Itinerary: Piacenza, Graziano Visconti, Castell'Arquato, Salsomaggiore, Fidenza
Among the medieval villages on the gentle hills of Piacenza
This tour starts from Piacenza which originally was an ancient "castrum Romanum" and became an important town when it was joined to Parma in 1545, in order to form the Duchy of Farnese. There are still now many remains of this flourishing past. Let's mention its several medieval monuments and some remarkable artworks of Renaissance architecture such as the magnificent Palazzo Farnese.
The pride of the town is a building called 'Gotico' (Gothic) (pic n°1), which is now home to the town hall. It is a masterpiece of the Lombard era of the thirteenth century. In front of the palace, there are two equestrian Baroque-style statues of Duke Farnese.
The Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral is one of the many remarkable religious buildings of the town, a masterpiece of Masters Comacini, with three naves and a large façade that houses sculptures of Nicholò and Wiligelmo and some works by Guercino, Procaccini, and Moray.
From Piacenza, you will get to Grazzano Visconti (pic n°3). The village was set up on the ruins of a castle built in the '300s by the noble Piacenza Anguissola. The Medieval-style towers, battlements, loggias, fountains, and arcades create a charming atmosphere and great beauty.
Continuing along the main road you will reach the archaeological site of Velleia (pic n°4). It was the Duke of Parma, Philip of Bourbon at the end of the eighteenth century started the excavations which brought to light the ancient Roman town. The precious objects found over the centuries, including statues, pottery, bronzes, and inscriptions are collected in the Archaeological Museum of Parma.
Leaving the ruins of Velleia and after about 20 km of driving, you will get to Castell'Arquato (pic n°3). Located at the top of a hill, this picturesque village has very ancient origins. Probably it was inhabited even in ancient times by primitive peoples. Later, it has been disputed for centuries between the Sforza family of Milan and the Santa Fiora family. At the end of the fighting, the latter placed the village under the rules of the Farnese family. The heart of the village is the square overlooked by the Romanesque Collegiate Church, the Visconti Fortress, and the Praetorian Palace built at the end of 1200. Noteworthy is the Geological Museum, housed in the Farnese Tower, which exhibits some fossils from the Pliocene-Pleistocene epoch.
Through another 20 km of secondary roads, you can reach Salsomaggiore Terme (pic n°5), a renowned spa resort nestled in a green valley among the foothills of the Parma Apennines. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the therapeutic properties of the waters of the area were discovered, Salsomaggiore has been enriched with many elegant and well-equipped spas.
Along your way, you will get to Fidenza, a nice village of Roman origin, known for its beautiful medieval Gothic-style Cathedral (pic n°6). The unfinished façade is flanked by two towers and has rich decorations, including sculptures by Benedetto Antelami. In the crypt is located the tomb of St. Domninus adorned with beautiful bas-reliefs of the fifteenth century attributed to Giovanni Pietro da Rho.
Length: Km 106
Some pictures of Piacenza medieval villages:
The 'Gotico' in Piacenza (pic n°1); Castell'Arquato (pic n°2); Grazzano Visconti (pic n°3); Velleia (pic n°4); Salsomaggiore Terme (pic n°5);