Parma has art and culture everywhere, is a food heaven and has opera in its soul
Some days ago, the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, officially kicked off the year of Parma as the Italian Capital of Culture. This symbolic title refers to a city designated by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage that — for a period of one year — is given a chance to showcase its cultural life and cultural development. Conceived also as a means of bringing Italians closer together, the Italian Capital of Culture was launched in 2014 by the same Ministry of Cultural Heritage on the ground of a European Parliament’s decision. Since then, the initiative has become more and more successful across the country and has a growing cultural and socio-economic impact on the numerous visitors it attracts every year.
Parma: a city of many faces
Throughout 2020, Parma will showcase its unique Italian culture under the slogan “Culture beats time,” highlighting its past artistic and historic glories with its present-day cultural innovations. In fact, the city has many faces: from the Roman to the Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to the baroque and Habsburg, Parma mixes its past with a longstanding agricultural tradition with pork and a unique gourmet and industrial scene.
These various aspects of the city are apparent when looking at the list of events taking place there. The program in fact includes topics from the environment to cinema, from photography to figurative art, without overlooking music and the ever–present food. So, let’s go through the reasons why Parma deserved the appointment as Italian Capital for the year.
First: it’s food heaven
Gorgeous Italy draws travelers keen on exploring its stunning scenery, unique culture and beautiful monuments. But, of course, her gastronomical delights are actually The Reason tourists simply love the peninsula. Parma ham and Parmesan cheese have made the city a household name all over the world. But Emilia-Romagna, the region where Parma lies, produces and exports many other origin-protected foods and drinks, universally appreciated for their authenticity and traditional history. Thanks to its workshops, trattorias, food companies and restaurants, Parma, the capital of the Food Valley, received a great acknowledgement: it’s the first Italian city to be recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy. Purely heaven.
Parma has officially been proclaimed by UNESCO a “Creative City for gastronomy.” It’s the first time that an Italian city has received this prestigious official recognition that UNESCO, the UN organization for the preservation of world cultures, grants to cities which demonstrate unique abilities in gastronomy, the result of tradition, talent and innovation. It is not by chance that Parma hosts Alma, the international school for Italian cuisine.
Second: it has opera in its soul
If you are visiting Parma and you are a music lover, here are some places you can’t miss. There is the Farnese Theater, Regio Theater, the house and Museum of Arturo Toscanini, Auditorium Niccolò Paganini, the Cathedral, the House of the Music, Club of the 27 and the House of Sound. There is everything an opera lover needs. Moreover, the province of Parma gave the world two of Italy’s most famous musicians: composer Giuseppe Verdi and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and you’ll find their legacy not only at their birthplaces (now museums), but also in the concert hall, philharmonic orchestra and annual opera festival named after them. But Parma does not dedicate itself only to opera, as the city provides many other musical events for jazz, boogie-woogie and performances of traditional music and culture from other countries.
Third: art and culture are everywhere
They are really everywhere: the Galleria Nazionale is the most important museum, as it houses works by local artists Parmigianino and Correggio alongside those of Da Vinci and Canaletto. In fact, the duchy of the Farnese family was very fond of art, collecting many paintings from famous renaissance artists.
But, as a city of art, Parma has much more to offer: the monumental complex of Pilotta hosts, among countless works, a painting from Rembrandt in order to celebrate 350 years from his death. Many other galleries host exhibitions devoted to the French writer Stendhal, Napoleon and his wife Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma.
Even Parma’s architecture isn’t as one-sided as one may think. The city center boasts jewels of medieval, Renaissance and baroque architecture, like the glorious cathedral, the octagonal baptistery, the all-wood Farnese Theater and the Pilotta building complex, to name a few. Yet it isn’t afraid to mix it up, as the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano recently converted the old sugar mill Eridania into an amazing concert hall made of the original, old bricks and glass.
As far as architecture is concerned, it is worth visiting Masone’s Labyrinth, built by editor Franco Maria Ricci as a promise to writer Jorge Luis Borges. It is the world’s largest maze and it hosts workshops, restaurants, exhibitions and concerts, making it a truly unique place to visit.
Culture beats time
That sentence represents the motto of the initiative, as culture leaves its mark on the history of the city, favoring the demolition of historical and social barriers and creating new platforms to share experience. The city of Parma fully represents that fact, as different cultures — Ancient Roman, Medieval, Ducal, Napoleonic and Austrian — mixed together creating a flourishing and remarkable city. Different trends, depending on the ruling class of the time, added bricks to the town, respecting (and not destroying) its citizens.
Culture, as the Italian Capital of Culture teaches us, enhances participation and strengthens the identity of a place. As the editor Franco Maria Ricci stated: “we Parmesans have been a capital for a long time: with the Farneses, the Bourbons, then with Napoleon and Maria Luigia. Parma has always had the allure of an international, cultured, cosmopolitan city.”
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