It’s easy to refer to Parma as the Duchy, even though it stopped being one quite a long time ago.
The reason for mentioning this title is to lead you back to the splendid times under Farnese dominion, followed by the period of total renovation ordered by Maria Luigia of Austria, Napoleon’s wife, who was responsible for the fate of the city until her death.
This itinerary will guide you through the places dear to Parma’s ancestors.
The first stop is Parco Ducale, a lovely city garden with French-style architecture. It’s extremely relaxing at any time of year to stroll down the footpaths admiring its age-old flora.
The main path is actually an entryway to your second stop: Palazzo della Pilotta.
There are numerous things to see here. Palazzo della Pilotta houses the Biblioteca Palatina library, the Museo Archeologico and Museo Bodoniano, the Galleria Nazionale and above all, the Teatro Farnese.
Begin your discovery of this monumental complex from the latter. You’ll be left speechless by some of the 1600s’ most impressive theatre architecture, which still today evokes images of the Farnese dukes’ sumptuous court life.
From here you can access the Galleria Nazionale, Museo Archeologico and the Biblioteca Palatina, each of which tells an important part of the history of these lands, from prehistoric times up to the extensive rebuilding after the 1944 bombings.
A short distance from Palazzo della Pilotta stands the Teatro Regio, built at the behest of Marie Louise, who ordered tickets to be sold at low prices to foster public education through opera.
You’ve one more stop to make in the footsteps of the woman who still today is fondly called the “Good Duchess”: the Reggia di Colorno.
The Farnese gave the noble dwelling its current aspect, but it was Marie Louise who changed its fate. In fact, the Ducal Palace hosted her the night before she entered the city as its sovereign on 19 April 1816, later becoming her summer residence.
From that moment on, the palace underwent a series of significant changes during her nearly thirty-year reign. Marie Louise left her lasting mark on the ducal apartments and the large garden, currently protected as important heritage sites.
Following this brief itinerary is like spending a few hours in the world of the people and events that changed the course of history.
The Parma Duchy is worth a visit!