The Castles of Matilda of Tuscany
In the province of Reggio Emilia, we’re about to embark on a journey to discover the roads and, in particular, the castles that once belonged to Matilda of Tuscany.
At a time when women were considered inferior to men, Matilda fraternised with kings and princes, establishing her legacy as one of the most important and influential people of the Middle Ages.
Our first stop is Bianello Castle, in the comune of Quattro Castella (“Four Castles”).
Built on a natural balcony atop the first hills of the Reggio Emilia Apennines, from which you can enjoy breathtaking views, this castle is the only survivor of the four fortified castles that give the area its name.
Matilda could often be found here, where she once hosted Henry IV. It was also here, in 1111, that she was proclaimed Imperial Vicar and Vice-Queen of Italy by Henry V.
Today, you can visit by booking a 50-minute guided tour.
Back in our motor home, we head towards the well-preserved Rossena Castle. A small staircase leads to the fort, consisting of the central core of the inner tower and 21 rooms on several levels. Then we have the Tower of Rossenella, a watchtower accessible by an easy path.
Only the ruins remain of Canossa castle, just 15 km away. The castle is open all day from Tuesday through Sunday and you can book a guided tour at the ticket office.
The itinerary continues in the province of Parma, where we reach Torrechiara Castle, a 15th-century manor on top of a scenic rocky hill and the scene of a romantic story of courtly love. Inside, you can find countless rooms adorned with frescoes.
You can park up your camper van for the night at the rest area in Vico di Canossa, at the beginning of the path to Rossena Castle. Remember, we are in the heart of Italy’s food valley, so hearty dishes await you!
It’s an early start as we set off for Polesine Zibello in the province of Parma, near the Po River.
Be sure to visit the Antica Corte Pallavicina, a farm home to a relais, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and the Museum of Culatello and Masalén.
From Polesine we continue towards Roncole Busseto and Villa Sant'Agata, places close to the heart of Maestro Giuseppe Verdi, who was born, lived and fostered his musical genius there.
Next, we arrive at Castell'Arquato, known as the “City of Wine” and the renowned film set for some scenes in Ladyhawke. It would be a crime not to stop by the very well-preserved medieval village–one of the 100 most beautiful villages in Italy.
You can park your camper van at the parking area on Via Don Mezzadri in Monticelli d'Ongina, from which you can then visit the Castle of San Pietro in Cerro, in the province of Piacenza.
Gropparello Castle and Bobbio
It’s time to entertain the little ones. Today, we head for Gropparello Castle–a perfect break for the whole family thanks to the Parco delle Fiabe, Italy's first “emotional” children's park, where you can experience the Middle Ages every day.
We move on to Bobbio, recognised as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy in 2006 and the Borgo dei Borghi (“Village of Villages”) in 2009. If the weather is fine, treat yourself to a walk along the river, where you can splash around in puddles and small rapids in summer.
Our last stop is the city of Piacenza, with Farnese Palace and the unfinished Visconti Citadel, now home to the Civic Museums.
Before returning home, don’t forget to stock up on delicacies! Coppa piacentina, pancetta and salame piacentino, provolone Valpadana–all PDO products that make for perfect souvenirs.