What is amazing about this monument is its octagonal shape. This was the first and only octagonal monument I have ever seen in my entire life. The Baptistery was constructed in the 12th century (next to the Cathedral). It was made completely of white marble and pink in the region. The inside is beautiful, with great frescoes and mosaics that adorn some walls. Its dome is incredible, with 15 stories from the Bible. The sculptures inside are also amazing. The building is of Romanesque and Gothic art.
Interestingly enough, the name of this building derives from the Basque ball game that was played on one of its lawns. This grand palace was built by the Farnese family between 1583 and 1622. Complete with three palaces, it also houses three museums: The National Archaeological, the National Gallery, the Bodoni Museum, the Palatine Library, the School of Art and the impressive Teatro Farnese. It's so big that the construction took and cannot be attributed to any particular architect. If you only have a short time, then you cannot possibly explore all of its museums, however I recommend a quick visit to the interesting Farnese Theatre.
Yes, it exists. Literally. It's located a few kilometers from the city of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. A good plan is to get up early so you'll have time to see the entire process required to make the authentic Parmesan cheese, or as they say in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The factory is made up of different halls, each with a different function. The most interesting of all is the Sala di Stagionatura where hundreds and hundreds of cheeses and stacked along high corridors to age. It's simply spectacular!
When talking about Parma, it's natural to talk about it's cuisine as well, like its wonderful "Parmigianino" cheese. Parma is in the region of Emilia Romagna with castles and cuisine, and where lyric opera is an essential part of the culture. It's the birthplace of big names like Giuseppe Verdi, Arturo Toscanini, Giovannino Guareschi, the author of Don Camillo, poet Attilio Bertolucci, and Bernardo Bertolucci. It's world famous for the Teatro Regio, Parma football team, Parmalat, the Barilla, perfumes (Parma violets), Acqua di Parma and its gastronomy. Its streets are quiet, with the houses dressed in warm tones like yellow, earth, and mustard. It's a college town, with a lot of young people, the majority of which travel by bicycle. There is nothing like sitting on a terrace on a summer afternoon sampling the alleged cheeses and having a special lemonade to beat the heat.
This weekend we saw the fabulous Rufus Wainwright in the Teatro Regio. What a venue, excellent acoustics, a beautiful grand piano and red velvet seats. I have previously seen Vinicio Capossella here, who as a local boy received a standing ovation. Both artists are great singers, pianists and showmen.
However most people visit the Teatro Regio for the celebrated Verdi festival during the month of October. At least two of the maestro's operas are performed during the festival. The streets of Parma echo to the strains of his best known arias, costumes and props can be seen in the shop windows and the restaurants offer Verdi themed menus. Getting tickets can be difficult and may require extensive queuing however for the first this year they were available for purchase online.
I support Rufus' claim that the ghosts of Parma's two A list celebrities, Verdi and Maria Luigia, still linger in the theater's opulent surrounds.
Monte Caio is a small ski area about an hour from Parma. It is also a good place for snowshoeing. There are the pistes, some marked trails and many smaller tracks to explore. Monte Caio is the highest point at 1584m. and on a clear day offers views across the Apennines. The Rifugios in the area also offer guided evening snowshoe excursions under the light of the full moon.