The construction of Palazzo della Pilotta started in 1583 for the order of the duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese, who entrusted the task to architect Francesco Paciotto from Urbino. The name Pilotta derives from the game pelota, played by Spanish soldiers in the courtyard of Guazzatoio. Today, the building holds the museum of archeology, national gallery, Palatine library, Farnese theater, and the Bodonian museum as well as the Accademia Nazionale di Belle Arti, the artistic lyceum of Paolo Toschi, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts of the University of Parma.
After the extinction of the Farnese dynasty their collection was moved to Naples by Charles III of Spain in 1734. Pilotta remained without its artistic treasures until the duke Philip of Spain arrived in Parma in 1749. The son of the king of Spain and his wife Louise Elizabeth, the favorite daughter of the king Louis XV of France. At this occasion, Pilotta became a cultural center, a real symbol of the enlightenment and the French politics. Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in 1757 and a new artistic collection was created, from which will originate the Galleria Nazionale. The Palatina library (1769) and archaeological museum (1769) were added to the complex.
During the years of the restoration, under the duchy of Marie Louise of Austria (1816-1847) the cultural institutions of the Pilotta underwent considerable transformations. The halls of representation of the court were rearranged and the façade of the Palazzo was remade between 1833 and 1834, creating its elegant neoclassical character. Th task was entrusted to the architect Nicola Bettoli and the aim was to giver greater dignity to the ducal residence.
During the 1944 bombardments the building was severely damaged and from this point began a series of restoring interventions renovating the interiors, which became suitable to host the Galleria Nazionale, starting from 1991. The collection includes La Scapiliata by Leonardo da Vinci, the Turkish Slave and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Parmigianino, Correggio’s Madonna of St. Jerome and the Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Guercino’s Susanna and the Elders and a view by Canaletto.