Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta
The Pilotta Palace (name deriving from the “pelota” game played in its ample courtyards) was initiated around 1580 with the construction of a long-roofed Corridore, connecting the buildings of the court located in the vicinity of today’s via Garibaldi with the Duke’s summer residence situated in the Oltretorrente park.
Nonetheless, the majority of construction works were only inaugurated in 1602 at the request of the Duke Ranuccio I Farnese. A series of buildings surrounding the Corridore were erected under the direction of the architect Simone Moschino: the new buildings encircled three large courtyards, later named Guazzatoio, Pilotta and Rocchetta.
Never adapted as a ducal residence, the palace became a monumental structure serving the courtly household. It hosted a stable, the barracks, a warehouse, the secret archives and the treasury, as well as an armoury, later on transformed into a theatre. The interiors were accessible by the monumental scissor staircase, the first example in Italy of three-flight stairs under an octagonal dome.
In 1611 construction was suspended; the main facade, which was supposed to overlook the Ghiaia di Serravalle river, remained in the design stage and the Pilotta Palace would never undergo any further significant changes to its external structure.
During the second half of the XVIIIth century, under the reign of the Bourbons, the building redefined its function as the main premises of the ducal cultural institutions, such as the newly founded Archaeological Museum, the Palatina Library, the Art Gallery and the Academy of Fine Arts.
Although the majority of further changes only affected the interiors, under the Duchy of Marie Louise a new building, for use as an extension to the library, was attached to the south part of the palace.
In May 1944 aerial bombing destroyed a large part of the south and west wings of the Pilotta Palace and although the Pilotta was reconstructed at the end of the war, the demolition of the Church of San Pietro Martine (1813) and of the ducal residences contributed to the air of incompleteness of the monumental complex that remains unaltered to this day.
The Pilotta Palace houses within its walls the Farnese Theatre,
the National Gallery of Parma, the National Archaeological Museum and the Palatina Library, which hosts the Bodoni Museum.
The Pilotta Palace, an impressive symbol of the ducal power of the Farnese family as well as the historic and civilian centre of the city of Parma, is today a unique complex. The Farnese Theatre, the National Gallery of Parma, the National Archaeological Museum and the Palatina Library, which houses the Bodoni Museum, united by their ancient history and yet separated by time, are together once more, giving life to a cultural and scientific centre that opens to a new dialogue with citizens and visitors alike.
Parma, chosen as the Italian Cultural Capital of 2020, offers a great deal to visitors, both from an artistic point of view and that of food and wine. After a visit to the Bodoni Museum and the treasures held at the Pilotta Palace, a visit of the city can easily continue on foot. Indeed, not far away are the Royal Theatre (Teatro Regio) and the Chiesa della Steccata, as well as the splendid Piazza Duomo, with its Romanesque cathedral and baptistery, in pink marble from the XIIth century. Behind the Duomo is the Chiesa di San Giovanni, which is smaller and more austere, but of great interest due to its frescoes.
Only a few minutes’ walk away, you reach Piazza Garibaldi, in which you can still make out the ancient grid – cardo and decumanus – a legacy of the city’s ancient Roman foundation, formed by today’s via Cavour, via Farini and via Repubblica. Looking onto the piazza are the city council (Municipio) and the governor’s palace (Palazzo del Governatore) with its great sundial and a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi at its centre.
Parma is also famed for its culinary tradition, being named UNESCO Creative City for gastronomy in Italy in 2015. After tasting the typical products of the area (Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, culatello di Zibello, salame di Felino and fungo di Borgotaro) and traditional recipes, anyone with time to spare can visit the numerous castles and villas in the surrounding area.
Information and suggestions for visiting the city and environs can be found www.turismo.comune.parma.it