Before we go into the many historical and artistic aspects of this city, we must point out what Parma represents to the modern world and economy. In 2005 it was designated the permanent home of European Food Safety Authority; this is fitting, as it is also Italy's food capital. This is an administrative challenge that put Parma in charge of the safety food matters within the Old Continent. The decision was almost automatic, considering that Parma is the home of unique products such as the Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese). It is also home to some very important food companies, such as Parmalat that, despite its recent, huge financial scandal, is still a major and very active player in the food industry.
Parma goes far back in time, as the first proven settlements were around 1000 years BC. Typically, the cultural evolution of each central/lower Northern Italian city is that it was part of the Etruscan civilization first, then annexed to the Roman Empire. Cities continued to develop and finally entered the Medieval age with new buildings and churches, which usually give the final layout and skyline of today.
The results of such cultural exposure are astonishing and Parma is indeed a beautiful town featuring palaces and churches of prime level. Let's visit some of them to get a grasp of what Parma can offer to its tourists. The Baptistery is one of the nicest buildings, featuring an octagonal shape. It is a seven story building right next to the city cathedral, a very common set up in many of the cities in this area of Italy. The Duomo is also a very good example of architecture; its very simple style and the elegant bell tower make a very important addition to the city.
Furthermore, we would like to point out two palaces that are majestic and very important in the history of Parma: the central Palace of the Governor and the Garden Ducal Palace, and then the Cittadella, a compound that is actually a fortress built in the 16th century. It is a must-see, and the entrance gate alone is worth the trip.
Besides its historical art and architecture, Parma offers a quality of food second to none in the world, probably its number one attraction. We mentioned the Parmesan cheese that clearly takes its name after Parma, but we cannot forget another product, the Prosciutto di Parma, one of the most recognized and prestigious hams available.
Economy wise, we mentioned Parmalat for its name that links to the city, but not many foreigners know that Parma is the home of another food giant: Barilla. This world leader in producing pasta is actually the most recognized Italian brand in the world, more than Ferrari or any fashion label. Barilla is a perfect example of hard work and of the Italian economy at its best, healthy and not too financially dependent.
For our North American friends we would like to offer two interesting notes, as Parma is sister town to Stockton and Milwaukee in the U.S. and Moncton in Canada. Furthermore, Parma is one of the few cities that actually has a strong interest in American football; in fact, the Parma Panthers are a very successful team in the Italian league - and the subject of a recent book by John Grisham, Playing for Pizza.
Don't miss seeing Parma next time you are in Italy - and don't forget to eat!