The Duchy of Parma and Piacenza

Medieval Castles To Delight You

by Maria E. Bellini

THE FACTS:

When you’re not on the trails, Italy offers so much to do and see that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Be it Nature Parks, historical hamlets, “The” destination cities or miles and miles of coast.

If you’re after a slightly different angle with a touch of romantic flurry, the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza offers a concentration of Castles that should satisfy your inner Prince or Princess!

Where is the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza?

The neighbouring cities of Parma and Piacenza are located in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. There’s a bit of a debate as to whether this is a northern Italian region or a central one. Only 60 Km along the Via Emilia or the A1 Motorway separates the two cities. Plus part of the historical Pilgrims Route: The Via Francigena, (that officially starts in Canterbury and ends in Rome) winds its way partially between the two cities.
Parma and Piacenza are situated in the Po Valley – the vast cultivated, industrial flatlands that surround Italy’s largest river – the Po. This is the everyday – working Italy. Where trucks, factories, offices and shopping malls sit side by side with schools, commuters, newly developed areas and ‘everyday life’. But this is Italy – and everything is somehow glued together by the incredible natural, artistic, cultural and architectural delights that are quintessential to the country.

There are over 30 Castles in the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza

Today, however,  “The Duchy” no longer exists! Although throughout the centuries, having come under the reign of a succession of Italian nobility, a strong imprinting was etched into the essence of the land and population – which can be seen today literally everywhere.

Each family contributing to the urban, artistic, agricultural and local identity that makes up this area.

One particular aspect are the many castles, fortresses and strongholds that can be found in the Provinces of Parma and Piacenza. There are over thirty for you to enjoy, and all within easy reach of each other. We’ve chosen five of our favourites…

Bardi –  Vigoleno – Castell’Arquato   – Torrechiara –  Sala Baganza

Bardi

Bardi Castle - Parma
Bardi Castle – Parma

Just 60km away from the city of Parma, in wild Val Ceno, Bardi Castle, throughout the ages came under the the domain of the Landi, the Bourbon and the Farnese families.

The village of Bardi saw mass emigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, with many people emigrating to France, England and especially to Wales, so it’s not uncommon, throughout the summer months to hear English spoken in the central Piazza, as many Welsh Italians come back  for holidays.

Vigoleno

Vigoleno - Piacenza
Vigoleno – Piacenza

The Castle and hamlet together make up what is known as Vigoleno, in the Piacenza Apennines. Home to numerous families during time, the Pallavicino, the Visconti, the Farnese and the Scotti’s. Today Vigoleno Castle doubles up as a hotel, and it’s also possible to get married here too!

Castell’Arquato

Castell'Arquato - Piacenza
Castell’Arquato – Piacenza

The small, medieval town of Castell’Arquato lies in the Piacenza hills. This is wine country, where local wines such as Gutturnio, Ortrugo and Monterosso Val D’Arda are produced.
The Castle, which is strategically positioned at the highest point in the the town has been in the hands of the Visconti’s, the Scotti’s and the Sforza families.

Torrechiara

Torrechiara - Parma
Torrechiara – Parma

Set in the province of Parma, in the hills famed for Prosciutto di Parma. Torrechiara Castle, like Castell’Arquato was used for several scenes in the 1985 film Ladyhawke.

Sala Baganza

Sala Baganza - Parma
Sala Baganza – Parma

The Medieval Stronghold of Sala Baganza is situated just ten minutes away from the city of Parma, in the Baganza Valley. Past home to the noble families: Sanvitale, the Farnese and the Bourbon. Today it also houses The Museum of Malvasia Wine.

For more details on all of the 31 Castles in the Area – see the official website – Castelli del Ducato


Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.

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