Italian Culture Capital

Parma is the Italian culture capital of 2020-2021. It is the art city of Emilia, the Italian re-gion that is the queen of good food. Parma also carries the title of Unesco’s creative city for cuisine since 2015. Follow-ing the success of Matera, the European capital of culture for 2019, the city of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, picks up the baton and will be organizing exhibits, installations, pro-ductions, workshops, music and meetings with the theme “Culture is the beat of time.”

From yesterday to today

The starting point was a re-flection on the various time periods of the city. There are many versions of “Parma:” the Roman city and the medieval one; the Renaissance one and the Baroque one; the Bourbon one and the En-lightenment one; the revolutionary one and the Habsburg one; the farming one and the entre-preneurial one; the city of Giuseppe Verdi – with strong, national emotions of opera – and the city of the barricades – a city with deep, popular tra-ditions; to the old city known as “Oltretorrente” to the innovative and technological Parma. All of these, together, make up the city of today.

Taking inspiration from Bodoni

A wealth of initiatives ranging from art, music, cinema and cuisine find their dig-ital identity in the Parma2020 logo, cre-ated by Erik Spiekermann. The design-er who isn’t new to the creation of city branding having worked for Berlin, Lon-don, and Santa Monica, chose the colour Yellow, which has accompanied the city for years. He chose a slightly modified Bodoni font, as a homage to the typog-rapher and printer Giambattista Bodoni who lived in Parma. The “P” of the logo seems resemble a keyhole from which you can observe the city, and which will remain as a legacy for the future.

Not only art

For those who have never been to Parma, they will have the chance to discover the beauty of its city centre, in particular the Saint Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, with the Assumption of the Mary of Correggio lo-cated in the dome above the main altar and Baptistry. Another marvel is the Santa Maria della Steccata Basilica with the “Three wise and three foolish virgins” fresco by Parmi-gianino on the vaults of the chancel. After a short stroll under the only porticoed street of the city, which has medieval origins, you can visit the Farnese theatre. It is located inside the Palazzo della Pilotta, where the National Gallery is found along with various valuable works. Parma offers numerous cultural op-tions for all ages and all cultural interests.

The Teatro Regio (Royal The-atre) organizes classical music concerts, whereas other es-tablishments offer indie music and clubbing. Being a capital of Italian culture has allowed it to reclaim spaces to organize different events. For example, the Antique Pharmacy of San Filippo Neri, located in the his-toric centre, was transformed from a pharmacy with Maiolica pottery and glass vases, into a space for book clubs, exhibits, workshops and concerts in the nearby courtyard.

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Culture and gossip as well

With the help of a good guide, it is possible to discover much more beyond the works of Cor-reggio, Parmigianino, Leonar-do Da Vinci, Fra’ Angelico, El Greco, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and Van Dick, and to delve into the personality of the Parma na-tives. They are known within the Emilia region as bit snobby and a little sly. They consider their city to be a mini-Paris, and they never miss an oppor-tunity to reiterate that Parma is the city of Giuseppe Verdi – a declaration which greatly up-sets residents from the near-by Piacenza. Admittedly, Verdi was born in 1813 in Roncole di Busseto, in the province of Parma, but he spent the ma-jority of his life in a peaceful villa located in Sant’Agata di Villanova, in the province of Pi-acenza. A true passion for the Parma people is to parade the fact that Marie Louise made the city of duchy, transforming it from an indebted and poor town into an opulent and cul-tured one. Tradition beckons that the area’s typical pronun-ciation of the letter R with a French accent was acquired by its French-influenced Italian!

Creating a system

The great development of Parma, Capital of Italian Culture, is recognizing the im-portance of creating an ecosystem of cui-sine alongside knowledge; in other words, designing the territory of the culinary excellencies which includes the closest provinces, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia. It is an important challenge for the Emilia Tourist Destination, whose aim is to unite the territory’s hospitality experiences, which are motive for bragging. Pierangelo Romersi, the director of Emilia Tourist Destination, is convinced that “Parma, the 2020-2021 culture capital, can trans-form into Emilia 2020-2021, representing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the region.” A novelty that demonstrates how important it is to network in order to transform an event into a real opportunity for economic development.

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Must-see shows

Parma chose a suggestive theme to welcome its visitors: “Culture is the beat of time.” During the event you can visit the cross vault of the Old Hos-pital where there will be an exhibit intitled “Hospital – the future of memory.” It is an in-stallation that tells hospital’s story, born from the channels, the water mills and the floods. There are two virtual actors who take on the role of the first-person narrative or as a witness to the events. You cannot miss the highly valu-able program of Teatro Regio. There are numerous foodie events, with the Parma Ham Consortium, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium and the culinary experiences of Aca-demia Barilla at the front line. For those who want to get to know the economic system of the Parma area, they can visit the businesses that participate in the “Open doors” project.

Emilia to visit and savour

Parma is known for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Parma ham and Culatello di Zi-bello, but there are many other delicious options shared with Piacenza and Reggio Emilia. Here are just a few numbers:
• 167 cheese producers in Parma, and 99 in Reggio Emilia for Parmigiano Reg-giano cheese, and 20 producers in Pia-cenza for Grana Padano cheese;
• 132 cured meat producers dedicated to Parma ham, 13 specialized in the production of PDO-certified Piacen-za-style salamis, 14 for the Felino sa-lami, 23 for Culatello di Zibello and 14 members of the Culatello Consortium and of the Ancient Producers of Cu-latello and Spalla Cruda;
• 26 members of the Traditional Bal-samic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia Con-sortium;
• 147 wineries for PDO wines, 22 of which are in Parma, 90 in Piacenza and 35 in Reggio Emilia.

The Parma (PR), Piacenza (PC) and Reg-gio Emilia (RE) area counts seven Miche-lin star restaurants: La Palta in Borgon-ovo in Val Tidone (PC), Nido del Picchio in Carpaneto Piacentino (PC), Inkiostro in Parma, Parizzi in Parma, Antica Corte Pallavicina in Polesine Parmense (PR), Ca’ Matilde in Quattro Castella / Rubbi-anino (RE) and Arnaldo-Clinica Gastro-nomica in Rubiera (RE).

Rich culinary heritage

The culinary heritage of the city is a unique combination of resources and excellencies that constitute the identity and the history of the community. From the Parma ham, appreciat-ed already in Roman times, to the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, invented in the Early Middle Ages by Benedictine and Cistercians monks, the list goes on to include Culatello di Zibel-lo, Felino salami, the Parma Coppa, the Black Truffle from Fragno, the Borgotaro mushrooms, and the wine from the hills. The entrepreneur-ial capacity has further transformed the Parma area into the heart of the food conservation, with products such as tomatoes, baked goods and pasta. It has given life to a club of products known as “Parma City of Gastronomy”. As you gather around the table, the menu offers an abundancy of flavours that come from a heavy cuisine. It starts with the fried cake “Torta frit-ta,” similar to the fried breads, or “gnocco,” typical of Modena and Reggio Emilia. It is to be paired with cured meats and “Vécia col pisst” (horse pesto). There is a vast choice of stuffed pastas such as Anolini, Tortelli with a filling made with greens, “Tortél Dóls” (sweet tortelli, made with a sweet and sour filling), potato gn-occhi, and a rice bomb with squab. Meat is the star of the main entrees, such as stuffed veal, Parma-style tripe and “Stracotto” beef roast.

Cakes and sweets

The typical sweets are numerous and various: the result of an intersection of tradition and his-tory. Fried foods are a traditional option with the “Chiacchiere” made during the Carnival time together with sweet Tortelli. Another tradition regards the patron saint, Saint Ilario, with typ-ical butter cookies shaped to look like a shoe. There is also an homage to Marie Louise, the duchess of Parma, with candied violets and the Duchess Cake, an elaborate production of discs made with hazelnut paste, pastry cream and chocolate ganache. The influence of the “Bassa Padana” territory leads to the dessert “Sponga-da,” which is a cake made with nuts and honey.

Reinterpreted cuisine

The Piacenza area, in particular, stands out for its numerous farm-to-table restaurants, many of which are repre-sented by the “Mangiare Piacentino” circuit. This organization’s goal is to of-fer the various recipes of the traditional Emilia-area cuisine. But they also suc-cessfully experiment with more modern dishes and desserts. This is the case of the Strawberry Charlotte, created by the farm restaurant Podere Illica, a building that dates back to the 1600’s which was transformed into a villa in the 1800’s. It is property of the Luigi Illica family, who was the librettist of Puccini and Mascagni.

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