Parma - Episcopal Cathedral
Its geographical position, history and gastronomic tradition rendered the Province of Parma a place symbolic of Italy.
Located in northern Italy, this Province extends from the Po river on the northern limit, representing Emilia Romagna's boundary with Lombardy, down to the Apennines crest which divides it from Tuscany.
It is a land mainly formed by plains, with the “Bassa Parmense” following the course of the river Po. This offers an extremely evocative crossing, both when it is shrouded in fog, creating an almost motionless mood, as when it can be observed peppered with villages, castles and ancient churches.
The country is dotted with several lake,s including the lake Santo Parmense, which is the largest natural lake of the Emilia Romagna Region.
The Apennines of Parma offer visitors a pristine nature framed in a landscape which is worth being visited also via the system of paths which has been specifically created.
Parma is synonymous of nature, history and art. Names such as Antelami, Correggio, Parmigianino, Verdi and Toscanini left the mark of their presence in a city which can be easily considered a little jewel of grace and sophistication.
Parma's historic centre develops all around what can be considered its religious focus composed by the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Bishop Palace.
The Cathedral on Piazza del Duomo is one of the most important expressions of the Po valley Romanesque style, even though with some posterior changes. It boasts a bell tower dating back to the 13th century. Inside are some famous masterpieces such as the dome frescoed by Correggio.
The Baptistery is an octagonal building built using blocks of pink marble. Together with the 11th century Bishop's Palace, it creates a suggestive medieval spot. Frescoes attributed to Parmigianino in the chapels and the dome frescoed by Correggio are the distinctive elements of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist. It is possible to admire other Parmigianino works in the Church of the Madonna della Steccata and other Correggio works in the Chamber of Saint Paul in the Benedictines’ Monastery.
Not far from the latter is the Palazzo della Pilotta. Commissioned by the Farnese family, this is an impressive complex hosting the Farnese Library and Theatre, the National Archaeological Museum, the Bodoni Museum and the National Gallery, which exhibits works of Correggio, Parmigianino, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Tiepolo, and Canova. Not far away from here is the Teatro Regio (Royal Theatre), a temple of music and one of the most renowned theatres in Italy.
Crossing the G. Verdi Bridge over the Parma torrent, you arrive to the Ducal Palace surrounded by a wide green belt, a magnificent example of a princely park. The Palace still keeps the 16th century central body and contains frescoes of admirable beauty.
Outside the city, the whole province of Parma is scattered with a great number of castles and fortresses from the slopes of the Apennines up north to the Po plain. They create a path which leads visitors through an enchanted world of ladies and knights among ancient manors considered to be some of the most beautiful and best preserved in Italy.
A starting point could be the Fortresses of Bardi, which stands out from the Apennine red rocks in greatness and splendour; coming down toward the valley, one obligatory stop is the Castle of Compiano and its village, from which to move on then to the Castle of Felino and, lastly, to the Reggia Palace of Colorno in the “Bassa Parmense” (Parma plains), residence of the Farnese family, the House of Bourbon and Marie Luise of Austria. In this place, the visitor is captivated by the monumental beauty of the Reggia, as well as by the wonderful landscapes where the river Po meets the plain. The entire province has in fact always been devoted to the presence of this river, an eternal reference.
Among all the towns of the plain between Parma and Piacenza, it is interesting to visit Fontevivo with its imposing Cistercian Abbey dating back to the 12th century; Fontanellato, with its Sanvitale Fortress and a series of frescoes by Parmigianino; and Fidenza, with the precious Cathedral of San Donnino, one of the most important example of the Romanesque art of Emilia. Among these plains, an obliged stop is the Castle of Torrechiara, located in the town of Langhirano, built in the 15th century.
The austere and bucolic landscape of the Apennines and its parks is a contrast to that of the Po river and its magical charm. The National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines offers corners of pristine nature and the possibility of going on excursions, either historical or cultural, discovering medieval villages and fortresses, or that of full-blown trekking, with the Sillara mountain, its network of paths and the Santo Parmense Lake.
Nature lovers should visit the regional Park of the Carrega Woods and the Regional Park of the Cedra and Parma Valleys, better known as the One Hundred Lakes Park, as well as all the resting parks and natural reserves in the territory, another treasure of this land which can seen by mountain bike, horseback rides or simple walking excursions.
Another suggestive route in the territory of Parma is that of the Via Francigena, a track which in the Middle Ages led pilgrims from Canterbury to Rome. The stretch which passes through the province of Parma is very suggestive, running along rivers up to the Cisa Apennine pass with easily walkable paths in a fascinating setting.
Since Roman times, the Province of Parma has been offering the benefits of its thermal spas. The choice in thermal treatment centres is very ample thanks to the abundance in mineral-rich water. The most famous spas resorts are without any doubt those of Salsomaggiore, for their Art Nouveau style buildings and the quality of their offer, as well as those of Tabiano, Sant’Andrea Bagni and Monticelli, all surrounded by nature and places of relaxation and silence.
The festivals and events to remember are the Carnival of Busseto, established in the 19th century, with masks, dances and music; and the Tenzone combat held in the Bardi Castle, a medieval tourney with archers, knights, dancers, nobles and minstrels.
The connection of Parma with gastronomy is so strong that it has become the seat of the European Food Safety Authority and of ALMA, the International School of Italian Cuisine, with seat in Colorno.
In respect of this strong tradition, three hypothetical itineraries of tastes and flavours have been created.
The first one is the route of the culatello of Zibello, in the plains of Parma, the land of origin of the culatello ham and the cooked shoulder ham of San Secondo. The second is the route of Ham and Wines, in the hilly area, offering the possibility of tasting parmigiano-reggiano cheese, Felino salami, Parma ham and the wines of the hills. The third route is dedicated to the porcino mushroom.
Threading of all the things offered by the province is gastronomy.
The engastronomy of this province is so various that it is sufficient to merely recall the mushrooms of Albereto and Borgotaro, the mountain bread, the herbs and potato cakes or those dishes based on chestnuts and soft fruits to imagine the wide panorama of what this province can offer.
The boast products of these areas and of the whole of Italy, are, nevertheless Parma's ham and salamis, the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, the culatello of Zibello and the cooked shoulder ham of San Secondo.
Among the typical first courses, it is important to remember the cappelletti or anolini with beef and capon soup, and the “rice bomb”.
Among typical second courses are braised meat with polenta, boiled meats with tasty sauces, tripe and stuffed breast of veal or picàja.
Rice cake, almond cake, the “spongata”, pastries stuffed with honey, walnuts and candies, sugar sweet violets are the most typical desserts.
Among the D.O.C. wines stand out the white Malvasia and Sauvignon and the red Colli di Parma.
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