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The "Tabula alimentaria", almost three meters long and 1.38 high, is a bronze inscription which shows the mortgage loans granted to landowners by the Roman State. It was in their interest to support the impoverished children from the area. The Roman State provided these loans to help counteract the depopulation of the countryside by helping the farmers and families of the most needy laborers, whose only interest at the time was providing for their indigent children.

At 130 meters it was the highest in Italy at the time. It collapsed in 1606, the foundations deteriorated by the salt that was stored there.

A horse is painted in the second chapel on the left. Lacking the space to paint the entire animal, the creator sculpted a hoof and inserted it onto the painted niche, creating the effect of the horse jumping out of the painting.

The Romans were formidable engineers and builders: the solid bridge never collapsed. In fact, in 1177 a flood moved the course of the stream towards the west leaving a dry bed, so a new bridge had to be built.

I dreamed of building a labyrinth about thirty years ago, when I hosted the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges several times. The labyrinth was one of his favorite themes and I loved bamboo; so a garden was created where people can walk and lose themselves without danger

The Master was revered by his contemporaries. He was even given a dish, inevitable in the Parma lowlands, Verdi risotto. Shortly before his death, moreover, the street facing the Grand Hotel and de Milan, via Manzoni, was covered with straw so as not to disturb him with the noise of the carriages. Customarily a modest person, he wanted a very simple, private funeral celebrated early in the morning. But the Italians’ love for him was so great that a second funeral was celebrated, with great fanfare, followed by an overflowing crowd.

The Castle of Felino is the seat of the Salami Museum, a member of the Food Museums of the Province of Parma.

Its almost perfect condition has meant that many directors have used it as a setting for their movies.

A beautiful young girl, a seer, predicted an inauspicious future during a party at the castle in 1593. This is where the complicated story of the Fata Bema begins. Her mummified remains were found centuries later in the castle, undisturbed through earthquakes and floods. Tradition has it that the ghost of Bema reappears on the night between 18 and 19 May and rises above the keep.

The beautiful Barbara Sanseverino, guilty only of being the owner of this architectural gem, was unjustly accused, imprisoned and beheaded by Ranuccio I Farnese, who took possession of the Palace.

Moroello, the handsome medieval knight who committed suicide upon his return from the war when he learned of the death of his beloved Soleste, seems to be still wandering, a ghost, among the cold walls of the castle. A disturbing presence was recently documented by some journalists who have even photographed his insubstantial and shadowy presence.

The history of Parma

Prehistory

The territory was sparsely inhabited from 5.600 BC until the 5th century, which saw the formation of the first inhabited centres in the south-west area of the city. There, a very rare Neolithic statuette was found and today is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum.

During the Bronze Age, between 1700 and 1600 BC numerous settlements of the Terramare civilization spread, including to the city centre, which were then suddenly abandoned around 1200. There is ample evidence to indicate that the region remained uninhabited until the appearance of the Etruscans, around the IIV century BC.

In the 4th century, Emilia was occupied by the Galli Boi, a Celtic tribe that replaced the Etruscans, although no traces of their settlements remain.

Roman age

After having expanded in the Marche and in Romagna around 283 BC, the Romans began the conquest of Emilia, and in 191, they definitively defeated the Galli Boi. To consolidate their rule, the consul Marco Emilio Lepido created the Via Aemilia to connect Rimini with Piacenza. Two twin colonies, Mutina (Modena) and Parma, were founded along the artery in 183 BC. This all happened over 2,200 years ago!

The city was laid out according to the classical Roman plan with decumani (east-west) and cardi (north-south) streets at right angles. Via Emilia represented the decumanus maximus.

In imperial times numerous buildings and monuments were erected: a large amphitheatre and a theatre, the baths, the basilica, forum, temples and a masonry bridge to carry the Via Emilia over the Parma stream.

In the first century AD Parma reached its maximum expansion, followed by an unstoppable decline until the Byzantine dominion, around 550, when it earned the title of Crisopoli, city of Gold.

Middle Ages

In later centuries Parma was the center of numerous disputes, characterized above all by the presence of the Lombards, the Franks and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Conditioned by the cumbersome presence of the Matilde di Canossa family, the Municipalities began to form around the 10th and 11th centuries: even Parma became a free Municipality and expanded far beyond the Roman perimeter. In 962 the University was established, perhaps the oldest in Italy.

Despite having declared itself a Ghibelline, Parma entered into conflict with Emperor Frederick II, who besieged it. At the end of his stronghold, and by taking advantage of his absence, on February 18, 1248 the Parmesans attacked the garrison, overwhelming it and ending the siege.

Modern Age

After a brief period of French domination, the Papal State along with the Spaniards took possession of the city. In 1545 Paul III Farnese established the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, governed by the Farnese, the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, which survived until the unification of Italy. After the tumultuous Napoleonic period, the Duchy (which now included Guastalla), was assigned to Napoleon’s former wife and the daughter of the Austrian emperor, Maria Luigia of Austria, until her death. It was a true "ad personam" kingdom, from 1815 to 1847, the year in which it returned to the Bourbons, but i was a brief dominion. In 1860 with the plebiscite, Parma was given to the Kingdom of Italy. Parma was a capital, even if only of a duchy, for three centuries. This encouraged the creation of a palace and representative palaces, the advent of the court followed by foreign workers who refined local tastes, theatres, libraries, noble palaces, and gardens. Even today one senses, simply walking through it, a certain nobility and an air of elegance.

City culture

Railway station

This is an excellent starting point for visiting the city. You can reach the centre from the station by heading down Via Garibaldi. It is one of the city’s busiest and most frequented shopping areas, filled with a wide selection of clothing shops and Parmesan food specialists.

Piazzale della Pace

The centre, filled with palaces, churches and theatres prior to the destruction of World War II, now boasts a beautiful green space where you will find some of the most important monuments of the historic city, as well as various Ghiaja markets.

Palazzo della Pilotta

The Pilotta, built by the Farnese family around 1580, is a massive and majestic complex of buildings and courtyards. Once the seat of the high court, it is now home to the Palatine library, the Farnese theatre, the National Gallery, and the archaeological museum.

  • Working hours:
    • from Tue to Sat 8.30-19.00
    • Sun and weekends: 8.30-14.00
  • Price:
    • Full: € 10.00 Includes
      (Palazzo della Pilotta, Teatro Farnese, Museo Archeologico)
    • discounted: € 2,00
    • for groups: € 8.00
    • Free 1 ° Sun October to March

Farnese Theatre

What strikes the visitor is climbing the Pilotta stairs to arrive at a theatre on the first floor, the only one of its kind in Italy. So large that it could accommodate the re-enactment of naval battles, the theatre could house about 3,000 spectators in an imposing structure of Friuli spruce richly adorned with sculptures.

  • Working hours:
    • from Tue to Sat 8.30-19.00
    • Sun and weekends: 8.30-14.00
  • Price:
    • Full: € 10.00 Includes
      (Palazzo della Pilotta, Teatro Farnese, Museo Archeologico)
    • discounted: € 2,00
    • for groups: € 8.00
    • Free 1 ° Sun October to March

Palatine Library

In the mid-eighteenth century and at the height of the Enlightenment age, the Bourbons wanted to provide the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla with a large public library. In its ancient wooden shelves, this magical place preserves wonderful collections of manuscripts and tomes of great value.

  • Working hours:
    • from Mon to Thu 8.10 -19.10
    • Fri-Sun: 8.10 - 13.50
  • Price:
    • Free

National Museum of Archeology

The museum was founded in 1760 by Filippo di Borbone to preserve the remains of Veleia, an ancient Roman city. The "Tabula alimentaria" is very important, a large bronze inscription from the times of the emperor Trajan. In addition, precious Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan artifacts are preserved here. Noteworthy are the findings of the "Terramare" civilization from the Bronze Age.

Of special interest
  • Working hours:
    • from Tue to Sat 8.30-19.00
    • Sun and weekends: 8.30-14.00
  • Price:
    • Full: € 10.00 Includes
      (Palazzo della Pilotta, Teatro Farnese, Museo Archeologico)
    • discounted: € 2,00
    • for groups: € 8.00
    • Free 1 ° Sun October to March

Bodonian Museum

Those who love typographic art will enjoy the complete works of Gianbattista Bodoni in this museum. The collection contains the original equipment, stamps and plates of the alphabet that bears his name, known and respected throughout the world.

  • Working hours:
    • from Mon to Fri 9.00 - 13.00 (on request)
    • Sat: 9.00 - 13.00 Sun: closed:
  • Price:
    • Free

Glauco Lombardi Museum Foundation

Entering this museum is like spying on the private life of Maria Luigia of Habsburg, wife of Napoleon. Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from 1815, she reigned for over 30 years. Here you can admire her sumptuous clothes, precious jewels and personal items.

  • Working hours:
    • from Tue to Sat 9.30 - 16.00
    • Sun and weekends: 9.30 - 19.00
  • Price:
    • Full:: € 5
    • Reduced: € 3.00
    • Until: 14 years free

Chamber of San Paolo

Giovanna da Piacenza, energetic abbess of the Benedictine nuns' monastery and a woman of vast culture, wanted Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, to fresco her room. Correggio turned it into a sublime masterpiece, adorning its unique umbrella-shaped vault with exquisite frescoes.

  • Working hours:
    • from Mon to Sat 13.10-18.20
    • Sun: day off:
  • Price:
    • Full:: € 6
    • From 18-25 years old: € 2,00
    • Until: 18 years free

Teatro Regio

A true operatic temple frequented by an extremely demanding and knowledgeable public, it is considered a real obstacle for most operatic singers to overcome. Its construction was commissioned by the duchess Maria Luigia, a great music lover who selected the architect Nicola Bettoli to complete the work. The majestic and opulent interior decorated with gilded stuccoes has a beautiful curtain painted by Giovan Battista Borghesi. Here the greatest Italian and foreign composers have presented their works, including Giuseppe Verdi, the beloved son of the city.

  • Working hours:
    • from Tue to Sat 9.30–12.30 from 14.30–17.30
    • Sun: 10.00 - 16.00
  • Price:
    • Full: € 5
    • Preferential: from 18-30 years old € 3.00
    • Preferential: from 6-18 years old € 2.00
    • Under 6 years: Free

Basilica of Santa Maria della Steccata

A fine example of the Italian Renaissance, the Basilica contains the last exhilarating work by Parmigianino, "The wise virgins and the foolish virgins," and also the funeral monument dedicated to Neipperg, by Canova. Its name is based on a fence built to regulate the influx of the numerous pilgrims who came to venerate an image of the breast-feeding Madonna depicted on the external façade of a previous oratory.

  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 7.30 to 12.00 from 15.00 to 18.30

Piazza Garibaldi

The beating heart of the city, dotted with numerous bars and restaurants, is the main meeting and gathering point. An ancient Roman forum since the city’s founding in 183 BC, even today the piazza is surrounded by places of worship, administration, and power. Here you can admire the church of San Pietro, the Governor's palace and the Palazzo Comunale with its "Portici del grano," so called because of the grain market that used to take place there. Previously it was dominated by the municipal tower. At 130 meters it was the highest in Italy at the time. It collapsed in 1606, the foundations deteriorated by the salt that was stored there.

Of special interest

Baptistery

Octagonal in shape, it stands out as light and elegant with its delicate pink Verona marble. The light, depending on the time or the season, delights in painting it in different tones, from warm and muted to cool and bold. Considered the intersection between the Romanesque and the Gothic styles with designs by Benedetto Antelami in 1196, it had a lengthy evolution due to conflicts with Verona and was finally finished in 1270. Recently restored, it is possible to admire the lunettes above the portals, and the "Zooforo" of the Antelami, 75 tiles carved in bas-relief marble with human figures, and real or imaginary animals of medieval character. The interior is extraordinarily rich in frescoes, paintings and sculptures, such as the famous cycle of months. The umbrella-shaped dome is divided by sixteen ribs that start in the centre and end atop a single column. In the centre is a large basin, used at the time for immersion baptism.

  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 9.30 to 18.30
  • Price:
    • Full: € 8
    • Preferential: groups of 65 years and above € 6.00
    • Reduced: for schools € 2.00
    • Under 12 years: Free
    • Groups of more than 5 people must have an audio guide for 2 €

Cathedral

A fine example of Romanesque style with its gabled structure, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1106. Its facade contains three portals, the central one flanked by two beautiful pink marble lions. The interior, with three naves, is entirely decorated with valuable frescoes, culminating in the dome of Correggio, the Assumpion of the Virgin. Of inestimable value is the 1178 stone relief by Benedetto Antelami, the Deposition From the Cross, which creates a synthesis of the medieval religious vision.

  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 8:00 alle 19:00
  • Price:
    • Free

Abbey of San Giovanni Evangelista

An important religious and economic driver during the Renaissance, it housed over 1,200 Benedictine and lay people. Today only a few monks make up its population. The church, a balanced architectural and decorative example from the 16th century, boasts a cupola frescoed by Correggio, a work of tremendous value. The Abbey also is a large building and includes a magnificent library, three monumental cloisters, and vast vegetable gardens that are still cultivated today.

Of Special Interest
  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 8.30 to 11.45 from 15.00 to 18.00
  • Price:
    • Free

Church of Sant'Antonio Abate

While its exterior is not especially striking, this church of the early fifteenth century, erected to contain the sepulchral monument of Pier Maria de 'Rossi, count of San Secondo, amazes visitors with the elegance of its interior, a triumph of the Baroque style interpreted by the genius of Bibiena. On a sunny day you will be amazed by the effect created by the double vault in the ceiling, which gives you the illusion of gazing into infinity.

  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 9.00 to 12.00 from 16.00 to 18.00
  • Price:
    • Free

Roman bridge

This stone bridge made it possible to cross the stream to Via Emilia, which has been an important Roman artery since the city was founded 187 BC. Today only two arches are still visible, interposed into a pleasant scene overlooking Piazza Ghiaja, while the other nine still lie under Via Mazzini.

Of special interest

Church of Santa Croce

Built in the early decades of the 12th century at the edge of the historic city on Via Francigena, the church was renovated several times over the centuries. Inside there are frescoes from the 17th century in the central nave, and from the 16th and 17th centuries on the altars.

  • Working hours:
    • Every day from 8.00 to 12.00 from 16.30 to 19.00
  • Price:
    • Free

Ducal Park

The project was conceived by Ottavio Farnese in 1561. The park experienced a long period of splendor before falling into decline with the extinction of the Farnese. It was renovated by Filippo di Borbone in 1749 who entrusted the project to the architect Ennemond Alexandre Petitot in a neoclassical style. Of Special Interest: The large ovoid fish pond which has a small island in the centre, was conceived to stage the nautical shows of the naumachie, and was made possible with the abundance of water guaranteed by the nearby canals.

  • Working hours:
    • From November to March from 7.00 to 20.00
    • From April to October from 6.00 to 24.00

Province

Labyrinth of the Masone

Franco Maria Ricci, a greatly successful Parmesan designer and publisher, has realized a dream he had for many years: to create a space for his refined and eclectic art collection, which includes works from the 16th century to the present day. A dynamic centre of cultural activities and temporary exhibitions, it hosts concerts, parties and cultural activities, a restaurant and a cafeteria, all immersed in a fantastic and immense maze of bamboo. With its 7 hectares and 200,000 bamboo plants it is the largest labyrinth in the world.

Interesting fact
  • Working hours: every day from 10.30 to 19.00 W closed
  • Price:
    • full € 18
    • Reduced: from 6 to 12 years € 10
    • Under 6 years: free

Rocca di Fontanellato

The Rocca San Vitale is located in the centre of town. An imposing 16th century fortress, it is surrounded by a large moat. Subjected to numerous restorations, it was later chosen as a residence by the San Vivi Counts, who inhabited it for about six centuries before it was ceded to the City. The interior is well preserved, and many original furnishings are still present. The small room painted by Parmigianino with the myth of Diana and Actaeon is one of the masterpieces of Italian Mannerism. Of special interest: Inside the fortress, and still functioning, you can find the "Optical Chamber", an ingenious system of lenses and prisms that allowed the lords of the castle to watch the happenings in the square outside without being seen.

  • Working hours: every day from 10.30 to 11.45-14.30-15.45-17.00 Mar closed
  • Price:
    • full € 18
    • Reduced: from 6 to 12 years € 10
    • Under 6 years: free

San Secondo

This fortress, which now resembles a sumptuous country residence, was actually a well-fortified castle in the 1400s. In fact, it successfully resisted at least two Sforza sieges. Also built by Pier Maria de 'Rossi, it lost its defensive function in the 16th century, when it was enlarged and decorated. Its beautiful rooms, such as the Asino d'Oro or the Gesta Rossiane, the loggia and the grand staircase, are worth a visit.

  • Working hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00
  • Price:
    • full € 6
    • Reduced: from 11 to 18 years € 3.50
    • Under 6-10 years: € 2.50

Busseto and Verdi's places

This ancient capital of the Pallavicino State with about 7,000 inhabitants, is famous for one of its wards being the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi, designated the Cigno di Busseto (the Swan of Busseto). Places to visit include the Collegiate Church of San Bartolomeo Apostolo, with its rich treasure, and the Rocca Pallavicino, now the Town Hall, which houses the small Giuseppe Verdi theatre. Built in 1518, the Villa Pallavicino was transformed in 2009 into the national museum of Giuseppe Verdi, and also houses the Renata Tebaldi museum in its stables. Near the composer’s birthplace, the neighbourhood of Roncole Verdi also warrants a visit, as it is the place where writer and journalist Giovannino Guareschi, creator of Don Camillo and Peppone, lived. After living in Busseto with his wife Giuseppina Strepponi, the Maestro moved not far away to Villa Sant'Agata, which was turned into a museum after his death. A few kilometers away is the Polesine Parmense, home of the Culatello Museum and temple of the heart of Parma’s cuisine.

Of special interest

Castle of Felino

The castle, an ancient fortified manor in the middle of numerous medieval disputes, was besieged several times but never conquered thanks to its structure commissioned by the Rossi. Its quadrangular shape, with four towers, a keep, and a fortified drawbridge - its only entrance - also withstood the troops of Ludovico il Moro.

Of special interest
  • Working hours: Sat and Sun 10.00 -13.00 from 15.00 to 18.00

Torrechiara Castle

This powerful and elegant castle stands on a small promontory at the foot of the Langhirano hills, the area known for Parma ham. Built at the behest of Pier Maria de 'Rossi, it was envisioned as a defensive bulwark, but in reality it was the residence chosen by the count where he could live together with his lover, Bianca Pellegrini. The highlight of the castle is the Golden Chamber, so named for the extensive gold leaf decoration that covers the beautifully frescoed walls.

Of Special Interest
  • Working hours: Mon-Sat 8.10-13.50 Tue 10 am-7pm
  • Price:
    • full € 5
    • Preferential: from 18 to 25 years € 3

Castle of Montechiarugolo

Built around 1121 to defend the Val d’Enza, over the centuries the castle was destroyed, rebuilt, and adapted to the needs of the time. Coveted by many lords, it hosted the French king Francis I and the pope Paul III Farnese. Under the Duchess Maria Luigia it was used as a gunpowder factory. The beautiful interior rooms, furnished with antiques, are a fine example of a 16th century residence. Don't miss the loggia and the gardens.

Of special interest
  • Working hours: Sat and Sun 10.00 -13.00 from 15.00 to 18.00

Colorno Palace

This fourteenth century military fortress was transformed into what is now know as The Ducal Palace of Colorno, considered the Italian Versailles of the Dukes of Parma. Barbara Sanseverino, the subject of a sonnet written by Torquato Tasso, turned it into a palace that housed a refined court. The Farnese family took it over in the early 18th century and rebuilt it into its present form. Later, the Bourbons wanted the interiors to resemble Versailles. Even today, many of the 400 rooms are perfectly preserved and can be visited, along with the courts and the courtyards. The palace is surrounded by an elegant and vast garden, the "great park", recently restored to its former glory.

Interesting fact
  • Working hours:
    • December - February: Saturday and Sunday 10.00-17.00
    • March-November: Tue-Fri 11.00 and 15.00
    • April. March, September. October: Mon-Fri 10 am and 4.30 pm
    • Sat-Sun: 10.00-18.00
    • June - August: Tue - Fri 11.00 and 16.00
    • Sat-Sun: 10.00-17.00
  • Price:
    • full € 6
    • Reduced: from 7 to 18 years € 5.5

Bardi

An imposing fortification that dominates the valleys below and under whose walls many bloody battles took place, the castle was once an important commercial stop on Via degli Abati and near the Via Francigena. The name of the town, from the Lombards, indicates an ancient origin, from the early IX century. The structure, strongly articulated, was well-adapted to the different war requirements until it became a princely residence in the '600s, dominated by its massive tower. Home to several interesting museums, it offers a spectacular view from the walkway.

Of special interest
  • Working hours:
    • March-May: Sat 14.00-17.00
    • June-September: Sat 10.00-19.00
    • October-December: Sat 14.00-17.00
  • Price:
    • full € 6
    • Reduced: from 7 to 13 years € 5.5