If I thought Cremona was grand, Parma is more so. If I’d only associated Parma with ham or Parmesan cheese, I have had a major shift of associations. I now also know Verdi belongs here. It is an elegant midsized city, with many boutiques and parks and cafés. And of course, churches.
This being a personal take on my travels and not a travelogue, I will share glimpses like this one as much as grand buildings. This elderly lady had been feeding the pigeons with bread chunks, much as she would have had in her café latte for breakfast.
Parma is well-maintained, its historic buildings constantly being cleaned and refurbished, as seen on the octagonal Baptistry.
Certainly the Cathedral was grand, but I am finding the gold and arches and frescoes are beginning to blur. I did see a relief sculpture by Benedetto Antelami that was a first in using more natural representations in flow of robes and position of limbs.
This church is especially famous for its groundbreaking Correggio dome fresco, with its unusual perspective, from below, and where for the first the bare legs and implied bare bottom of the Christ are shown. It caused a great stir at the time, but he was truly avant garde and opened the way for others.
I preferred the later Benedictine Monastery, with its simpler lines and central well, where water was drawn that had been collected from the roof.
The Monastery has a famous library, with an adjoining room of arches and unusually simple frescoes, commemorating the translation of the bible into the four languages of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac.
It does have a church; way too grand for monks, I thought.
In its Correggio dome fresco, of the Vision of St. John (San Giovanni), painted after the infamous one, the perspective is still from below, but the exposure of bare limbs is toned down.
The octagonal Baptistry used lovely pink and white marble from Verona in its construction. Inside, its open space soars to a high frescoed dome, with a central large baptismal font designed for adults. The astrological sculptures, again by the trailblazing Antelami, have been moved from the upper galleries to the ground floor.
But for me the highlight of this building’s treasures is the atypically realistic Madonna and her atypically playful Child.