Parma is one of the cities in Italy with the best standard of living - and the highest levels of cuisine. Parma is surrounded by verdant green hills, themselves dotted with castles, and the River Parma runs across the city. The Parma region produces two of the most celebrated food products in the world - tasty Parmesan cheese and 'sweet' Parma ham, as well as culatello and Felino salami.
A rich city, the capital of Italy's food industry, Parma is also an important artistic and cultural centre. The city, capital of the Duchy of Parma for centuries, features a series of splendid artworks and buildings, including the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista, the Pilotta Palace, the 17th-century Teatro Farnese and the famous Regio Theatre.
Parma's past and present
Verdi, the most admired and loved of all Italian composers, was born in nearby Busseto, and many of his operas are performed in the city's magnificent opera house. Parma's history goes as far back as Etruscan times, and it probably began its existence as an Etruscan encampment. It owes its Roman phase to Consul Marcus Emilius Lepidus, who established it as a Roman colony on the Via Emilia in 183 BC.
Parma gained in importance and wealth through the Middle Ages, coming under the rule of the Viscontis, the Sforzas, the French and the Popes until it was made a duchy in 1545 and came under the jurisdiction of Pier Luigi Farnese, illegitimate son of Pope Paul III. The Farnese family kept control of Parma until the last scion of the dynasty died in 1731. The Burbons then had control over Parma before the city was given to Marie Louise, daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria and second wife of Napoleon. After her death in 1873, it went back to the Burbons until the people elected to join the kingdom of Italy. All its rulers have left their marks on this multi-faceted city. Today, Parma offers a veritable feast - in terms of art, architecture, culture, haute couture and gastronomy.