Crossways and link between the Northern plains and the sea, and between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy regions, Parma has been of great importance over the centuries from a strategic as well as cultural point of view.
A rich and generous land, today it houses important industries and craft cooperatives, manufacturing factories and farms, whose products have made the area famous worldwide.
Parma, the "Petite Capitale" of the Duchy of Marie Louise of Austria, celebrated by composer Giuseppe Verdi, narrated by Giovannino Guareschi and present in films directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, regularly fascinates art lovers, people keen on culture and music.
A visit to the city needs to start with the marvellous view provided by Piazza Duomo, the cathedral square where the Baptistery and the Bishop's Palace create a wonderfully evocative medieval setting.
The Cathedral (XI-XII centuries) is one of the highest expressions of Romanesque architecture in the Po river plain, With a superb facade with its pitched roof and Latin cross plan; a wealth of masterpieces are housed inside, the most renowned are undoubtedly the cupola with its fresco by Correggio (Antonino Allegri) showing The Assumption of the Virgin (1526-1539), and the Deposition, Benedetto Antelami's first dated work (1178).
Antelmi's imprint is even more obvious in the Baptistery (one of the most important examplesof the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style), built in pink Verona marble with an octagonal layout: the artist supervised building worksand personally executed most of the renowned , admirable plastic decorations.
A stone's throw from the Cathedral stands San Giovanni Evangelista, the Reinaissance Church of St. John's (with a Baroque facade and bell tower), housing extraordinary paintings: in particular, the cupola depicting St. John's Passing, frescoed by Correggio in 1520-21, and several frescoes by Parmigianino (Francesco Mazzola) in the intrados of the three chapels.
Parmigianino's work can be also admired in the Madonna della Steccata, a splendid Reinassance church possibly designed by Bramante; its most important work is the decorative cycle in the Presbitery's archway, which Mazzola painted in 1530-39 on the Evangelical theme of the wise Virgins and the foolish masterpiece, St. Paul's Chamber: the vault in the apartment belonging to the Abbess Giovanna Piacenza, which he frescoed in 1519 as an allegorical arbour reminiscent of Mantegna as wellas of Leonardo, is one of the most extraordinary works of the Italian Reinassance.
A short walk from St. Paul's Chamber takes you to the imposing Palazzo della Pilotta, a palace built by the Farnese duchy and which houses the Platine Library, the National Archaeological Museum, the wooden Farnese Theatre (one of the most beautiful historical thatres in the world). The Bodoni Museum and the National Gallery , undoubtedly one of the most important picture galleries in Italy (Correggio, Parmigianino, Beato Angelico, Leonardo, Cima da Conegliano, El Greco, Van Dyck, Carracci, Sebastiano del Piombo, Tiepolo, Canaletto etc.); close by stands the neoclassical Teatro Regio, one of the most renowned theatres in Italy, testifying to the close relationship between Parma and the opera. Numerous theatres, both experimental and traditional, offering interesting drama repertories, ballet performances and top quality concerts.
Parma became headquarter of EFSA - European Food Safety Authority - and its gastronomy art, which still nowadays remais home made, is very well appreciated all around the wortld, considering that all typical dishes are cooked respecting the traditions, high quality profile, natural methods and innovation, giving to Parma the tile of Italian Food Valley.
Barilla, a worldwide leader in the pasta and bakery production and many other famous names come from this territory , which is filled with cheese factories of parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano), Parma's ham (Prosciutto di Parma), Culatello di Zibello, Felino Salami, San Secondo Cooked Shoulder.
Parma Official Tourist Information Site