A walk in the historical heart of Parma

Good morning, today we go for a walk in Parma. A walk, yes, because the historical heart of the city is as little as elegant and rich in monuments and works of art, and also in particularly evocative places, especially when it comes to music.

We only have one day available, and selecting a route is not so easy given the abundance of destinations. Today we propose an itinerary that will allow us, in short, to know three aspects of the city: art, religion and nature. Are you ready? Let's walk. 

Pilotta Palace
Let's start then with the majestic Pilotta Palace, whose name comes from the game of pelota (ball) which was played in one of its courtyards. Our first stop is the National Gallery, one of the most important art galleries in Italy, scenically passing by the Farnese Theatre.  Parma's National Gallery was created thanks to the refined patronage, to the collecting of the Dukes of Parma such as the Bourbon, and to savants purchases operated by Maria Luigia. The works that the Gallery hosts belong to various schools from the 12th to the 18th century until the masterpieces of Correggio and Parmigianino. Continuing our exploration of the Pilotta Palace, here is the magical scenery of the Farnese Theatre, built by G.B. Aleotti for Ranuccio I Farnese in 1618-1619 but inaugurated only ten years later on the occasion of the marriage of Margherita de' Medici and the Duke Odoardo Farnese. The Theatre remains one of the few examples in Italy of permanent theatres, with mobile stage, large size and shapes of incredible elegance. The National Archaeological Museum, like the National Gallery and the Farnese Theatre, is located in the Farnese complex of Pilotta Palace.  Founded in 1780 by Don Philip of Bourbon, the Archaeological Museum of Parma is today one of the most important and fruitful research centres in the field of Palaeontology. During the Duchy of Maria Luigia, the collections were supplemented with important purchases such as the small but important Egyptian collection.

Ducal Park and Palace
From the town centre, passing by the Parma river, you will get to the heart of the Ducal Park, where it is possible to visit the elegant Palace too.  A challenging restoration has returned to the city a beautiful green place that has preserved the structural elements of the eighteenth century without renouncing to changes over time. The design of the Ducal Park was commissioned in the mid-sixteenth century by Duke Ottavio Farnese to the architect Vignola. This originally Italian-style garden, therefore, becomes French under the architect Ennemond-Alexandre Petitot. There are also "English-style" areas created during the Duchy of Maria Luigia of Austria. Inside you can also visit the Ducal Palace, built between 1561 and 1564 according to Vignola's design and expanded in the second half of the eighteenth century by Petitot. In its halls it houses frescoes by Agostino Carracci, Bertoja, Tiarini, Malosso, Cignani.

House of Music
Housed within the walls of the 15th-century Cusani Palace, the House of Music was founded with the mission to promote and spread the musical culture, without chronological, geographical and genre limitations to which it combines the artistic production (by organizing concert reviews, from early to contemporary music), educational programs for children, students and adults, and editorial production by publishing book series and a record series.

Regio Theatre
The famous Regio Theatre was built at the behest of Maria Luigia between 1821 and 1829. The architect Nicola Bettoli planned for this building a neoclassical façade and elliptical audience, surrounded by four orders of stages and a gallery. Renowned temple of melodrama in the world, the Regio Theatre of Parma, in the heart of the Ducal city, home of musical and cultural events of absolute importance, also opens its doors to congresses and meetings in the splendid rooms decorated by Paolo Toschi and Gian Battista Borghesi.

Lombardi Museum
The Museum, founded by Glauco Lombardi (1881-1970) and hosted in the elegant Riserva Palace in Parma, is dedicated to the memory of the Duchy of Parma, from 18th Bourbon century to 19th century of the Court of Maria Luigia d'Asburgo, the most beloved "Duchess" and wife of Napoleone Bonaparte. Inaugurated on 27th November 1961, the Museum was born from the passionate work of its founder, who dedicated himself to the recovery of the works and objects that originally decorated the Ducal residences, taken away from Parma in 1862 and 1868. In the several rooms, furniture, artworks, antiques and precious objects belonging to Maria Luigia are preserved; every object, every work is reminiscent of an illustrious history.

Santa Maria della Steccata
Near the Regio Theatre, we find the Church of Santa Maria della Steccata, built between 1521 and 1539. Decorated with beautiful frescoes by Parmigianino (above the main altar, his last exhilarating work "Wise Virgins and Foolish Virgins"), it can be considered as a supreme example of the Renaissance in Parma, with Bramante-type central Greek-cross plan.

Constantinian Museum
Housed in the building adjacent to the Church della Steccata, it gathers a rich collection of the Constantinian Order of Saint George made of paintings and historical and heraldic relics, without forgetting the heritage of religious and liturgical objects evidencing its long history from the Dukes of Parma until our days. The location of the Museum also includes the Noble Sacristy and the crypt with the tombs of the Dukes of Parma.

Stuard Picture Gallery
The collection "Stuard" was born from the union of two art collections into a single museum arrangement: the heritage of the so-called Charity Congregation and the private collection of a learned "nobleman" from Parma, Giuseppe Stuard (1790-1834). The most valuable core of the collection, with works of the Tuscan School of 14th and 15th century, also includes valuable works of landscape painters and exponents of Emilia and Bologna school.

Botanical Garden
The origins of the Botanical Garden of Parma date back to the 17th century when in Parma there was a "Garden of the Simple", founded by Ranuccio I Farnese and annexed to the Faculty of Medicine according to the use of that time, where medicinal herbs (the "simple" were medicaments taken from the plants) were cultivated. The current Botanical Garden was established in 1770 by Abbé Giambattista Guatteri and under the auspices of Ferdinand I of Bourbon. The construction of greenhouses, performed on the project of the Court and State Architect Ennemond-Alexandre Petitot, was completed in 1793.  Adjacent to the garden there is also the didactic seat of the Natural History Museum of the University.

Arturo Toscanini Birthplace
The house is today a renovated and modern museum: a place dedicated to the memory and objects that belonged to the master and, at the same time, to reflection. It is a place where the historical document and the precious family object are supported by the most modern multimedia technology tools to illustrate, through visual and audio devices, Arturo Toscanini's artistic career in the most famous theatres in the world.

Here we are at the end of our walk, we have seen the main places of art, of music, of sacred art and of nature that make Parma one of the jewels of our region. However, we forgot one more aspect, the gastronomy.  We immediately make up for it: a good aperitif with a glass of wine and a cutting board with ...obviously and strictly Parmigiano cheese and Parma ham! Do you join us?



Chiara Badini
Chiara Badini

Social media curator. Bolognese Doc, i love Italy and working on Tourism. Tw: @spettandoGodot


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