The towns origins date way back, perhaps even to the Bronze Age, but the first settlement was of the Etruscans. Of the ancient town and the Roman colony founded in 183 B.C. along the Via Emilia there is virtually nothing left, likewise the Parma of the following period, which was sacked by Attila, divided by Odoacer, reflourished under Theodoric and was then destroyed by Totila. Nothing remains either of the Longobard or the Carolingian periods, while during the medieval era it became a flourishing commune despite the battles between the Guelph and Ghibelline factions. In 1545 it was appointed Duchy together with nearby Piacenza by Pope Paul III, and a dynasty was born that reigned for nearly two centuries, leaving remains of its wealth and greatness in the works and monuments that still ornate the town. Parma was capital of the Duchy until 1860, when it became part of the United Italy.
The city and its monuments
The chief town in the Emilia region is rich with monuments, erected to testify its glorious past. Piazza del Duomo, between the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Bishops Palace conserves intact the medieval nature of Parma. The Cathedral is one of the greatest Romanic buildings in the Padana Plain from the 12th century; inside it conserves the Assumption of the Virgin, a fresco by Correggio, and in the right transept there is the famous Deposition by Benedetto Antelami dated 1178. The Baptistery is a slender Romanic-gothic construction from the 13th century and has an octagonal plan and is a very suggestive witness to Italian Romanic sculpture. Strada Garibaldi is also very interested, flanked by the Regio Theatre and the Madonna Della Steccata, that Via Mazzini leads off from and leads to the Ponte di Mezzo over the River Parma. Piazza Grande, now Piazza Garibaldi, is the political and business heart of the town. The architectural and cultural renewal brought by the Farnese family is clearly shown in the Palazzo della Pilotta, the Farnese Theatre, the Ducal Palace with its park and the Municipal Palace.
The geographical area
The province of Parma is very interesting for the tourist, art towns, spa centres like Certosa, Montechiarugolo, Monticelli Terme, Collecchio, Salsomaggiore Terme, Bercelo and Fontanellato. Salsomaggiore Terme, with the Berzieri Spas is considered the symbol of the new middle classes and is a popular tourist area. Collecchio used to be called Collicolum, and was owned by the bishops of Parma during the medieval era. Farming and industrial town, it is famous above all for the Parma ham. Bercelo is a very popular tourist town, with a picturesque medieval hamlet, with old houses, elegant palazzos and examples of stone buildings. Fontanellato, with all its sugar refineries, still keeps its air of medieval hamlet, situated on the fascinating Sancitale Fort.