, has been in the heart of the city since the year 980. However the buildings changed a lot during the centuries, and the existing Abbey Church of St John was built at the time of the Renaissance. The monks were a wealthy and cutlurally refined sponsor, so they were prompt to catch the new trend in arts and architecture in the XVI century. In fact, the fresco of the vault, painted by Correggio, was a very innovative piece of work in his time. It represents Jesus flying down from Heaven to meet the dying John and take him up, where the other Apostles are waiting for him.
Another jewel in this church is anothe painting by Correggio, above the door to the sacresty. It represents John as a young man, near him there is an eagle, because this bird was an emblem of St John.
This ancient pharmacy has been here since the beginning of the XVI Century, but the monks of San Giovanni Abbey had been running a pharmacy in this area for several centuries before.
The pharmacy that can be visited now still has furniture over 300 years old, and in its three rooms you can see jars that used to contain medicines, pharmacist's tools and portraits of the most illustrious medical doctors.
People in Parma take their opera seriously, which is what you might expect from a city which bred both Verdi and Toscanini. The venue for the best of the best is the Teatro Regio, which began life as the Teatro Ducale in 1829. It is a palatial cream-and-gold space with plush red upholstery and draperies, but somehow seems intimate despite the 1200 seats. The boxes lining the auditorium are privately owned. (In reading "Opera News" I discovered that Parma society even includes the Club dei Ventisette, whose twenty-seven members are each known by their assigned name of one of Verdi's operas, every note of which they must commit to memory! The same article informed me that none of Verdi's operas premiered at the Teatro Regio.) Toscanini got the idea of creating an annual Verdi Festival in 1913, and it persists today -- though some of the productions take place at the Teatro Valli in Reggio Emilia and Teatro Verdi in Busseto, closest to Verdi's birthplace in Roncole.
So whether it is to hear Verdi done correctly, or to listen to some other gloriously-produced operatic treasure, be certain to get tickets for Il Regio. The season generally runs from December through April, while the Verdi Festival is usually held in October. Tickets start at around 35 euros.
“Under every circumstance she is never anything but the Duchess of Parma. All attempts which might be made to recall former souvenirs are completely warded off.”
— General Count Theobald Dillon, the French Minister at Florence
First known as Teatro Ducale, Parma’s Teatro Regio’s construction began in 1821. Designed by Nicola Bettoli, it was opened on 16.May.1829 with a performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Zaira.
The theatre was built at the order Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma on the spot where the Monastery of St. Alexander once stood.
Each October the theatre presents Festival Verdi, who lived nearby in Busseto. The regular season runs from mid-December to mid-April; the company performs four operas during this time.
HOSTIS TURBETUR QUIA PARMAM VIRGO TUETUR (“May its foes tremble because the Virgin supports Parma”)
— Parma’s city motto
Parma’s first coat-of-arms showed a little black bull on a red field. This paid tribute to the podestà, Torello da Strada, whose name meant little bull. Da Strada, a native of Pavia, built the Commune Palace; the result was that the Parmesans adopted his coat-of-arms to show their city’s strength, freedom and independence.
Parma adopted its motto HOSTIS TURBETUR QUIA PARMAM VIRGO TUETUR (May the foes tremble because the Virgin supports Parma) after 12.February.1248. It was on this date that an historic victory for Parmesans took place; the town defeated the army of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who had besieged the town for 232 days.
During the 13th century battles between the Guelph (supporters of the Pope) and Ghibelline (supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor) raged in Italy. On Christmas Day 1264 Parma suffered through great violence at the hands of the Ghibellines. Two years later, Giovanni Barisello, a tailor, recruited 500 men from the Guelphs and restored peace in the town. All Ghibellines choosing not to swear loyalty to the Pope were threatened with death. This band of men was called Società dei Crociati (The Crusaders’ Society), and for many years it was the most powerful force in Parma. Its coat-of-arms, that of Pope Silvestro I, was made up of an azure cross on a golden shield.
By the 14th century the coat-of-arms featuring the bull was used alongside that of the Crusaders’ Society’s, and eventually was replaced by it. On the 13.June.1811 Napoleon granted permission for the continued use of these arms by Parma.
The ducal crown has been added to remember the town’s status as capital of Farnese and Bourbon duchy.
At the base of the columns supporting the dome of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata is a fresco cycle depicting the Passion of Christ (see photos #1 to #4).
The most elaborate work in the church is the fresco cycle on the arch above the presbitery, painted by
Parma’s own. Parmigianino, began several other fresco cycles but never finished them. Between 1530 and 1539, on the arch above the presbytery, he worked on ‘The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins’ with a profusion of animal and plant motifs set against a red background. On the the inner curve of this arch, Parmigianino used gold decorations on a blue background, to hightlight four monochrome figures: Eve and Aaron on the right and Adam and Moses on the left.
The main altar (see photo #1), adorned with 18th century sculptures, displays the fresco of the ‘Madonna Suckling the Child.’ This is the painting that was taken from the original oratory; it was painted by an anonymous late-14th century artist. Work on the high altar continued from 1758 to 1765 by Domenico and Andrea della Meschina.
The decoration of the domes of some side chapels is quite pretty (see photos #2 & #5).
Located in central Parma, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata is very much of the Renaissance era.
Established in 1521, this outstanding Renaissance church, one of the most splendid in Parma, was begun that same year with the purpose to a painting of the Madonna, said to be miraculous. It originally hung in a small oratory called "dello steccato" or wooden shield.
Consecrated in 1539, the church is built in an elegant, Greek-cross style. It has semicircular apses and square corner chapels. Pilasters, windows and mullions are topped by a marble dome with loggia and lantern, almost certainly built with the help of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who had come to Parma in 1526, sent by Pope Clement VII to re-enforce the city’s defenses.