Polesine Zibello, the town with many faces: landscape, history and food
This town was only recently born out of the amalgamation of Polesine Parmense and Zibello, along the charming banks of the great river Po, in the Emilia Romagna area of the Po Valley near to Parma.
These two areas, now merged into one, reveal spectacular scenery, fascinating history and excellent local delicacies.
The “liquid” lands of Polesine
Vibrant vegetation, slow-running canals and old farmhouses. The typical Po Valley landscape boasts plenty of charm in every season: from the green of summer to the warm colours of autumn to the white winter mists.
Here, where peace reigns, you can let yourself be lulled sweetly by the hypnotic movement of the water.
We find ourselves on what were once small islands, known as “polesini”, which fused with the mainland following floods. Since the land is very flat, we recommend a peaceful stroll or bicycle ride, exploring your surroundings.
Unmissable sites in Polesine Zibello
The first place to visit is undoubtedly Palazzo Pallavicino. Located in the central square, this 15th-century architectural gem is occupied by offices and institutions, so you can only admire its façade.
You can fully capture its spirit by walking through the beautiful loggia below, home, as in the past, to small shops. It is worth stopping for lunch or a coffee at one of the cafés with outdoor seating. Be sure to visit the churches scattered around the village, especially the Gothic-Lombard Parish Church dedicated to Saints Gervaso and Protaso and the Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie, the oldest monument.
The Museum of Rural Civilisation
On the ground floor of the former Convent of the Dominican Friars, a wing has been restored and converted into the “Giuseppe Riccardi” Museum of Rural Civilisation.
Agriculture, good food and wise peasant culture are the cornerstones of this area: the museum exhibits this ancient knowledge through everyday objects of countryside life from the late 19th to the 20th century, including furnishings from kitchens and old cellars. At the end of the route, you can see a traditional Po Valley boat made in Zibello itself.
Inimitable products and a unique location: the Antica Corte Pallavicina
Our trip wouldn’t be complete without trying some Culatello di Zibello, a cured meat that finds the ideal climatic curing conditions on the banks of the Po. And the only PDO so far is right here in Zibello. The right way to enjoy it is in thin, hand-cut slices, accompanied by good bread or focaccia, or ripe figs when they are in season.
Another giant of flavour is Parmigiano Reggiano, which you will find in the filling of ravioli and agnolotti, or you can enjoy in its exquisite simplicity.
In this flat strip of Italy, every restaurant will spoil you for choice.
After exploring a few, you can end on a high note by heading to a special place, a guardian of history and culinary art: the Antica Corte Pallavicina. This magnificent castle on the river Po belongs to the Castelli del Ducato circuit, which houses a relais with 11 rooms and the Michelin-starred restaurant of the Spigaroli brothers, heirs of a family of sharecroppers on the Piatador farm that once belonged to the great composer Giuseppe Verdi, who was born in this area. For a fee, you can visit the manor and explore the Culatello Museum, full of historical documents and fascinating exhibits.
We recommend the complete tour of the courtyard with the kitchen garden, the ancient kitchen and the frescoed rooms of what was the residence of the Pallavicino marquises from the 13th to the 19th century. Visitors can also explore Po Forest, a trail through the vegetation of Golena del Po, the family's pig farm and the farm.
Finally, you can treat your taste buds with informal tastings at the Hosteria, which offers platters starring Culatello and Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by dishes such as tortelli di erbetta and stracotto di bue with polenta; or you can enjoy the royal treatment by booking a table at the Michelin-starred restaurant.
Accompanied by the lapping of the water below, with panoramic views from the large windows, you will be serenaded by a parade of premium cured Culatelli, ravioletti di gallina and many other delicacies: the best of the territory in the skilful hands of chef Massimo Spigaroli.
The best time to visit
If you happen to be in Polesine Zibello in November, November Porc awaits, with a jam-packed calendar of gastronomic events around Polesine.