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The heart of the Food Valley

Parma is a city of aristocratic traditions, important monuments and prized works of art. Parma is, and has always been, a cultural capital. Just think of all the illustrious people and acclaimed artists that contributed to the glory of the city: Benedetto Antelami, Correggio, Parmigianino, Bodoni, Bottesini, Paër, Verdi and Toscanini. Parma has also inspired poets and writers – the first of which was Stendhal who described the city in his book “La Chartreuse de Parme.” Parma is unlike any of the other medium-sized city in Italy.  It is a special place.

Our video: the Parma experience

Traces of every major period in art history and important civil institutions can be found in Parma.  The city was famous throughout Europe and attracted both the Farnese and Bourbon families.  By the 13th century, Parma was considered the “Athens of Italy” and was governed by the enlightened Marie Louise of Austria.

Parma is also known for its elegant social life and cultural fervor.The city is home to a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit that is evident in local businesses and its convention center.  The people of Parma have refined palates and truly appreciate the beauty of good meal served in good company. Many incredible Italian food products are produced in and around Parma. All of these characteristics add to the city’s uniqueness.

History of Parma


The city is located 170 feet above sea level, at the center of a large, fertile plain bound to the north by the Po River and to the south by the Apennine Mountains. The Parma stream runs through the city itself. Once an important Roman colony, Parma rests on far more ancient soil. During the Bronze Age, the Parma area was home to small villages called terramare and was later inhabited by both the Celtics and Etruscans. In 183 BC, Marco Emilio Lepido chose to construct a new city along the course of via Emilia, the ancient Roman road. 

Parma was part of the Cisalpine Gaul and was considered to be a spectacular site during the Roman Empire. There are still traces of the Roman Theater and Amphitheater in Parma. These monuments were given the titles of Julia and Augusta as a symbol of the city’s loyalty to the Emperor.  Parma flourished during the Middle Ages as an important wool-working center. The city was torn apart by a battle between the Guelfs and the Ghibilines. 

Control of the city passed from the Visconti family, to the Sforza family, to the French and finally to the Papal state. In 1545, Pope Paul III gave Parma and nearby Piacenza to his son Pierluigi Farnese. The Farnese dynasty ruled for almost two centuries, leaving behind many magnificent works of art and monuments that still adorn the city. 

In 1731, the last male in the Farnese family tree died. Their duchy, along with Parma, its capital, was taken over by the Austrians for a brief period. Then the Bourbons arrived and brought an elegant French spirit to the court and to daily life in general.  Their refined taste had great influence on the art and the culture of the city. 

From 1802 to 1814, Parma fell under the rule of Napoleon, who made the city the capital of Taro Département. At the Vienna Congress in 1815, the city was given to Maria Louise, Napoleon’s wife and daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria. Upon her death in 1847, the duchy fell back in the hands of the Bourbons. Duke Charles III was assassinated in 1854 and his wife, Luisa Maria of Berry, assumed the regency on behalf of her son Robert. In 1859, the people of Parma pushed her out of office and the duchy was deposed. On March 8, 1860, a referendum was passed and Parma became part of the unified Kingdom of Italy.