ARCHITECTURE IN THE PARK
Probably, the existing palace was originally a Visconti castle built along the river Parma in order to protect the city walls.
In the 16th century Ottavio Farnese decided to transform it into his new residence, changing into a garden the huge green area surrounding it.
Several painters decorated the ducal residence over the years. We can still admire 16th and 17th centuries frescoes by Mirola, Bertoia, Tiarini and the mythological representations painted by Agostino Carracci, Carlo Cignani and Gian Battista Trotti, known as Malosso.
In the 17th century, a big fountain wich was later demolished, could be still found in an entrance hall communicating with the outside park.
According to Filippo of Borbone's will, in 18th century the architect Ennemond Alexandre. Petitot restored the building, imitating the classical style.
Inner halls were newly decorated and among them Bossi painted the extraordinary vault of the Sala degli Uccelli.
In 19th century Maria Louise of Austria also commissioned some alterations to Nicolò Bettoli, the planner of Theatre Regio.
The palace was partially destroyed during world war II bombings and later rebuilt.
During recent restoration works a new lighting system has been installed.
Excavations in front of the palace have brought to light remnants which are likeky to be the foundations of S. Michele in Bosco church, demolished under Ottavio Farnese.
Stratifications of the city defensive walls belonging to medieval times as well as a stretch of the canal bringing water to the monumental fountain were also found during the digging.
All the small finds were retrieved and recorded for further studies.
Palazzetto Eucherio Sanvitale
The Palazzetto Eucherio Sanvitale is a good example of architecture typical of Emilia and Lombardy between the end of 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. It was built before the garden even existed. It is believed that it was entrusted to a parmesan architect linked to the Da Erba family by Monsignor Benedetto Accolti, who came from Florence and was in charge with the provostry of Umiliati San Michele in Bosco in Parma. It is however quite difficult to get to know who projected the building, even though, thanks to the exquisite floral bas-relief around the windows, we can infer that the sculptor Ferrari d'Agrate worked at it. At that time the palazzetto was isolated in a large green area inside the town walls. It has a four-sided plan with towers in the corners, while the east and west sides are charachterised by two open galleries with five arcades and pillars following the tuscan style. The charm of this little building is probably due to its regular, geometrical and symbolic plan. Its architecture reminds us of contemporary works by architect Alessio Tramello, with its huge central hall and side corridors , based on an orthogonal pattern. Even if this type of architecture draws inspiration from Lombardic style, it clearly forstalls Palladio classic villas. As a matter of fact, Benedetto Accolti was a learned humanist leading a secluded life, devoted to reading, the pleasures of country life and the study of classics, as the humanist sayings engraved on the architrave of the building entrances prove.
Duke Ottavio Farnese probably bought the palazzetto in the seventh decade of 16th century from the Umiliati, in order to enclose it in the huge garden he was creating. In 17th century Ranuccio the first made it a place for contemplative life and took to an end the interior decoration, among which is the chapel in the south-east tower. The frescoes dating back to 16th and 17th century can still be admired in the four side rooms and in the chapel. In the south-west room we can find in a lunette a Virgin with the Holy Child by Parmigianino.
During recent restoration works the building has been consolidated and a plastic model of the garden in 18th century is now displayed for visitors inside.
During recent restoration works the foundations and façade have been consolidated while all fixtures and fittings have been conformed to safety regulations.
Frescoes decorating the main hall and loggias have been also retrieved and restored.
The decorations of other inner rooms and chapel had been previously resotred by the Parma Municipality.
The temple was designed by Petitot on the occasion of the wedding of Ferdinando, the son of Don Filippo of Borbone, and Maria Amalia of Austria (1769) and it was meant to be an exclusive place for the amusement of dukes inside the Park.
It was used several times as a stage for Arcadian plays and poetry contests.
Nearby the temple was the 18th century Silenus carved by Jean-Baptiste Boudard which would be moved to the "étoile" in 1920.
A mould of the restored statues will be put in their original place.
The temple and its decorations have been recently restored. Even the surrounding area has been rearranged according to Petitot's original project.
Excavations have brought light traces of a wooden canalisation which used to bring water to an artificial spring. The latter was meant to create an Arcadian pastoral scenery on the occasion of the Duke's wedding in 1769.
Monumental gate of S. Croce Square
The gate was designed by Petitot at the same time of the Park new planning and its heraldry was later renewed under Marie Louise of Austria. Then, at the beginning of 20th century, two side gates were added.
The initials placed on the coat of arms actually refer to the Duchess.
Even the gate, which was recovered many years ago by the Parma Municipality (Patrimonio Artistico), has been recently restored, as well as the gates and keeper's lodges of the Verdi Bridge (Via Farnese).
At the missing parts have been reinserted.
The Orangeries were built to give shelter to plants during winter time, but were later
discarded and used as tool creeb.
After a complete restoration, they currently house the cafeteria and the bookshop of the park.
The greenhouses were built at the beginning of the 20th century in order to give shelter to the gardener's tools and plants during the cold winter time.
These greenhouses were built to substitute the 18th century's conservatory placed on the east side of the park, which were kept for military use.
After recent restoration works, the greenhouses are going to house the restaurant of the Park, while the small annexe will give shelter to tropical orchids.
Teatro al Parco
The building, a typical example of the 30's architecture, was originally a pavilion of Parma Fair.
It was later used as a warehouse and finally became a theatre and the seat of Teatro delle Briciole at the end of the 80's.
The building is currently being completed restored.
Recent restoration works have allowed to retrieve even the last stretch of the old ramparts, running along the north path between the "Teatro al Parco" and the "Palazzo Ducale". These 16th
century ramparts were used by Petitot as sideboards for his "terrasses", raised paths lined with trees which proved an ideal viewpoint of the park and surroundings.
Between the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century the ramparts gradually fell into disuse and were eventually demolished.
The plastic model of the garden in 1769
The plastic model, devised by Architect Carlo Mambriani (University of Ferrara), was realized in 2002 by Architect Franco Gizdulich team in Firenze and is based on cartography acquired and digitally processed by Eliofototecnica Barbieri of Parma. The model, which is sponsored by Cariparma Foundation, has been lent to the Municipality of Parma and is displaied in the Palazzetto "Eucherio Sanvitale", protected by a Saint Gobain crystal casket produced by Tecnovetro (Medesano - Pr).
The plastic model represents the garden as it was in 1769, the year of the wedding celebrations for the marriage between young Duke Don Ferdinando of Borbone Parma and Maria Amalia Hapsburg. The court architect, Ennemond Alexandre Petitot (1727-1801) was entrusted with the planning of three settings to be placed in the garden he had designed fifteen years before.
The Arcadia Wood
The arcadia wood was the ideal setting of the main celebrations, thanks to the fake ruins of a temple, the princes stage, the Chinese Fair in the southern horse-chestnut's room and the Amphitheatre for the tournement in the centre of the étoile.
The fake temple and hills which used to support the tiers of seats for the audience are still there. As for the rest, we can still find engravings, accounts and Petitot's projects in the wonderful volume printed by Giambattista Bodoni, who described wedding celebrations of courts across Europe. Some of these projects, belonging to the Cariparma Foundation, were recently used as a guide and proved helpful in the making of the plastic model.
The model highlights the main differences between the garden as it was in 17th century and today: among them, the Farnese ramparts and the walls with the terrasses lined with trees, the woods with a little theatre and maze, as well as the different position of marble statues and the changed town plan.