Parma Farnese duchy theater in the Pilotta Palace, Emilia Romagna region
Home » Northeastern area Italy themed excursion » Emilia Romagna food motor music valley » Emilia Romagna art cities provincial capitals » Parma Farnese Duchy, food music valley

A small European capital

Parma Farnese Duchy is divided into two almost equal parts by the Parma stream that runs through it from the Apennine mountains ridge to the Po valley. The politic and artistic history of the town was conducted mainly on the right bank. Hence, its city center develops in the Middle Ages between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries around the plan of the Roman colony founded in 183 BC, such as the art cities of the region founded along the Via Emilia.


Who arrives in Parma, in the Northeast of Italy, will find the mild and refined atmosphere of a small European capital. A feeling that is perceived in its center, the heritage of centuries of Ducal hegemony. Already inhabited by the Etruscans and the Gauls, Parma was a Roman colony in 183 BC. Divided into two by the stream with the same name, it joined the Lombard League only during the Battle of Legnano.

The Duchy

The borough grew around the Duomo and the Baptistery, without any local family being able to impose its domain. During the Middle Ages, between the 14th and 15th centuries, the town fell under foreign rule: the Scaligers, the Visconti and finally the Sforza. In the aims of the Pope and the French, Parma became a duchy wanted by the Pope Paul III Farnese. It remained until the unification of Italy, with the passage in 1748 to the family of the Bourbon and with the parenthesis of the Empress Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma.

The center of the town

Rich in artistic masterpieces, Parma is a very pleasant city. With long pedestrian streets and numerous theaters, like the Regio, one of the greatest temples of opera. The center of the city encloses within a few hundred meters some treasures of art famous worldwide. In fact, there is the Chamber of St Paul just some minutes from Piazza del Duomo. And in front of it, the Palazzo della Pilotta with the National Gallery and the Farnese Theater. As well as the churches of St John the Evangelist and the Madonna della Steccata.

Piazza del Duomo

This is a quiet square, somewhat secluded compared with the busy city life. Hence here we find the Duomo with its Gothic bell tower. Most of all, this is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Italy. And also the Baptistery, among the most significant medieval art masterpieces. To the west, we find the severe façade of the Bishops Palace. Built in the 13th century, they made an important transformation in the 16th century. As well as a restoration in the first half of the twentieth century. The building has an attractive courtyard with Renaissance loggias.

The Cathedral and the Baptistery

The Cathedral is one of the greatest Romanesque architecture creations of the twelfth century. As well as its Romanesque Gothic baptistry that dates back 1196 and 1270. These shining years of artistic creativity are, politically, years of continuous fights. In fact, in the early fourteenth century, Parma falls to the Scaligeri. As follow from 1346 the town passed to the Visconti and Sforza.

Farnese the Duchy of Parma

From 1521 the town becomes part of the church state, and in 1545 Pope Paul III Farnese gives Parma and Piacenza in fief to his son Pier Luigi Farnese. The Parma Farnese Duchy will live until 1860.

The Bourbons and Marie Louise of Austria

After the extinction of the Parma Farnese Duchy in 1731, the town passes under the control of the Bourbons of Spain. After the Napoleonic turmoil period, the duchy is given in life annuity to Napoleon’s wife. That was also the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, Marie Louise. It seems that she entered into the popular myth as “the beloved sovereign.” In 1847, at the death of Marie Louise, the Bourbons return prevailing until 1860, when Parma becomes part the Kingdom of Italy.

Parma Farnese Duchy, food and music valley

4 + 8 =