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PARK HISTORY


The idea of a huge garden on the west side of the river belongs to Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza. The Duke chose Parma as capital city and midway through the 16th century he put together several vegetable gardens and turned them into a park for one of his villas. During the 16th and 17th century in the garden was full of hedges of rosemary and myrtle, oaks, plane trees and fir trees, fruit trees, vegetables and many citrus trees kept in vases sheltered in hothouses during the winter. Fish-pools and small woods supplied the court with fresh fish and game.

The fish-pool (peschiera) was commissioned in 1690 by Ranuccio II, who asked for a representation of a naval battle (naumachia) to celebrate the wedding of his first-born Odoardo with the daughter of Elettore Palatino. The end of the Farnese dynasty, in 1731, brought the garden to a complete decay. In 1745, during the war of Austrian succession, the ancient trees of the garden were cut and burnt to keep the troops warm. It was only in 1749 that Don Felipe of Bourbon had the park redesigned by a young French architect, Ennemond Alexandre Petitot, who started the restoration works in 1753. His classicist project won the competition against the baroque one by Pierre Contant d'Ivry, who was a famous expert in garden design. Under the Bourbon family the garden started again to house celebrations for Dukes' weddings. At the same time the park was enriched with architectural embellishments as well as statues by Jean Baptiste Boudard and Pierre Costant. After becoming Duchess of Parma and Piacenza, Marie Louise of Austria, Napoleon's wife, ordered some restoration works both for the park and the palace. Nevertheless she chose to live in Sala Baganza and Colorno, where she remodelled the gardens in the English style.





After the unification of Italy, the Municipality became the owner of the park and opened it to the citizens. The garden walls with its terrasses were demolished and new gates were opened, among which the one on Ponte Verdi, linking the garden to the town center. A lack of maintenance and an improper use of some areas of the garden have accelerated its decay, leading to recent complete restoration works.