Parma’s History, Places+People

Contemporary age

Parma in 1832

During the Napoleonic Wars (1802–1814), Parma was part of the Taro Département. Under its French name Parme, it was also created a duché grand-fief de l’Empire for Charles-François Lebrun, duc de Plaisance, the Emperor’s Arch-Treasurer, on 24 April 1808 (extinguished 1926).

After its restoration by the 1814–15 Vienna Congress, the Risorgimento‘s upheavals had no fertile ground in the tranquil duchy. In 1847, after Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma‘s death, it passed again to the Bourbons, the last of whom was stabbed in the city and left it to his Widow, Luisa Maria of Berry. On September 15, 1859 the dynasty was declared deposed, and Parma entered in the newly formed provinces of Emilia under Carlo Farini. With the plebiscite of 1860 the former duchy became part of the unified Kingdom of Italy.

The loss of the capital role provoked an economical and social crisis in Parma. It started to recover its role of industrial prominence after the connection with Piacenza and Bologna of 1859, and with Fornovo and Suzzara in 1883. Trade unions were strong in the city, in which a famous General Strike was declared from May 1 to June 6, 1908. The struggle with Fascism lived its most dramatic moment in the August 1922, when the regime officer Italo Balbo attempted to enter in the popular quarter of Oltretorrente. The citizens organized into the Arditi del Popolo (“People’s assaulters”) and pushed back the squadristi. This episode is considered the first example of Resistance in Italy.

During World War II, Parma was a strong centre of partisan resistance. The train station and marshalling yards were targets for high altitude bombing by the Allies in the spring of 1944. Much of the Palazzo della Pilotta — situated not far (half a mile) from the train station — was destroyed. Along with it also Teatro Farnese and part of Biblioteca Palatina were destroyed by Allied bombs. Several other monuments were also damaged: Palazzo del Giardino, Steccata church, San Giovanni church, Palazzo Ducale, Paganini theater and the monument to Verdi.

Parma did see widespread destruction during the war and was liberated of the German occupation (1943–1945) on April 26, 1945 by the partisan resistance and troops of Brazilian Expeditionary Force.[2]Recently Parma was chosen for the setting of John Grisham‘s American football comedy Playing for Pizza.

Parma, a city of traditional aristocratic cultures, rich with precious works of art and a reborn capital city out of its past.  World famous for its most illustrious children and for a diverse collection of artists – from Benedetto Antelami to Salimbene, from Correggio to Parmigianino, from Bodoni to Verdi and Toscanini , from Stendhal to Proust – Parma is beautiful: unsung, yet quietly unique, unlike most of the other main cities that attract visitors to Italy.

Parma, being the provincial capital, has 170.000 inhabitants, situated in Emilia Romagna, half-way between Milan and Bologna.

It is proud of its historical city centre and has monuments of particular importance, from Roman to liberty style.

In fact, it has been historically marked by the enlightened government of Maria Luigia, the wife of Napoleon, when it was the capital of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla.

The province counts 400.000 inhabitants; it is characterized by its vast and beautiful mountainous apennies and dotted by numerous castles.

Parma is most famous as the capital food centre of Italy and Europe, for its incredible products and in particular for its Prosciutto of Parma, Culatello, Felino Salame and its famous Parmesan Cheese.

Its main monuments are:

  • Palazzo Vescovile
  • Duomo 11th century – see video
  • Battistero (the most important, evolved monument during the Medieval period in Italy)
  • San Giovanni Evangelista 12th century – see video
  • Church of Steccata – 16th century
  • TCafe Rosa prati
  • Palazzo della Pilotta, with his extraordinary Teatro Farnese 16th century – video Patti Smith plays the Pilotta Parma – Sunday morning in the Pilotta
  • The Town Hall – 17th century
  • Teatro Regio (it is one of the most famous in Italy for grand opera)19th century
  • Church of “Annunciata”
  • Certosa of Paradigna
  • Palazzo DucaleVideo 
  • Palazzo del Governatore
  • Ospedale Vecchio
  • Italian Museum of Perfumery
  • City of Love

Parma People


He was an orchestra director, born in Parma in Borgo Rodolfo Tanzi, on 25 March 1867 and died in Riverdale near New York on 16 January 1957. Claudio and Paola Montani were Arturo Toscanini‘s parents; his father was a tailor, choir singer and also a strong follower of Garibaldi; he followed this hero as soon as the possibility arose; The young Toscanini spent most of his childhood with his grandparents. He had already acquired a love for music at the age of 11 and he obtained a free place in Professor Carini’s violoncello school at the conservatory of Parma.


… came of poor parents in Roncole of Busseto on the 10th of Octobre 1813. He soon developed an inclination to music, his first teacher was Pietro Baistrocchi, Roncole organist; he practised plying a modest spinet while helping his parents with their shop, a modest tavern; at twelve he went to Busseto and started working for the shop-keeper Barezzi, who then became his protector, while also studying music with the band teacher Provesi and latin with the canon Seletti.

He went to Milan thanks to a pawnshop grant and Barezzi’s financial support: at nineteen he tried to enter the conservatory, however he was not admitted, he thus continued his studies with the teacher Lavigna.

When he came back to Busseto he was assigned music composer of the municipality and conductor of the band.

In 1835 he married his protector’s daughter Margherita Barezzi who died together with their two children during the 1838-1840 years in Milan, where the Verdi family has moved.

His first opera was “Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio” (1839) successfully performed at the La Scala Theatre in Milan.

His extraordinary production of works began just at that time. His untiring and prodigious activity did not succomb even to the old age which he spent in Villa Sant’Agata, very close to Busseto, together with the inseparable and faithful Giuseppina Strepponi, who had been living with him since 1849. Giuseppe Verdi died in Milan on the 27th of the January 1901 and he was burried in the Home for Musicians he himself founded.


Engraver, typographer and editor born in Saluzzo and dead in Parma in 1813. Compositor, as far back as 1758, in the printing house of Propaganda Fide a Roma, in 1768 he was asked to run the printing house Regia of Parma where we began to print valuable editions, using inks mixed by himself.

In 1771, he established his own typography where he cast characters of a rare perfection and printed editions which became immediately famous for their fine engravings, the beauty of their coat of arms, the elegance of the front pages, the quality of the paper and the nature of the inks. He printed Classical Greek, Latin, Italian and French editions using the above method.

Amongst the most famous editions to be remembered are: The “Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita” (1775), the works of Orazio (1791) and of Poliziano (1795), “La Gerusalemme liberata”, the “Oratio dominica” (1806) and the “Iliade” printed in 155 languages.

MARIA LUIGIA, the wife of Napoleon

Vienna 1791 – Parma 1847

Daughter of the Emperor Francis I she married Napoleone I in 1810. Regent of France during the Russia campaign she did not show great interest for the goverment business nor for her husband either inclining herself toward the Italian lifestyle she so loved and remodelled.

The violet of Parma: the people of Parma adored her.

After the Napoleon’s abdication she went with his son, the young King of Rome, to Vienna at her father’s court where she remained up to the Vienna Congress in 1815 which assigned her the Dukedom of Parma, Piacenza e Guastalla.

She arrived in the Dukedom on 19 April 1816 by crossing the border on the Po river to meet with the representatives of the new State.

She spent her first night in Parma at the Colorno Palace, and the recollection of that night so dear to her as to make her assume the title of “Countess of Colorno” whenever she wanted to preserve her incognito. She governed with wisdom and kindness, she was beloved by her subjects. After Napoleon’s death she married the Niepperg Count and left her a widow a short time later, she spent her last days with the Bombelles Count whom she married in 1834.

The Duchess died on 17 December 1847 and she was buried, in Viennain the Capuccini’s crypt where even today her “subjects” still bring her the sweet-scented violets she loved so much and to which she is linked by name.

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