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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Parma Italy - City Life and Country Side in one place

Nestled in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy is the picturesque city of Parma. Home to 180,000 Parmesans, Parma covers an area of just over 100 sq miles along the Parma River and Parma Valley.

A quick Google search will give you insight to just how gorgeous the city is, but it's nothing compared to experiencing Parma's beauty first-hand.

Part of what makes the city so stunning is the historic architecture. Created by master craftsmen, many of the buildings are hundreds of years old, exemplifying the changing styles throughout the time from as far back as 800 years. The Baptistery of Parma was built in 1196. Considered one of the most important monuments to Medieval culture in Europe, the octagon shaped building's exterior is made entirely of pink marble and is a true testament to the transition between Romanesque and Gothic styles during its creation.

It's also home to the University of Parma. Built in the 12th century, it's one of the oldest universities in the world and still educates over 30,000 students a years.

One of the top attractions for tourists is the Teatro Farnese, a Baroque-style theater. Built in 1618, the famous structure was the pinnacle of designer Giovanni Battista Aleotti's career. The theater suffered severe damage after an allied airstrike during World War II, but given the theater's history and importance in Parma culture, residents believed it deserved to be restored back to its original glory. Rebuilding the theater took almost 20 years to complete, but was finally open for viewers again in 1962.

But the city is all brick and mortar, it's also filled with squares and small parks that are lined with trees and greenery. The largest of the parks, the Parco Ducale, is located in the center of the city, just beyond the River Parma. It's a popular spot for residents and visitors to take a scenic stroll.

In the spring time, white and pink flowers cover the trees, causing a fairy-tale like rain of pedals everywhere you go. Professional poker star and Parma resident Kara Scott, who as PartyPoker on Twitter mentioned is getting ready for her big day (wedding!), wrote on her blog that while beautiful, the "sneeze-inducing snowflakes" can be a nightmare for those with hay fever. But even so, make sure you have your camera ready to take some photos of those gorgeous trees.

Aside from its history, culture, and breathtaking views, residents (or Parmesans) pride themselves on their cuisine. They're known world-wide for three things in particular: pasta, prosciutto, and not surprisingly, parmesan cheese. Created by monks in the Middle Ages, Parmesan cheese was fittingly named after its city of origin. By the time of the Renaissance, parmesan cheese's popularity was quickly spreading throughout Italy, being enjoyed by people of all classes, including nobility.

Many places in Parma still make the cheese using the same traditional methods. Visitors can take tours of the cheese shops and watch the skillful cheese craftsmen at work. There are also tours to see how another one of Parma's specialities is made, prosciutto. Meats are salted and hung half a dozen shelves high in workshops to cure. Guests can learn about the process of preparing the meats and also try some of the finished product for themselves.

A gorgeous place to learn about Italy's history, or sample some authentic cuisine, this little piece of Italian heaven is perfect for a romantic getaway, living it up with friends, or even exploring on a fun adventure of your own.

The Baptistery of Parma
The Baptistery of Parma 

Piece of Parmesan cheese
Piece of Parmesan cheese

Plaza Garibaldi in Parma, Italy
Plaza Garibaldi in Parma, Italy

Riverside view in Parma
Riverside view in Parma