Article and pictures by Marcello Invernizzi, all rights reserved.

The town of Parma was probably founded by the etruscans and under roman rule it had a certain importance as a road hub along the via Aemilia and the via Claudia, a role that it has retained even in later periods. During the dark ages it changed hands several times and in the 14th and the 15th centuries it was involved in the italian wars. In 1545 pope Paul III bestowed Parma and Piacenza as a duchy to his son, Pier Luigi Farnese whose descendants would continue to rule the city until the 18th century.

The construction of the fortress was decided in 1589 by Duke Alessandro Farnese, then Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, likely inspired by the example of the citadel of Antwerp and with the stated goal of strengthening the already existing bastioned enceinte. The citadel is a regular pentagon with retired flanks fitted with a lower tie of casemate batteries on the sides facing the town. Access is through two main gates, a monumental one towards the city and a more modest one towards the countryside; sally ports were also included in the oreillons of all bastions.

Terrain characteristics led to the choice of the southern portion of the town as location of the new fortress, which required some modifications to the urban walls to accommodate it. Works started in 1591 and were characterized by some episodes of contractor fraud and shoddy workmanship which were probably the cause of the later collapse of some parts. A number of modifications, such as the addition of ravelins, cavaliers and various internal buildings were undertaken in the following centuries.

The citadel was never besieged and was employed mainly as barracks, prison and deterrent against popular uprisings; nowadays it is a public park. While the main structure was spared from the demolition of the town fortifications the internal buildings and outworks were razed and the casemate batteries in the bastion flanks filled up. A partial restoration has been carried out and the casemates have been uncovered in one of the bastions.

Parma can be reached using the Milan-Bologna railway or the Milan-Naples and Parma-La Spezia motorways.

Article and pictures by Marcello Invernizzi, all rights reserved.

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