Last Updated on February 11, 2021 by Francesca Bezzone

Italy’s 2020 Capital of Culture

2020 is an important year for Parma, as it has been elected Italy’s own Capital of Culture, the city to represent our culture and heritage both in the country and around the world.  

Let’s learn something more about this beautiful town, which’s been embodiment of Italian, timeless beauty since Roman times. 

Cathedral and Baptistery in Parma. Ph. Angel on flickr (flic.kr/p/4Sm6Tm)

Parma: from the Etruscans to Modern Day

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 gave the final layout and skyline of today.

Parma and  its beautiful architecture: the cathedral and the Baptistery. 

The results of such cultural exposure are astonishing and Parma is indeed a beautiful town featuring palaces and churches of prime level. Parma 2020 give us the opportunity to visit some of while learning  more about their history.

The Baptistery is one of the nicest architectures in Parma, featuring an octagonal shape. It is a seven story building right next to the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, itself quite  a beautiful piece of art, with its interiors fully frescoed by local  Renaissance artist  Correggio.

 Its first stone was laid in  1059  and it was consecrated some 50  years later  in 1106. However, it had to be heavily restored  after a earthquake and most of what  we see  today from an architectural point of view dates  from 1178. The cathedral is a beautiful example of Romanesque style. 

Parma, the Cittadella and the Central Palace  of the Governor  and the Garden  Ducal Palace

Parma 2020 can  be the occasion to visit two very important buildings for the history of the city:  the central Palace of the Governor (the Palazzo del Governatore) and the Garden Ducal Palace (the Palazzo del Giardino). 

The Palazzo del Governatore has a long architectural history spanning from the beginning of the 13th to the mid-19th century. Located in the very  central Piazza Garibaldi, it was restored  fully a decade ago and  it is  today home to Parma’s museum of contemporary and  modern art. 

The Garden Ducal Palace is located within Parco Ducale, or Ducal Gardens, a large park of some 210.000  square meters in the  centre  of town. It was built in the 16th century for the Farnese  family.  Today,  it is famously one of the sees of Parma’s RIS, Italy’s most famous crime scene investigation team.  

Parma’s Cittadella, is a fortress built in the 16th century. It is a must-see, and the entrance gate alone is worth the trip. Wanted by the Farnese  family, just like the Garden Ducal Palace, the citadel has  a  pentagonal plant and has been fully restored in 2009. 

Parma 2020 and  its amazing food

Besides its historical art and architecture, Parma offers a quality of food second to none in the world. Food could well  be considered one of the top Parma 2020 attractions!

Parmigiano cheese clearly takes its name from Parma, but we cannot forget another product, the Prosciutto di Parma, one of the most recognized and prestigious hams available in the world. 

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. 


Riverside in Parma. Ph. Riccardo Francesconi on flickr (flic.kr/p/7epNKm)

Some notes on Parma

For our North American friends we would like to offer two interesting notes, as Parma is sister town to Stockton and Milwaukee in the US 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 book by John Grisham, Playing for Pizza.

Don’t miss seeing Parma  next time you are in Italy, especially this year: and don’t forget to eat!


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