We live on a street that goes east to west, the entire length of the north side of our town. That might sound like a lot, but it’s only about 500 meters long (.3 miles). On our side of the street (north side), there is a large pedestrian walkway, many storefronts, and bustle. The south side of the street is the back side of the buildings that make up the edge of the old city. It’s easy to hurry along the sidewalk and not pay attention to any of the buildings. Right in the middle of that large expanse of wall is a courtyard with a vine and hedge covered wall with a large wooden door.
I guess that’s the back side of the Palazzo Picenardi.
The front of this Palazzo isn’t all that impressive either. We’ve passed it many times. In fact, it wasn’t until the events that prompted this post that it ever occurred to us that indeed a large swath all painted red meant that it was one house.
This year is the bicentennial celebration of the Duchess Maria Luigia (that would be Marie Louise, Napoleon’s wife) coming to Italy as the Duchess of Parma. So there are a lot of exhibits and activities going on around the region to commemorate this occasion. The Picenardi family was local nobility (well, until Napoleon got huffy and took away their titles), and when Maria Luigia came through the town on a trip, they took it on themselves to try to impress her, and hopefully win back favor. They created an apartment for her to stay in during her visit, decorating it with expensive and ornate items. Many items were custom made in Parma, and some important items (such as the bidet!!!) were brought in from Paris. For this year of celebration, the family (heirs to the Picenardi nobility) agreed to open their palazzo to the public for two days only. We were told that the elderly owner (a woman in her 90s) was in residence the days of the exhibition, but she was no where to be seen.
Five hundred visitors attended. Locals say it has not been open to the public in over 30 years. Only 5 of approximately 60 rooms were accessible. The family has attempted to keep these quarters in the same condition as they existed at the time, although those occupying Nazi’s in the 1940s managed to either steal or damage some of the items, including the bathtub! Seriously!
We were not allowed to take photographs during the visit, so I had to scrounge the Internet to come up with some, and the town posted a couple of photos on their on their Facebook Page.
Since this palace is tucked away just on the other side of the street from us, Joe had this to say:
Napoleon used to shag a bird who stayed across the street from us.
To be fair, Napoleon was dead when she visited the first time in 1821. He was here in about 1796, around the time of the Battle of Solignano. Maria Luigia graced this small community with her presence four times during her time in Parma.
Enjoy the photos!