Follow our guide to the city and its surrounds, and discover why it was given this prestigious title.
Located in the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is a university city and culinary heaven famed for its Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.
More metropolitan than Modena, but less bustling than Bologna, this is the city that gave the world the composer Verdi and artists like Correggio and Parmigianino.
During the Middle Ages, Parma was ruled by the Franks and was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the 1200s, it was caught up in the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
During the 1800s, the city was annexed by France under the rule of Napoleon, and then finally became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Due to its rich history and influence from various cultures and rulers, Parma boasts a plethora of historical sites.
Romanesque buildings, including the frescoed cathedral and the pink marble baptistery, grace the city’s historical centre.
Located in Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral is one of the most exquisite expressions of the Romanesque style.
It features a bell tower dating back to the 13th century and houses many famous masterpieces, including a dome frescoed by Renaissance genius Correggio.
The octagonal baptistery is made out of blocks of pink marble.
Together with the 11th-century Bishop’s Palace, it transports visitors back to medieval times.
Also worth seeing is the Palazzo della Pilotta (Pilotta Palace).
Commissioned by the Farnese family, the complex houses the Farnese Library and Theatre, the National Archaeological Museum, the Bodoni Museum and the National Gallery that exhibits works by Correggio, Parmigianino, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Tiepolo and Canova.
Not far away is the Teatro Regio (Royal Theatre), a 19th-century temple of music and one of the most renowned opera houses in Italy.
The Verdi Bridge crosses over the Parma torrent to the Ducal Palace, featuring an Italian Baroque design, frescoes and stunning gardens that are open to the public.
Outside the city, the entire province of Parma is peppered with castles and fortresses, from the slopes of the Apennines northward to the Po lowlands.
Just outside Parma, and gracing the logo for its Capital of Culture bid, is the Labirinto della Masone, the world’s largest maze, built by editor Franco Maria Ricci as a promise to writer Jorge Luis Borges.
Cuisine is the fortè of the entire province, while the wider Emilia-Romagna region produces more origin-protected food and drink than any other region in Italy.
The best products not only in the provincial zone but in all of Italy are Parma ham and salami, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, the culatello of Zibello, the cooked shoulder ham of San Secondo and rich porcini mushrooms.
Among the typical first courses are cappelletti or anolini in beef broth, tortelli di erbette and bomba di riso (rice bomb).
Traditional second courses include stracotto (beef stew) with polenta, boiled meats with tasty sauces, tripe and picàja (stuffed veal).
Almond cake, spongata and pastries stuffed with honey, walnuts and candied fruits are the most common desserts.
Meanwhile, standing out among the wines meeting DOC standards are the white Malvasia and Sauvignon and the red Colli di Parma.
Parma is also home to the top school of Italian cooking, Alma, and the only place in Italy to earn UNESCO’s “creative city” badge for its cuisine.
Since ancient Roman times, the Province of Parma has been a source of thermal waters.
The choice of thermal spas there is ample, thanks to the abundance of mineral-rich waters.
The most famous spa resorts are, without a doubt, those of Salsomaggiore, boasting Art Nouveau-style buildings and high-quality treatments.
Those of Tabiano, Sant’Andrea Bagni and Monticelli are also renowned, and all surrounded by nature and serenity.
The local festivals and events to attend include the Carnival of Busseto, established in the 19th century, with masks, dances and music.
Meanwhile, the Tenzone Medievale, held in the Bardi Castle, is a medieval tournament with archers, knights, dancers, nobles and minstrels.
What’s more, as part of its candidacy, Parma has pledged to further broaden its cultural attractions, commissioning installations outside the city centre and inviting artists from elsewhere in Italy and the world to give their own creative view of the city.