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What to do in Parma
Parma, a charming town between Milan and Bologna, is known as the food capital of Italy for its inimitable products such as Parma ham, salami and the famous Parmigiano Reggiano. In 2015 it was decreed a "city of culinary creativity" by UNESCO thanks to such outstanding products.
The province has a total of almost 500,000 inhabitants. It is characterized by vast mountainous areas dotted with castles which include Torrechiara, Bardi, Colorno, Compiano, Felino, Fontanellato, Montechiarugolo, Soragna, San Secondo and Varano-Melegari.
Parma and its surroundings are known for the beauty of its unique landscape, sketched by nature, history and culture which guides the traveller through unforgettable itineraries.
The fortresses and castles of Parma alone are worth a trip. The parks and nature reserves are an interesting example of biodiversity, with rare species and uniquely atmospheric landscapes.
Le Strade dei Vini e dei Sapori (The Roads of Wine and Food) and the Food Museums are a journey through the flavours of a land which flies the flag for fine cuisine and has transformed its products in to unique dining experiences.
Parma is also known for the music of the Maestro Verdi, a true champion of the region, along with other greats such as the writer and humorist Giovannino Guareschi and the poet Attilio Bertolucci.
A trip on the Po is also an experience not to be missed: you can choose to go by bike or boat, or simply wander alongside the slowly flowing water, enveloped in the magical atmosphere.
A visit to the city of Parma is a must, a city of art rich in historical monuments to be discovered along the routes that wind through the religious centre, the city and the ducal city. Among the major sites are:
- Palazzo Vescovile
- The Duomo
- Battistero (the most important and evolved Medieval monument in Italy)
- San Giovanni Evangelista
- Chiesa della Steccata
- Palazzo della Pilotta, with the extraordinary Teatro Farnese
- Town hall
- Teatro Regio (among the most famous in Italy for lyrical opera)
- Chiesa dell'Annunciata
- Certosa di Paradigna
- Palazzo Ducale
- Palazzo del Governatore
- Ospedale Vecchio [Old Hospital]
- Italian Perfumes Museum
In Parma, food and cuisine have always been sources of exchange and communication. A "small capital of cuisine designed to fight endless winters with an abundance of black wine that flows into rosé along with many local dishes inspired by recipes from Paris and Vienna". This is how Attilio Bertolucci, the great Parmesan poet, outlines his city in his poem "La camera da letto [The Bedroom]”. His poetic synthesis shows how culture and nature come together in Parma, offering food of the most precious sort and developing culinary art, where technique has not overwhelmed nature but simply enhanced it.
In the heart of the historical centre of Parma is the Sina Maria Luigia, named after the wife of Napoleon who reigned over the city.
The legend of the happy Duchy of Marie Louise, second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from 1816 to 1847, still lives on today and is a lasting memory in the hearts of the “Parmigiani”.
The Austrian sovereign won the love and trust of her subjects, ruling over a long period of peace and prosperity.
The fragrant violet, the delightful flower with which she surrounded herself, has since become the symbol of the city, almost a cult object.
Even before her arrival in Italy, in 1815 she wrote from the castle of Schönbrunn to her lady-in-waiting in Paris: "Please let me keep some Parma violet plants with written instructions on how to plant them and make them flourish; I hope they will grow well, since I have become a student of botany, and I will be happy to grow this graceful little flower ...”
It is to Maria Luigia and her love for this flower that we owe the existence of the perfume "Violetta di Parma". She encouraged and supported the research conducted by the monks of the Monastery of the Annunciation, which, after lengthy and patient work, succeeded in obtaining the essence from the flower and its leaves, which was identical in scent.
The first bottles of Violetta di Parma, produced thanks to the alchemic skill of the monks, were made solely for the personal use of the Duchess Maria Luigia.
It was from these same monks around 1870 that Ludovico Borsari gained the secret formula, jealously guarded for the preparation of this perfume and was the first to brave the idea of producing it for a wider audience.
Parma is a city of aristocratic cultural traditions, rich in precious works of art and memories of its past spent as the capital of its area. It is also famous for its most illustrious native sons and the artists who lived and worked in the city - from Benedetto Antelami to Salimbene, from Correggio to Parmigianino, from Bodoni to Verdi and Toscanini, from Stendhal to Proust.