Interesting facts about Parma


Parma is a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

It is situated on the Parma River, northwest of Bologna.

As of November 2020, the population of Parma is about 200,000 people.

The city covers a total area of 260 square kilometers (100 square miles).

The average altitude is 55 metres (180 feet) above sea level.


The city was most probably founded and named by the Etruscans, for parmula, dissimilated from palmula, from palma meaning “hand”, referring to the shield being handheld.

The Roman colony was founded in 183 BC. Parma had a certain importance as a road hub over the Via Aemilia and the Via Claudia. It had a forum, in what is today the central Garibaldi Square.

In 44 BC the city was destroyed – subsequently Augustus rebuilt it.

During the Roman Empire [map below], it gained the title of Julia for its loyalty to the imperial house.

roman empire

Attila sacked the city in 452, and the Germanic king Odoacer later gifted it to his followers. During the Gothic War, however, Totila destroyed it.

It was then part of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna – changing its name to Chrysopolis, “Golden City”, probably due to the presence of the imperial treasury – and, from 569, of the Lombard Kingdom of Italy.

The city was ruled by its bishops from the 9th century.

Parma enjoyed communal liberty in the late 12th and 13th centuries, until its involvement in the struggles between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy in the early 14th century led to its subjugation by a series of lordships.

parma history

Made part of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza by Pope Paul III in 1545, it was held by the Farnese dukes and later passed to the Austrians, from whom it was taken by Napoleon, who in 1815 gave it to his second consort, Marie Louise of Austria.

In 1831 and 1848 it took part in the risings for independence and in 1861 became part of united Italy.


During World War II the city was extensively damaged by Allied bombardment.

Today, Parma is famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese and surrounding countryside.

Parma Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Parma, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the episcopal seat of the Diocese of Parma. It is an important Italian Romanesque cathedral: the dome, in particular, is decorated by a highly influential illusionistic fresco by Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio.

Parma Cathedral

The Baptistery of Parma is a religious edifice in Parma. Architecturally, the baptistery of Parma Cathedral marks a transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and it is considered to be among the most important Medieval monuments in Europe.

Baptistery of Parma

The Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata is a Greek-cross design Renaissance church in central Parma. The name derives from the fence or steccato used to corral the numerous devotees who visited a venerated image of the Madonna. A Nursing Madonna is enshrined within, crowned on 27 May 1601 by a Marian devotee, Fray Giacomo di Forli of the Capuchin order.

Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata

San Giovanni Evangelista is a church in Parma, part of a complex also including a Benedictine convent and grocery. The marble façade of the church was designed by Simone Moschino in proto-Baroque style in 1604, and completed in 1607. The bell tower on the right side, perhaps designed by Giovanni Battista Magnani, was completed in 1613. With a height of 75 meters, it is the tallest in Parma.

San Giovanni Evangelista

San Paolo is a former convent in central Parma. It is best known for housing the Camera di San Paolo (Chamber of St Paul), decorated by a masterpiece of fresco work (1519) by Correggio. Tradition holds that the monastery was erected on the spot where Godescalco, the son-in-law of the Lombard king Agilulf, converted to Christianity and took the name Paolo. Supposedly he endowed the convent after his young wife had died during childbirth between 599 and 602.

San Paolo

The Palazzo della Pilotta is a complex of edifices located in the historical centre of Parma. Its name derives from the game of pelota played at one time by Spanish soldiers stationed in Parma. It was built around 1583, during the last years of reign of Duke Ottavio Farnese.

palazzo della pilotta

Teatro Regio di Parma, originally constructed as the Nuovo Teatro Ducale, is an opera house and opera company in Parma, Italy. Replacing an obsolete house, the new Ducale achieved prominence in the years after 1829, and especially so after the composer Giuseppe Verdi, who was born near Busseto, some 30 kilometres away, had achieved fame. Also well known in Parma was the conductor Arturo Toscanini, born there in 1867.

teatro regio di parma

Parma is famous for its food and rich gastronomical tradition: two of its specialties are Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (also produced in Reggio Emilia), and Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), both given Protected Designation of Origin status. Parma also claims several stuffed pasta dishes like “tortelli d’erbetta” and “anolini in brodo”.

In 2004 Parma was appointed the seat of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and was appointed to the Creative Cities Network as UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

Parma also has two food multinationals, Barilla and Parmalat and a medium-large food tourism sector represented by Parma Golosa and Food Valley companies.