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Emilia Romagna

A weekend among the Castles of the Duchy

Best Period

The territory of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Pontremoli is rich in fortresses, castles, historical residences and ancient villages. Driving along the country lanes, it is impossible not to be enchanted by the residences that tower menacingly over cliffs, gleam with history in the centre of a valley, or pierce the perfect line of cultivated fields with beauty.

Autumn is one of the prime seasons to visit the Duchy area, when the colours make the landscape a captivating texture in which to spend a weekend. In addition to visiting castles and villages, in autumn you can seize the opportunity to stop at farms to buy wine, cured meats, cheeses, vinegar, and chat with local people. Listening to family stories, while the little ones discover the taste of country life, is an added value to the road trip.

Here is a fun two-day itinerary in the Duchy territory, perfect for families with children, discovering Soragna, Fontanellato and the Labirinto della Masone (Masone Labyrinth). 

Rocca Meli-Lupi of Soragna

Opulent and sumptuous, the Rocca dei principi Meli-Lupi di Soragna (Fortress of the Meli-Lupi Princes of Soragna) is the first stop of the weekend among the Castles of the Duchy. The guided tour is a lively tale of the events that made their mark on the building, in which Prince Meli-Lupi still lives today.

Amidst anecdotes of past life and episodes from the present time, you walk through the stuccoed and frescoed halls, completely furnished in Baroque style. Everyone is astonished at such pomp and circumstance, especially in the sumptuous galleries where, if you allow yourself the chance to lag behind the rest of the group, you might be lucky enough to see the ghost of Cassandra Marinoni appear. 

The Mason Labyrinth

It takes less than a quarter of an hour by car from Soragna to reach the Mason Labyrinth, the largest bamboo reed labyrinth in which you will be lost and then find your way back. To build it, 200,000 bamboo canes of more than 20 species were used, with heights varying from 30 cm to 15 metres, along a magical 3 km route.

It is not only a playful experience, but a true metaphor for life, perfect to share with children. After all, a labyrinth truly represents our existence, with the changes of course, the crossroads, the uncertain steps and the safer ones that lead towards the exit.

At the Mason Labyrinth, take your time to tackle this figurative journey, without forgetting to visit the museum where Franco Maria Ricci, the creator of the project, has gathered all the works he has collected during his lifetime.


This is a pastel-coloured, retro town, where the old signs painted on the walls still stand out: Fontanellato is a picture postcard that encapsulates the most characteristic features of Emilia.

The shops from which the scent of Culatta and Culatello emanates, the wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that make your mouth water, the bars where old men play cards, all appear like film reconstructions in their true authenticity. And, in the centre, the Rocca Sanvitale seems to embody art and history. It literally rises up in the heart of the village, filling the main square with its solid architecture surrounded by a moat. 

A guided tour allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history-rich spirit of the reception rooms and halls, as well as to admire unique masterpieces such as the Stendardo della Beata Vergine di Fontanellato.

At Rocca Sanvitale there is also the only optical chamber in Italy from which the Counts observed everything that went on in the square, thanks to a system of prisms. Moreover, right inside the residence, Parmigianino painted one of his greatest masterpieces, the Hall of Diana and Actaeon, commissioned by Paola Gonzaga and Count Gian Galeazzo Sanvitale.

Keep your eyes peeled, because you may run into the ghost of Maria Costanza Sanvitale, the granddaughter of Maria Luigia of Austria, who died when she was only 5 years old. Visitors often hear footsteps and a faint little voice calling them, especially in the Billiard Room and Reception Hall.

Speaking of experiences to be had at the Rocca, don't miss the Magical Sundays for families and children, with creative and educational workshops: the perfect way to end a weekend at the Castles of the Duchy with a touch of creativity.

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