Originally Etruscan, Parma achieved importance as a Roman colony astride what would become the Via Emilia. As Roman authority dwindled, the town passed onto the Goths, then the Lombards and then the Franks.
In the 11th century Parma threw in its lot with the Holy Roman Empire against the papacy. In the following centuries it fell successively to the Visconti family, the Sforzas, the French and finally – sweet revenge – the papacy.
The Farnese family ruled Parma in the pope’s name from 1545 to 1731, when the Bourbons took control, ushering in a period of peace and frenetic cultural activity. Following Napoleon’s incursions into northern Italy at the beginning of the 19th century, Parma entered a period of instability that ended only with Italian unification. Some 60 years later, the barricades went up as Parma became the only Emilian city to oppose the infamous 1922 march on Rome by Mussolini’s Blackshirts.