Long walk, long post….and a bit of history

17 Dec

Last sunday it was sunny and not so cold as the days before. Hubby had his weekly appointment with the football match (an important one, that marked the 100th anniversary of the team foundation). All the Christmas gifts were already wrapped and some even delivered, the tree was up and so were the season decorations, so me and daughter M had nothing urgent to do. What’s better than a walk through town then, to enjoy the sun, our beautiful town, and exercise as well?

We choose to pass through the Ducale City Park to reach the town center……

See the initials LM under the crown on the gate? Those are Marie-Louise’s, Duchess of Parma, as well as the the second wife of Napoleon I, who choose the park and the inside palace as her summer residence. The Ducal Garden , which has once again been transformed back to its 18th century aspect, was an idea of Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza towards 1560, who requested a park for the villa that had once been an ancient manor land with rosemary and myrtle bushes, oak, sycamore and pine trees, fruit trees and vegetables, many potted citrus trees that were placed in heated rooms in the wintertime, and also fish ponds and small woods. The construction of the big fish pond, the lake at the park’s center, was made upon request by Ranuccio II in 1690, a naval battle representation in occasion of the marriage of his first-born son, Odoardo with the daughter of the Palatine Elector. In 1745, during the war of Austrian Succession, the century-old trees in the garden were cut and burned to fuel troop fires.Only in 1749 with the arrival of Filippo di Borbone the park was completely redone upon the project of Ennemond Alexandre Petitot (who contributed so much to the city architecture of the time), with sculptures of Jean Baptiste Boudard and Pierre Costant.

The Trianon Fountain (1712-1719) was constructed on the little island found at the center of the lake originally for the garden of the Colorno Royal Palace by Giuliano Mozzani, and only in 1920 was it placed in its
current position favoring the theatrical taste of the French parks. It represents the Parma and Taro Rivers and the name is only a reference to the fountain of the Versailles gardens, which Mozzani tried to emulate

After the national unity, the park changed into the Town’s hands and was then open to the public. In order to be more accessible to public use, the wall was torn down and new entrances were created among which the one that opens onto the Verdi Bridge (Ponte Verdi) connecting the park with the city center. The improper use of several areas of the park and the lack of upkeep unfortunately accelerated the degradation of the park necessitating the complete restoration. Now the park is clean, the trees and the green are well taken care of, and the people is enjoying it the whole year.

We got out through the gate that leads to the Verdi Bridge, along the Parma river, near the Rocchetta (tower)…………..

…..just in front of the Pilotta Palace.  Its name derives from the game of pelota (spanish for ball) that was played in its courtyards at the time of the spanish domination. Built around 1583, during the last years of reign of Duke Ottavio Farnese, it developed around the corridor (Corridore) which connected the keep (Rocchetta, traces of which can be seen next the river Parma) to the Ducal Palace: the latter, begun in 1622 under Duke Ranuccio I, was never completed. the façade on the Piazza della Ghiaia is missing and the annexed Dominican church of St. Peter was demolished only in recent times. The existing complex includes three courts: the Cortile di San Pietro Martire (now best known as Cortile della Pilotta), Cortile del Guazzatoio (originally della pelota) and the Cortile della Racchetta. The Pilotta was to house a large hall, later turned into the Teatro Farnese, the stables and the grooms’ residences, the Academy Hall and other rooms. After the end of the Farnese family the edifice was sacked starting with Duke Charles I, who moved all the Farnese assets to Naples.Presently the edifice includes: the National Archaeological Museum, the School of Art Toschi (which my daughter attended), the Palatine Library, the Bodoni Museum, the Farnese Theatre and the National Gallery.

After that we walked along narrow alleys and winding streets in the very heart of town….. keeping our noses up….or poking our heads inside hidden courtyards (we decided that if caught, we could spoke in english pretend to be tourists….lol)

We found ourselves in a very colorful streets, where the shops there sold their items also outside………

At the end of that street we passed before the Oratory founded by Father Onorio………..

The small clouds that veiled the sky magically disappeared and the sun was shining again, coming with us till the Citadel.

Alessandro Farnese, the third Duke of Parma, towards the end of the 16th century, commissioned this fortress that is in pentagonal form surrounded with moats and bastions.He projected it to the last detail inspired by the fortress in Anversa by Francesco Paciotto. The “Cittadella” never once defended the city from invaders, who in fact, occupied it at times. Instead, it used its power against subversive individuals becoming a prison and torture chamber. It was transformed into a police barracks, but over the last years it has become a public park, maintaining parts of the ancient structure, such as the pentagonal base plan and entranceway.

Under the arch of the entrance there’s a plaque remembering Albert von Neipperg, Marie-Louise Duchess of Parma’s morganatic husband, married after the death of Napoleon I.

By the time we reached the river again, the sun was going for good, and it was time for a little cappuccino break……….

We met by chance two of daughter M friends there, so the break was longer than planned, outside it was already dark, and our walk towards home seemed longer than usual………

Luckily for me I already had cooked dinner before leaving, a ricotta and red radicchio pie………….

After dinner, my daughter checked on Google Maps how long we walked in the afternoon…..5,600 miles….but my feet already knew that………….










1 Comment

Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized



One response to “Long walk, long post….and a bit of history

  1. africankelli

    December 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you for taking us along on your adventure! I loved these photos. The Christmas decorations in particular were a lot of fun, and the history of the buildings.


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