It’s one of the most taken pictures in Parma, the Ducale Palace, located in the Ducale Park in the city center, near the river. I see it every time I decide to take the park route to work, and I’ve always taken it for granted, it’s just there….One day my daughter told me that a local Publishing Home, specialized in books about our local history and working with our university, was about to have free tour guides in some special places around town. Could we skip the opportunity? Surely not….The first tour was exactly that, the Ducale Palace…
The palace was built from 1561 on the orders of the Duke of Parma Ottavio Farnese and was the seat of the ducal court until the second half of the seventeenth century, when the seat of the duchy was transferred to other buildings located next to the Pilotta Palace . Its construction was necessary to equip the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza with a permanent location for the court. They chose an area near the ancient castle of the Sforza family and the project was entrusted to Jacopo Barozzi called Vignola. The construction work was directed by Giovanni Francesco Testa . The construction type was that of the Florentine and Roman homes that the Farnese were building in those same years (including the Farnese Palace in Rome and one in Caprarola). In front of the palace it was built by Giovanni Boscolii a magnificent fountain with statues and fountains that made it very popular at the time. It is said that travelers passing by Parma couldn’t lack a visit. Vitelli, in a letter written to Pico della Mirandola , argued that the celebrated fountains in Caprarola were worth nothing compared to this. It was completely demolished in the second half of the eighteenth century, perhaps because of health problems it posed, on the occasion of the modernization works of the building made by Petitot . The decoration of the rooms was entrusted to various prominent artists of the time, including Jerome Mirola, Jacopo Zanguidii called Bertoja, Agostino carracci, Jan Soens, Cesare Baglioni, Giovanni Battista Trotti called Malosso and Luca Reti. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the building was modified and expanded, first bySimone Moschino and then by Girolamo Rainaldi , who added the courtyards and the lateral structure, to the initial quadrilateral structure.
The building reached its peak during the rule of Ranuccio Farnese, but during the reign of his son Odoardo, absorbed by military commitments and paying little attention to the court life, it met a gradual abandonment. In the last two decades of the seventeenth century the new Duke Ranuccio II Farnese gave start to works of renovation of the palace and the ducal gardens. In the eighteenth century it was mainly the French architect Ennemond Petitot who renewed the look of the building. After the Unification of Italy the palace housed the Military School of Infantry. During World War II it suffered an aerial bombardment which caused serious damage. After the war the palace and the garden appeared largely devastated due to the war. The reconstruction works found significant obstruction by bureaucracy, until in 1953 the building became the seat of the Command of the Legion of Carabinieri of Parma. The reconstruction of the south-west wing of the building, completely destroyed, began just in 1959 and ended in 1968 (sadly enough I can remember when my grandfather took me there for the unveiling….lol).
A monumental eighteenth century staircase leads to a large living room on the first floor……….
Dell’Aetas Felicior room (or “Hall of Kiss”) reveals frescoes from Bertoja between 1570 and 1573 with scenes representing the myth of Venus and Love. The hall takes its name from the Latin Aetas Felicior that stands on a frame that runs along the ceiling.It is also called “the Kiss Hall” for the dance scene with the detail of the kiss that can be seen between columns of transparent crystal, a typical creation of late Mannerism, where space is used as a tool of naturalistic illusion.
Hall of Love – The vault is frescoed by Agostino carracci with three representations of love: maternal love (Venus watching his son Enea while he travels towards Italy), heavenly love between Venus and Mars and the human love between Peleus and Thetis. Carracci died in 1602 before finishing the work, which was completed in 1679-80 by Carlo Cignani.
This is said Hall of Birds, for the ceiling decorated with stucco and fresco of Benigno Bossi, representing 224 different species of birds.
The Palace currently houses the Provincial Command of the Carabinieri of Parma and one of the venues of the RIS (Department of scientific investigations’ Carabinieri ). It is expected to be the representative office of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA ).