Parma is the city of the Po Valley by excellence, sincere and friendly, of noble traditions and artistic vestiges. Cultured and aristocratic, famous for the illustrious artists who settled here by choice, from Benedetto Antelami to Correggio, Parmigianino, Petitot, Bodoni, to Verdi and Toscanini, Parma preserves evidence of every great artistic period.
The oldest, medieval soul is represented by the monumental complex of the Duomo Square, while the Renaissance soul is under the luminous grace of Correggio and the alchemical elegances of Parmigianino.
The ducal city of the Farnese family is witnessed by the Garden Palace and the massive Pilotta Palace, a treasure trove that houses much of the museum heritage: the Academy of Fine Arts, the Palatine Library, the Archaeological Museum, the Bodoni Museum, the National Gallery with the Farnese Theatre. There is a clear “francisant” taste in the urban organisation left by Bourbon rule and the exuberant court architect Alexandre Petitot. Finally, the “little capital” of the reign of Duchess Maria Luigia, the beloved sovereign whose legend is preserved in the extraordinary collection of relics housed in the Glauco Lombardi Museum.
Parma is also seductive for its musical and gastronomic traditions, which are also expressed in the territory of the province that the ancient Emilia Avenue divides into two distinct areas, the hills and mountains to the south of the city and the so-called Bassa, which runs as far as the river Po.
Among the most important centres there are: in the lower Po Valley, Fontanellato, Soragna, San Secondo, Roccabianca and Colorno, the little Versailles of Parma; in the hills, the castles of Torrechiara, Felino, Sala Baganza and Montechiarugolo; in the mid-mountain zone, Bardi and Compiano. An itinerary inspired by pilgrimage is the one that retraces the ancient route of the Francigena Avenue, parish churches, abbeys, xenodochium and stupendous cathedrals such as the one of Fidenza in Romanesque-Emilian style. Another evocative route links the places of Verdi’s memories: Busseto (Barezzi House, Verdi Theatre), Roncole Verdi (the house where he was born), Villa Sant’Agata (the great master’s last home).
A destination of singular cultural interest is the Villa di Corte Mamiano in Traversetolo, at the centre of a scenic park it houses the prestigious Luigi Magnani collection: paintings and sculptures from the 13th to the 20th century. Fascinating thermal tourism itinerary is that of the “water cities”, Salsomaggiore, Tabiano, Monticelli and Sant’Andea, places rich in salso-bromo-iodine springs equipped with very modern health and wellness facilities.
Last but not least, there are the food and wine itineraries that are dear to the ancient and refined Parma food tradition, where the refined cuisine of ducal lunches is combined with the flavours of typical local dishes. A route that crosses four valleys (Enza Valley, Parma Valley, Baganza Valley, and Taro Valley) takes us to the heart of the province of Parma, where some universally renowned gastronomic masterpieces are created. Such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Parma Prosciutto, Felino Salami, without forgetting the wines of the Colli di Parma (Malvasia, Sauvignon, Rossi) that accompany other masterpieces, from anolini to tortelli d’erbetta, from braised and roasted meats to the traditional boiled meats of Emilian cuisine. There are also some extraordinary specialities such as the black truffle of Fragno, the Culatello of Zibello and the porcini mushroom of Borgotaro.
Finally, in 2020 and 2021 Parma has been nominated Italian Capital of Culture.
A typical Emilian city, rich in history and monuments of great interest, it has in its historical centre, enclosed within the hexagon of the avenues that follow the traces of the ancient thirteenth-century walls, magnificent churches, gardens, porticoed squares and superb palaces.
The oldest buildings date back to the Middle Ages; the 16th-century Church of S. Prospero with its characteristic bell tower. Prospero with its characteristic octagonal bell tower; the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin of Ghiara, a stupendous monument from the early 17th century with a monumental Crucifixion by Guercino; the Cathedral, clearly Romanesque in style, in the central Prampolini Square, where the Baptistery, Palazzo del Monte, The Crostolo Fountain and the Town Hall are also located, where the Tricolour Flag, the banner of the then Cispadane Republic, was born on 7 January 1797, testifying to the civil and political passion that has always characterised the city.
The following century found its most conspicuous symbol in the beautiful Municipal Theatre, which, together with the older Ariosto Theatre, Palazzo Magnani, and the Civic Museums, highlights a deep-rooted cultural civilisation. But it is impossible to speak of Reggio without recalling its characteristic porticos, bicycles, intense human contact, and that particular civilisation of living and being, imbued with industrious wisdom and a real zest for life. The rest of the province is also rich in historical evidence scattered along the ancient communication routes. These are castles, ancient villages and oratories, mostly linked to the period of the Canossa family and today enhanced and coordinated by the tourist circuit of the Matildic Castles and Corti Reggiane. Today, under the sign of Matilde, it is possible to travel, on foot, on horseback or by bicycle, along an evocative excursion itinerary that preserves the charm of the time when, in this majestic setting of woods and gullies, of parish churches and fortified villages, the great theatre of European politics took place.
Another evocative destination, of singular naturalistic interest, is the massive Bismantova Stone, a sandstone monolith of eerie grandeur, now a renowned rock-climbing gym. The twenty kilometres of the Reggio Emilia banks of the Po begin to the west with Brescello, an ancient Roman town known today as the home of Don Camillo and Peppone. And then Gualtieri, Reggiolo, Guastalla, Novellara, Correggio, Scandiano and Montecchio: the small capitals of these placid and subdued “water lands”. A fundamental element linking tourism to the province is the ancient tradition of wine-growing and agri-food production, which finds expression in delicious food and wine itineraries, such as the Wine and Flavours route of the Scandiano and Canossa hills.
From Rubiera to S. Ilario d’Enza along the Emilia Avenue and from Viano to Canossa is the realm of erbazzone and cappelletti, of Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar, of Lambrusco DOC [Controlled Designation of Origin] and Nocino, hams and salami (coppa, pancetta, culatello of Canossa).
This simple food and wine and cultural tour can be combined with the many events that enliven the area, from the “L’Emilia a tavola” itinerary, to the Matildic Parade and Cantine Aperte, a full-immersion in the typical flavours of Reggio Emilia for quality tourism, in search of fragrances, ancient traditions and new emotions.