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Pedal through Parma's parks

by Elena Guarneri last modified 2008-06-20 15:10

As Parma's Parco Ducale opens its gates once more we wheel out our bicycles and go for a springtime cycle through Parma's magnificent parks.

Pedal through Parma's parksSpring has sprung, and what better way to herald it than a cycle through one (or all) of Parma's parks. Start off from the Parco Ducale, resplendent after its recent facelift. Some 460 new trees have recently been planted in the park and over 600 other trees treated for disease which, along with its miles of hedgerows are expanses of lawn make it a favourite hangout for all those looking for some peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
The park was planned and laid out more than 200 years ago for Parma's Bourbon Rulers by the French landscape gardener Ennemond Alexandre Petitot. It is considered to be one of Europe's finest public gardens, thanks in part to a wonderful collection of statues by the 18th century sculptor Jean Baptiste Boudard and, with its 160 lamps, is the ideal place for a romantic moonlit stroll.
While in the park visit the Duke's Palace built in1561, and the recently restored (1998) Temple of Arcady which once played host to Don Ferdinand of Bourbon and Maria Amalia of Habsburg's wedding celebrations and is now a popular meeting place and exhibition space.
The Cittadella - the fort that never was
Keen cyclists will pedal on to the Cittadella Park, a five-sided fortress complete with ramparts and moat (which, for the record, is now dry). Built to the south of Parma between the 16th and 17th centuries it soon proved ineffective as the knowledge dawned that no enemy would ever attack the city from the south! Used for centuries as a barracks and prison it now offers an open-air gym for keep-fit fanatics as well as welcome shade in the summer months.

It's back on your bike again for the short trip down the road to the Botanical Gardens. The gardens were first opened as a public park with the glasshouses and house (both by Petitot) being later additions. The house is now given over to an extensive library where you can look up antique herbals and view a remarkable collection of seeds and pollen.

To finish off your trip head for Saint John's Convent Garden. The gardens which surround the early 16th century Benedictine church once supplied the convent's ancient pharmacy - La Spezieria di San Giovanni - which is open to visitors.
At this stage you'll have worked up quite an appetite. Worry not, you're in Italy's Food Valley where a gourmet meal is never far from hand. We like "I Corrieri" in Via Conservatorio and "Sorelle Picchi" in Via Farini where the culatello di Zibello, tortelli and cappelletti are all particularly good - especially when washed down with a glass of the best Lambrusco from Fortanina di San Secondo.

Links - Parma's bilingual tourism portal. The English version is still somewhat incomplete
Emilia Romagna - An index of the main tourist cities in Emilia Romagna with useful information including museum opening hours - The best of Parma online
Botanical Gardens - Lots of information unfortunately in Italian only
Verdi's places - Parma's parks and gardens

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