PIACENZA, MOTHER OF PEOPLES

In this small town in the Emilia region, the glorious Roman Empire, which had lasted for centuries, finally gave up in 476 A.D. Piacenza is not only known for its historical events, but also its natural and artistic beauties, like the Medieval hamlets and small towns where time seems to have stood still.

History

Piacenza was founded by the Romans in 218 B.C., as part of a long and tormented battle against the Galls who had settled there. With the arrival of the first Germanic peoples, certain crises started like the defeat of the Imperial legions. In 476 A.D. the historic cycle was concluded in this town on the Western Roman Empire, with the fall of the last legion and the Emperor. It was constantly devastated during the medieval period as well. After the Ostrogoth and Byzantine domains, the community took on an important role but the real recovery was under the Franks, beginning in the 9th century.  During that period, the two town emblems were built, the Cathedral and later the Gothic Palace. In 1848, the town was the first in Italy to join the Kingdom of Sardinia and in 1859, the Austrian troupes finally abandoned Piacenza, where they were determined to pursue independence, as is shown by the massive numbers that enrolled as volunteers for Garibaldi. The two world wars finally once again saw heavy participation by soldiers from Piacenza and, unfortunately, many of them fell.

The city  and its monuments

The heart of the town is Piazza dei Cavalli, which is surrounded by the Gothic Palace, the equestrian monuments dedicated to Alessandro and Ranuccio Farnese (thus giving the square its name), the Governor’s Palace, the Merchants’ Palace and Farnese Palace, home of the noble family. The Gothic Palace used to be the municipal offices, which are now in the Merchants’ Palace. The Governor’s Palace was the home and offices of the various governors until the Duchies of Piacenza and Parma were attached to the Kingdom of Sardinia. Among the religious monuments, we should mention the Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Campagna, historically linked to the 1095 Council, which gave rise to the Crusades; the church of St. Antonino, one of the most interesting historically and artistically for the architectural style and figurative decorations; the church of San Savino, considered one of the most significant of the Romanic-Lombard period.

The geographical area

The province of Piacenza is formed of four valleys, which slope down from the nearby Apennines and create a very singular area. They are the basins of Val d’Arda, Valnure, Valtrebbia and Valtidone. In the vast district of Val d’Arda, the main town is Fiorenzuola, and we find the hill village of Vigolo Marchese, the medieval hamlet of Castell’Arquato, perhaps the best conserved in the region, Vigoleno, authentic architectural pearl that is still intact, and the archaeological centre of Veleia. We should also remember Giuseppe Verdi’s villa, in the village of Sant’Agata di Villanova sull’Arda, where the composer spent the greater part of his life and wrote his most important operas. In Valnure a visit to Grazzano Visconti is a must, and Valtrebbia, besides the natural beautiful landscape that has made it famous throughout Europe, is also known for the artistic town of Bobbio. Valtidone is the most western of the Piacenza valleys and is famous for the gentle green hills with the vineyards, the small ancient villages and the numerous castles.