San Giro­lamo del Cor­reg­gio’s ‘Madonna’, the ‘Turk­ish Slave’ by Parmi­gian­ino, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Scapigli­ata’, the Santa Maria As­sunta Cathe­dral or the An­te­lami Bap­tis­tery: it is not hard to un­der­stand why Parma has been tapped as Italy’s 2020 Cap­i­tal of

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Parma, more than any other Euro­pean city, has been the pro­tag­o­nist for the fate of nu­mer­ous states and noted fam­i­lies. Crossed by the his­toric Via Emilia, the an­cient Ro­man road cuts the re­gion of Emilia Ro­magna in two, run­ning from the shores of the Adri­atic Sea to the city of Pi­a­cenza, just out­side the re­gion of Lom­bardy. Parma the “ducal city”. Parma, the Ital­ian cap­i­tal of cul­ture. The city has earned this recog­ni­tion thanks to its “vir­tu­ous and high-qual­ity ex­am­ple of plan­ning based on cul­ture”. This is what mo­ti­vated the jury of ex­perts, chaired by Boc­coni Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor and cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion scholar, Ste­fano Baia Cu­ri­oni. Ev­ery year an Ital­ian city is cho­sen by a seven-mem­ber panel of sec­tor spe­cial­ists who have been ap­pointed by the Min­istry of Cul­tural Her­itage, Ac­tiv­i­ties and Tourism. The se­lec­tion based on present cul­tural de­vel­op­ment and fu­ture projects. The ini­tia­tive’s ob­jec­tives in­clude the en­hance­ment of the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal land­scape of the city, stim­u­lat­ing growth while im­prov­ing and in­creas­ing ser­vices ded­i­cated to tourism. The Parma plan also in­volves a gen­eral en­hance­ment of the ducal ter­ri­tory, par­tic­u­larly rich from the artis­tic, cul­tural and, as we will see later, a gas­tro­nomic point of view. The re­gion of north­ern Italy, more­over, is a par­tic­u­larly lively, cul­tural ter­ri­tory: With this in mind, Bologna is one of the prin­ci­pal Ital­ian cities, with Mo­dena and, in­deed, Parma fol­low­ing closely.

So we are driven to travel to the Ital­ian cul­tural cap­i­tal, to ex­pe­ri­ence the city, its mon­u­ments, and Parma’s stel­lar art­works Parma that will be even more rec­og­nized over the next few years.

We start our visit to Parma from Pi­azza Garibaldi, the nerve cen­ter of the city where tourists are faced with the city’s first ar­chi­tec­tural and cul­tural beau­ties. The Palazzo del Gover­na­tore il­lu­mi­nates the square with its baroque and neo­clas­si­cal forms. Built at the end of the 1200s, the palace had dif­fer­ent func­tions over the cen­turies: it was con­ceived as a mer­chants’ cen­ter, Palazzo dei Mer­canti, later the build­ing was used for ad­min­is­tra­tive and mu­nic­i­pal tasks.

Af­ter un­der­go­ing many ren­o­va­tions, the build­ing is now a tem­po­rary mod­ern-and­con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tion site. Here is a nugget of in­for­ma­tion: the build­ing’s wall, near the cor­ner be­tween Pi­azza Garibaldi and Cavour road, the “brick of Parma”, an an­cient unit of mea­sure­ment by Parma builders, is still there to­day. The square takes its name from the statue of Garibaldi who, from 1893, dom­i­nates and ob­serves all the sur­round­ing con­text. The mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the hero of the two worlds re­placed the prece­dent Bour­bon-era Ara Amici­tiae that stood in the square since 1769. The square it­self is a mix­ture of his­tory and tra­di­tion, which draws its ori­gin from Ro­man times with the route of the Via Emilia, circa 190 BC. For art lovers, a visit to the Basil­ica of San Gio­vanni Evan­ge­lista is a must. The church, dec­o­rated with a se­ries of fres­coes by Cor­reg­gio, dates back to around 1520. The works that dec­o­rate the dome in­clude the “Vi­sion of Saint John at Pat­mos” (also known as the As­cen­sion of Christ among the apos­tles). Roam­ing through the streets of Parma these days, be­tween the works and the “noble” palaces, means, there­fore, breath­ing a lung full of his­tory, found in few other places in the world. A tour of Parma, there­fore, can­not ex­clude a visit to the im­pos­ing Palazzo della Pilotta, which is lo­cated in the cen­ter of the city and de­rives its name from the Basque game ‘Pelota’, played by Span­ish soldiers in the “Guaz­za­toio” court­yard. The Na­tional Gallery of Parma is the cus­to­dian of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s mas­ter­pieces: “La Scapigli­ata”, a paint­ing on a panel that over the cen­turies has known il­lus­tri­ous own­ers such as the Gon­zaga fam­ily and the Este fam­ily. Cre­ated in the early 1500s, the piece is an un­fin­ished work by the fa­mous artist and is one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing paint­ings in the mu­seum. Even mu­sic plays a cru­cial role in Parma, both his­tor­i­cally and con­tem­porar­ily. The birth­place of Ital­ian con­duc­tor Ar­turo Toscanini, whose home to­day has be­come a mu­seum, to­gether with

An ideal jour­ney through the Ital­ian cap­i­tal of cul­ture 2020, to ex­pe­ri­ence the city’s mon­u­ments and art works by the great pro­tag­o­nists of Parma

the Casa della Mu­sica in Palazzo Cu­sani, pre­serves and en­hances the price­less her­itage of Ital­ian and world mu­sic cul­ture. Mu­si­cians can­not miss a pil­grim­age to an op­er­atic tem­ple, the Teatro Re­gio, built be­tween 1821 and 1829 by ar­chi­tect Ni­cola Bet­toli and con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant tra­di­tional the­aters in Italy. A char­ac­ter­is­tic cra­dle of a past full of life and cul­ture, with the charm of a small bo­hemian vil­lage, mon­u­men­tal­ity em­bel­lished with Ro­manesque art, Parma con­tin­ues to stack up ac­co­lades. In 2015, for ex­am­ple, Parma was tapped by UN­ESCO as the first Ital­ian des­ti­na­tion awarded the ti­tle Creative City of Gas­tron­omy. Fine cui­sine is one of the city’s strengths and tra­di­tional foods, such as Parmi­giano-reg­giano, Parma Ham, Cu­latello di Zi­bello, Salame di Felino, the cured pork spe­cialty Spalla di San Se­condo. But also it is im­por­tant to con­sider the great com­pa­nies linked to the can­ning and pasta in­dus­try. The lo­cal Porcini Mush­rooms from Val Taro and Fragno’s black truf­fle, in ad­di­tion to the un­mis­tak­able wines of Parma, are even more kudos to the city and its sur­round­ings’ de­lec­ta­ble culi­nary of­fer­ings.

It im­pos­si­ble not to suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion of these spe­cial­ties, cre­ated to sat­isfy Duchesses and Barons, and which have man­aged to main­tain their fla­vors in­tact over the cen­turies, thanks to the ef­fort and pas­sion of pro­duc­ers and restau­ra­teurs.

Pi­azza Duomo. In­side the cathe­dral.

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