When I first arrived to Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla I entered a Land which was crossing a serious economic crisis. However, long time before my arrival, the city used to be rich and developed and something from that golden age survived. Therefore, I decided to resume many architectonic and urbanistic works already started, or at least submitted. Then I focused also on a reform and a development program regarding assistance buildings.
First, I tried to improve the roads and the transport links. Let me tell you that, in order to reach the capital of the Land, I had to cross a boat bridge on the Po River, in Casalmaggiore, which was 363 meters long and, once I got inside the land, I realized that there was a lack of a good links also between those zones separated by the Taro River. Actually, after many attempts to re-building the Roman Bridge, destroyed more and more times by the overflow of the river, in the 1700s they established a boat service to ferry people from one side of it to the other. I did not consider it a good service, so the first engineering work I promote in 1816 was the building of a new bridge on the Taro River. In order to solve partially the poverty problem, I ordered to hire beggars as worker in the constructions, and I made sure they got well paid. The opening was on 10 October 1819, in a huge ceremony. In 1828, they put four big half-lied statue on the four corners of the bridge that represented the biggest waterway of Parma land: Parma, Taro, Enza and Stirone.
Afterwards I promote the settlement of what was left of the old roman bridge on Trebbia River: works started in 1821. In a first time, the project was a wooden bridge that could be dismantled in the case of enemy’s attacks. However, people form Piacenza beg me to build bricks bridge, and I accepted the request. On 8 June 1825, they organized a huge opening celebration. I also invited my father and his wife, with other royals from the north of Italy. In this occasion, with a rescript, I gave order to put a dowry of 250 new liras for twenty-four young girl of marrying age chosen by lot through the one-hundred-and-seven who registered for it. The party lasted three days: the bishop blessed me, while the city aristocrats offered a sumptuous banquet and organized a ball in the theatre. I ordered to supply free ticket, so people from any social class could attend the party.
Many years later, I promote the construction of two more bridges, the one on the Arda River in Fiorenzuola, in 1837, and the one on the Nure River in Pontenure, in 1838.
In the meanwhile, I realized also a street to connect Parma with the city of La Spezia.
I really cared about my people. That was the reason why I wanted to take actions personally for the basic needs of poor, needy and sick people.
Therefore, I carried out a plague prevention and fight program. In March 1817, I published the guidelines of preventive care and measures for the typhus fever plague and later, in 1831, I gave regulations for a possible cholera outbreak. When it arrived in 1836, I tried to limit it the most. However, hospitals got full and doctors had to lie patient even on the corridors’ floors. I tried to be close to my people, even physically, by going visiting them in the hospices. I paid the hospitals heating myself. In the September of the same year, we made it to eradicate the disease, losing 438 persons. I prized with a medal the people who won the plague by following my guidelines and measures and I choose to melt a silver toilette, which the city of Paris gave me for my first marriage, in order to make 125.000 francs to help the people in this sad situation.
I took care of both the mental patients, by opening the “Ospedale de’ Pazzerelli” (Mads’ Hospital) in a big and comfortable building linked to the Ospedale Maggiore (Mayor Hospital), and the poor people, by creating the Albergo dei Poveri (Poors’ Hostel).
At my time, women’s condition was not the best. Therefore, I decided to do something regarding that: I opened a maternity hospice in 1817, a university obstetrician ward and eventually a hostel for unmarried mothers.
One of my main goals was to raise the state from crisis. As first reform, in 1820, I launched the new Codice Civile per gli stati Parmensi (Civil Code for Parmesan states), which will become later an important cornerstone in Italian law history. Nevertheless, it was only starting from 1830, thanks to the finances minister Vincenzo Mistrali, that we could actually re-organize the hard financial situation: he re-arrange the public debit and stabilized the balance. Due to him, it was possible to realize many public works, so I decided to make him my trust adviser.
I promoted education and I decided to restore the University of Parma that Napoleon reverse to the modest role of an academy. The university was established in the medieval age, and then it got bigger and bigger during the centuries, making Parma a University City worldwide known. The athenaeum included legal and philosophical studies, a physics cabinet, medical, surgical and anatomy wards, and a school of vet. I introduced the school of pharmaceutical chemistry and the maternity ward, then the literature cabinet, where they started publishing periodical sheets, and the reading cabinet.
In 1818, I joined the middle-class Lalatta College with the old Aristocratic College, and I create a single college, which I named after me: “Collegio Maria Luigia” that still exist.
However, my biggest passions still art and music. That was the reason why I ordered to rearrange the Antiquity Museum and the Art Gallery inside of the Pilotta Palace. Here was located also the beaux-arts academy, which I strongly boost, and the library, which I extended.
I was interested in the Ducal Orchestra, and in 1825, I opened the Conservatory. During years, it became one of the most important music academy in Italy and Europe, with Arturo Toscanini and Renata Tebaldi between its alumni.
I received many scholarship requests, and one especially was from a young Giuseppe Verdi: I granted him one, giving him the chance to attend a prestigious school in Milan.
Pushed by my strong love for arts I started the renovation on the Teatro Farnese, located inside the Pilotta Palace. However, I could not make it suitable for the city necessities, so I decided to build a new one: in 1821, the New Ducal Theatre constructions started, and then the people will change its name in Teatro Regio. In spring of 1829, it was opened with the performance of Bellini’s Zaira. The curtain of the theatre represented the allegoric scene of the Knowledge, where they portrayed me as the goddess Minerva.
Trying to involve more the people in the city social life, I lowered the ticket prices, so also the less wealthy people could attend performances.
Energetically I decided to start over one of Napoleon’s project regarding the creation of a cemetery: in February 1817, they convert the place of an old Jesuit suburban villa in a graveyard. From 1819, it started the construction of the city cemetery, “la Villetta”.
I must confess I preferred the country life to the city one.
I was aware of the therapeutic quality of the thermal water, since I used to spend holidays in some famous European bath. Therefore, when the Tabiano’s priest invited me to the small thermal establishment, I decided to satisfy his wish to increase it. I bought the land where the Violi’s source rised (nowadays knew as Pergoli’s source) and I made them build a new construction with a central unit and two lateral ones, with twelve baths. The baths were sulphur and saline iodized, due to the water coming from Salsomaggiore. Moreover, in order to increase the tourism of that place, I opened a hotel for people who wanted to stay in Tabiano during the therapies and roads suitable for carriages, for the ones who rather stay in Borgo San Donnino (today’s Fidenza).
In the small town of Sala Baganza, inside the Boschi Ducali (ducal forest), there was a small Casino with neoclassic style made by the Borbone family and designed by the famous architect Petitot. In 1819, I bought both the forest and the Casino, which I decided to expand by adding two lateral wings and a long gallery with a “Casinetto” (small casino) in the middle, with a court theatre inside. Not far from there I wanted to build a neoclassic villa, the Villa del Ferlaro, to become the residence of Albertina and Guglielmo, children of Adam and mine.
In the meanwhile, I invited the gardener of the Asburgo’s Court, Carlo Barvitius, to come and live in Parma. He created an awesome English park, amazing and full of monumental and exotic plants, tree-lined streets and paths in order to link al the localities, the palaces and service buildings of the zone. Between the Villa and the Casino, he made a boulevard with cedar trees.
In 1835, I decided to give the huge estate of the Boschi – over 2000 hectare – to Parma’s Ducal Chamber.
Do you know which one is my favorite flower? Parma’s Violet! Even before me to come to Italy, actually, I felt unconditional love for the graceful violet (a crossbreed of the viola odorata species).
This flower became my symbol. You can actually find it painted or carved in plates, vases, fans, thimble and letters’ paper. Sometimes I even replaced my own signature with it!
I used to wear capes of that color and the court’s ushers where wearing violet uniforms. Since I was a botanic lover, I decided to grow it so I make them build a Botanic Garden inside the city.
Nevertheless, the evanescence of its perfume made me sad. I had to find a solution, so I spur the monks of the centuries old Annunciata’s monastery to make some research to extract the essence from the flower. The patient studies of the monks took to the desired result and the Violet became the court’s official perfume. Years after, thanks to a big perfume industry, the essence of the Parma’s violet spread in Italy and all over the world, becoming symbol of sober feminine elegance.
In the time of regency of the Land, I made my best for the people to appreciate me. Still nowadays, the city honor me, remembering me as an enlightened duchess.
I think I talked enough about me… Time has come to tell you other stories and introduce you other characters who lived in this lands!