Parma is to be found in Emilia Romagna, in the North of Italy, at the centre of a plain delimited to the North by the river Po and to the South by the Apennine mountains.
A small city with a noble past, thanks to the ruling family dynasties of the Farnese and the Bourbons and as the capital of the Duchy of Maria Luigia of Austria. The historical centre of town contains monuments which are world renowned such as, for example, the Cathedral, a masterpiece of Romanesque art, with a magnificent cupola frescoed by Correggio, and the Baptistery in pink marble inspired by the vision of Benedetto Antelami. Parma has also been an inspiration for artists in other fields, from the engraver and typographer Bodoni to the French writer Stendahl. Neither can we forget the immortal composer Giuseppe Verdi and the sublime conductor Arturo Toscanini: thanks to them Parma is a synonym for musical excellence.
A tour of the Verdi homelands is a classic for the discovery of cultural tourism in Emilia: Roncole Verdi with the birth house of Verdi and the Church of San Michele with the organ Verdi learned to play as a child. Then there is Sant’Agata with Villa Verdi and Busseto with Casa Barezzi, forever linked to the musical and sentimental education of the great Maestro. Also in Busseto can be found the Verdi Theatre, the National Giuseppe Verdi Museum and the new museum dedicated to Renata Tebaldi. A tour of the Verdi homelands allows opera enthusiasts, and not only, to trace the life of Italy’s most famous composer. Parallel to the cultural aspect of such a tour can be found the gastronomic possibilities of the Trail of Culatello from Zibello.
The low lying lands which lie to the south of the river Po have stimulated the creative powers of both Bernardo Bertolucci and Giovannino Guareschi. These flatlands are also known for the tradition of meat curing and it is here that both Culatello from Zibello and cooked Shoulder of Ham from San Secondo have their origins. Here, too, can be found architectural masterpieces like the Palace of Colorno with its delightful gardens, the fortified castle of the Sanvitale family at Fontanellato and the fortified castle of the Meli Lupi family in Soragna.
There are around thirty castles and fortified manor houses in the Parma area and visiting them is a trip back in time. Let yourself be swept along by the history and stories of dynasties such as the Farnese, the Bourbons, the Lupi and the Sanvitale without forgetting Maria Luigia of Austria. There are at least three tours to experience the castles in this area: the lowland castles towards the river Po and the Verdi homelands, the castles in the hills and those in the high Apennines. We would mention in particular the Castle of Torrechiara, the Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato, the Rocca Meli Lupi in Soragna and the Reggia of Colorno.
Parma also means the Apennines, which spread from south of the Via Emilia up to the borders of Liguria and Tuscany. The river valleys which descend from the mountains are those of the Ceno, the Taro and the Parma all endowed with uncontaminated nature, all with wonderful views and many traces of a rich historical past. The Parma Apennines are perfect for pony trekking, mountain biking and hiking to discover forgotten hamlets or to conquer the highest mountain peaks.
Parma is conveniently and strategically placed to reach other lovely parts of Emilia Romagna and Italy. Crossing the Apennines in just over an hour the fascinating Cinque Terre are to be found and all the chief art cities of the region are placed along the Via Emilia. A continuation of the journey will take you to other notable Italian regions such as Tuscany, the Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont or you might choose to go further afield and reach sunny Sicily.