Piacenza - Cathedral
Set between the Po and the Apennines, the province of Piacenza spreads towards the western extremity of Emilia Romagna.
Its land includes the splendid valleys of the rivers Tidone, Trebbia, Nure and Arda, each distinguished by particular environments. In this place nature dominates unchallenged among rocky spurs, hills strewn with vineyards and sceneries dominated by spires, towers and impressive fortresses. A place of particular charm is the plain which runs along the river and the rows of poplars which reflect in the river Po. It is a land full of natural beauties, valleys and mountains, but also history and art.
Over the sceneries of these particular landscapes we can find wonderful medieval villages such as for example Castelsangiovanni, Castell’Arquato, Vigoleno, Fiorenzuola d’Arda and so on, suggestive abbeys of medieval origin and a lot of Romanesque churches. It is touching to discover these places which rose in the Middle Ages along the ancient Via Francigena hosting religiosi and pilgrims on their way to Rome.
The great number of medieval castles which with their unmistakable shapes stand out all over the land, making it an extremely fascinating corner. A symbol of the Dukedoms of Parma and Piacenza's ancient splendour is the magnificent Palazzo Farnese of Piacenza, together with other wonderful aristocratic palaces of the same period.
Many others attractions are offered by this land: amusement, gastronomical specialities and great wines. A journey in the neighbourhood of Piacenza will never cease to amaze thanks to the myriad surprises that this rich land brings.
The first stop of an itinerary in discovering this land is Piacenza, full of artistic treasures of different periods.
Heart of the city are Piazza dei Cavalli, towered over by the splendid Palazzo Comunale or Gotico (13th century) and Piazza Duomo, towered over by the Cathedral in Romanesque style. Among the great number of excellent monuments stand out the Church of San Sisto, the Church of Sant’Antonio and the neoclassical Theatre. You cannot miss the impressive Palazzo Farnese, built in the second half of the 16th century and now centre of the Municipal Museums with many different sections.
In the Val Trebbia rises Bobbio, a village which arose in the Middle Ages around the Abbey of San Colombano and known for the suggestive Ponte Gobbo. This place retains architectures of important value such as the Cathedral of San Colombano, the Cathedral and the Castle.
In the Val Nure the picturesque village of Grazzano Visconti deserves to be visited: it is a town entirely realized in the 19th century in neo-Gothic style, which reproduces the architecture of the 14th century and is full of green areas and decorative elements.
Among the treasures of the Val d’Arda is Castell’Arquato with a rich historical centre towered over by the Praetorian Palace and by the Fortress of the XIV century stands out. A place full of spirituality located near the ancient Via Francigena is the Abbey of Chiaravalle, a great example of Cistercian architecture.
A great number of medieval castles overlook the valleys and countryside creating very suggestive landscapes such as the Fortress of Castell’Arquato and the castles of Gropparello, Paderna, Rivalta, Rocca d’Olgisio. Not to be missed are also two places which preserve the memory of the ancient State of the Pallavicini and precious architectures of the 15th century: Cortemaggiore with the Fortress, the splendid Church of Sant’Annunziata and the Palace of Pallavicino; Monticelli d’Ongina with the Fortress decorated with frescoes of Bembo and the interesting Aquarium and Po Ethnographic Museum: a rich documentation on the rural world and the river.
One shouldn't miss the archaeological area of Velleia, one of the most important of the region, in which it is possible to admire a lot of ruins of this ancient Roman city such as the Thermal baths, the Forum and the cathedral.
Finally, important to remember is a place connected to Giuseppe Verdi: Villa Verdi in Sant’Agata (Villanova sull’Arda): the residence of the great master, with original fittings.
The sweep of the plains, the valleys and mounds are the ideal scenery for excursions and outdoor sports: whether on walks to trekking, on amusing itineraries by bicycle or horse. All in the discovery of the different castles.
Among the gorges of the Trebbia it is also possible to do go on amusing rafting and kayak courses, while the skiing resorts of Passo Penice and Ceci (Bobbio) have pistes and equipment for downhill and cross-country skiing.
Along the river Po among the poplars and the sweep of plains it is possible to apply to go on fishing, canoe, walks and boat excursions. In the countryside you can find different golf courses and riding stables, surrounded by pristine nature.
For a holiday of entertainment one may choose the Aquatic Park of Rivergaro, equipped with swimming-pools, water games, and a “stream” to be run with a dinghy, and many other attractions.
Another amusement park addressed to children is the “Fairy Tale Park” in the Castle of Gropparello.
Countless are the tasting itineraries discovering wine cellars and farms in which it is possible to taste excellent wines and typical specialities.
Finally, the thermal centers of Bobbio and Bacedasco offer baths, waters and treatments for a relaxing stay.
The land is full of ventures and shows such as for examples the carnival of Sant’Antonio in Piacenza, the fair of San Giuseppe in Castell’Arquato, the festival and the fair of San Fiorenzo in Fiorenzuola d’Arda, the decoration with flowers of the Corpus Domini in Chiaravalle della Colomba, the “Carlin di Maggio” in Cortebrugnatella (May).
The suggestive castles are the frame for a great number of historical evocations such as that which takes place in Castell’Arquato (July) and the Historical Parade in Grazzano Visconti (May).
A long gastronomical tradition and genuine products are at the bases of the local cuisine.
Typical dishes of this country are the burtleina, the “tortelli with the tail”, the anolini, the pisarei e faso, gnocchetti made of the soft part of the bread with pinto beans and tomato sauce and the “Rice Pudding”, a rice mould stuffed with pigeon meat and mushrooms.
The most typical second courses are stracotti and braised meats, the “piccula” of the hourse, “la piccula ‘d caval”, stewed minced horse meat.
In the plains of Piacenza the fish specialities are also very penetrated, e.g.: smoked eel, “stricc’ in carpion” (sauced dace), ambolina fries (Alborella), catfishes and frogs.
Among the typical important products are coppa, salami and pork underbelly.
The most known desserts are: the ciambella, almond cake, castagnaccio and turtlitt (filled doughnut).
Among the wines: Gutturnio, the ancestor of red wines of Piacenza made from Croatina and Barbera grapes, Ortrugo, a white wine whose DOC production is only allowed in the province of Piacenza, Monterosso and Vin Santo of Vignoleto; the red wines of the Val Tidone and Valle del Clero; the white Malvasia wines.
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