Brief history and description of Piacenza


Piacenza (Piasëinsa in dialect) is an Italian town of 102,871 inhabitants, capital of Emilia-Romagna. The province of Piacenza in the Po Valley extends south of the river Po, in the western region of Emilia-Romagna, an area of 2,589 km square. The population is 288,000 inhabitants. It is bordered to the north and west to Lombardy (province of Lodi, Cremona province and the province of Pavia), to the west with Piedmont (province of Alessandria), to the east with the province of Parma, on the south by Liguria (Genoa Province).
 Situated between Emilia and Lombardy, the city and its province suffered severely influence of Milan, the economic region which belong to many aspects and which have often linked their destinies. It is called "Firstborn" because it was the first Italian city to vote in a plebiscite for annexation to Piedmont.
Piacenza is situated in the Po Valley at an altitude of 61 meters above sea level and is located on the right bank of the Po, where the river flowed into it Trebbia to the west and the river Nure east of the city. For about fifteen miles south, appear on the slopes of the Colli Piacentini, foothills of the Ligurian Apennines. The geographical location it has always determined the fate of military strategy and made it an important rail and highway junction.
Agricultural activities (crops and livestock) finds its best expression in the valleys that branch off towards the Apennines, from the plains bordering the river Po, which date back gradually changing the topography and consequently the type of cultivation.
From the west, there are the main valleys: Tidone Trebbia Nure and Arda. In turn, each of these includes a number of more or less high "small valleys", each characterized by geographical features, social and economic issues.

Tidone Valley

Secondary valleys: Val Luretta Chiarone Val, Val Tidoncello, Val Morcione

The valley is located between the Luretta valley
to the east and Staffora valley and Oltrepo Pavese to the west, start at the foot of Mount Penice (1460 mt.) where the homonimous river born at 1.000 meters above the sea level and extends in a hills to the plain where it flows into the Po River near the town of Sarmato.
Near the village of Molato di Nibbiano, a mighty dam (completed in 1928) forms the Trebecco Lake, a reservoir whose water is used for irrigation and electricity production.

first human presence in Val Tidone can be traced back from the Stone Age, and certainly to the Neolithic age as evidenced by archaeological finds in the valley (in Pianello you can visit the archaeological museum of the Rock Hall). The first historical data we are from the Roman period, along with numerous archaeological remains found in many locations including: Arcello Ganaghello, Borgonovo, Trevozzo, Pian di San Martino, and some of its vicus are cited in the tabula alimentaria traianea.
The first inhabitants of this valley, perhaps the Ligurian tribes in 3000 bC that gave rise to permanent settlements devoted to agriculture, were subjected to numerous raids by other people that followed over the centuries. Before the rival tribes, which was followed by the Etruscans, the Romans, later it was the turn of the Visigoths, Vandals, and Huns. From the third century to the late first millennium, the Lombard rule and then was no less a bearer of the Carolingian wars and tribulations, and characterized by the formation of large landholdings. Property assigned to the powerful monastery (Monastery of Bobbio in 612), dioceses, lay or palace officials and notables of the place to keep the sympathy, but by increasing the stirring envy and greed of the various successors of the excluded and neighbors. As a reminder of the strategic importance of the val Tidone had over the centuries, there remain numerous castles, among which the Coran, Pianello, Nibbiano, Trebecco, Castelnuovo Val Tidone and Romagnese.
Alternate captains and nobles in the possession of lands and castles and many of the names of the families are still common today: Landi, Scoto, Malvicini, Fontana, Arcelli, Sforza, Dal Verme, Scotti, Cattaneo, Bonvini etc.
The second millennium is still marked by new wars, new domains and short intervals of quiet enough, from the struggles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines to French rule, the rule of the Farnese family (in 1545 Pope Paul III created the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza given to the child Pierluigi Farnese) the rule of the Bourbons, the conquest of the Valley in 1747 by the Austrians to that of Napoleon in 1796 and the capitulation of these, again to Austria and finally the union, the last act before the unification of Italy , with Piedmont in 1859.
And during these events and these centuries that arise in Val Tidone the numerous forts and castles, destroyed and rebuilt in part to renewed grounds for offense and defense, we can still see and admire in every town and in almost all fractions.   

Trebbia Valley
Secondary valleys: Perino Valley, Boreca Valley, Curiasca Valley

Throughout the Trebbia, between the headwaters of the river to the mouth of the river Po extends to a length of 118 km opening a path through the mountains to come down to the plains near Piacenza.

The Trebbia river originates from Prelà mountain at 800 meters above sea level and stretches from south to north in the direction of collecting a large number of tributaries, the most important and certainly are Aveto torrent and Brugneto torrent.
The earliest traces of human presence in Trebbia valley, date back to the Neolithic period as demonstrated, among other things, the hatchet of flint found near Rovegno (Ge) at the beginning of the twentieth century, the ax is not the only artifact found in a territory rich historical traces that highlight the importance of the area which axis linking the coast and inland Po.
Ax and a dagger from the Bronze Age have been discovered during excavations in the area Bobbiese, but that date back to Roman times and the first major finds certain historical data.
Our mountains were inhabited by the ancient Ligurian tribe, who lived with primitive agriculture, hunting and sheep-farming.
The Roman presence is also demonstrated by the discovery, near Pietranera, of some axes, pieces of pottery and fragments of bronze tools. There was no lack
Ligurian and Roman settlements were not lacking, as is clear from tombstones and votive objects found during excavations in 1955 on Mount Alfeo. The most significant historical event is certainly the battle of Trebbia fought during the Second Punic War to the end of 218 bC among the soldiers of Hannibal and the Carthaginians led by the Roman consul Sempronius on the heights on the right side of the river south of Piacenza.
Passed away the Roman administration, following a dark period of history which no traces remain, but in the seventh century thanks to the monastery of Bobbio, start a new historical era on the development of human settlements. The monastery was founded in 614, at the confluence of the Trebbia Bobbio and Irish monk Columban on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Saint Peter.
Of paramount importance is the location of the monastery site in a forward position to Liguria, still in Byzantine hands, it offers many possibilities for communication and expansion by the Byzantines, for which the transition between Liguria and Exarchate, as for Lombards who, through Trebbia have the opportunity to communicate with the Tuscia having precluded the roads that pass through the territory of Liguria.
The activity of the monks is fundamental to the work of agricultural colonization of the valley and the impetus given to the cultural development of Bobbio who made a very important center. The monastery had a long period of decline that culminated in 1795 when, suppressed the Abbey, went to the famous library and also lost part of the very few codes were transferred to Rome and Turin. Another factor that characterizes the history of Trebbia is the domain of the Marquises Malaspina. Different historical events, combined with the excessive subdivision of assets, with consequent struggles between the branches of the same family, leading to the disintegration of the possessions.
Malaspina happen to them and the Fieschi, the Doria, which was resumed with greater vigor the expansionist policy of Trebbia and already in 1540 endorsed the castle and the estate of Otto in 1583 to Casanova, in 1651 the factory in 1695 and the of Alice.
The old feudal lords, however, are slowly replaced by the rich families of the Genoese merchants who aspire, through the acquisition of titles of nobility, to obtain a new social prestige. This situation has, however, short-term, the Congress of Vienna of 1815 abolished the feudal imperial decrees and fallen lords and assigns new territories to the Kingdom of Sardinia.
During the Second World War the Alta Val Trebbia was the scene of guerrilla warfare against the Germans in retreat Musante, Mount Antola, they organized the first partisan band from 1943 to 1945 and was a supporter of the command headquarters were born two divisions, the Bisagno who took the name from its legendary commander Aldo Gastaldi
just said "Bisagno" and the "Scrivia" which took its name from its commander Aurelio Ferrandi; a leader of partisans who operated in Fascia was Senator Paolo Emilio Taviani, with the nickname "Pittaluga" and who later became closely tied to Trebbia.
But the war of liberation was fought in other countries, whose isolation for once played for the benefit of rural populations. The contribution of the population of the valley in the fight against the nazi-fascists to win freedom, he is remembered by the many monuments erected in many countries in the Resistance of Trebbia. In Alta Trebbia there are some places whose names have a significant parallelism with the Carthaginian names: Cartisegna so, is matched by Carthage Zerba to the island of Djerba, in the Gulf of Gabes, in front of the ruins of Carthage; at the Mount Penice the Latin name of the Carthaginians, "phoenices" or phoenicians.

Nure Valley

This valley is situated at the limit of four provinces (Alessandria, Genova, Pavia, Piacenza), characterized by common customs and traditions and by a large repertoire of music and dances are very old.
The name originates from the Nure torrent. The Nure originates from Piacenza Apennines comes from the Black Lake and is a tributary of the River Po, which flows at Caorso after about 75 Km. The valley is located between the Trebbia to the west, Aveto valley to the south-west, Ceno Valley of south-east and the Val d'Arda in the east.
The highest common of Val Nure is Ferriere (to be precise with the fraction of Ciregna which reaches 1135 m a.s.l.), located on the border with the provinces of Parma and Genoa.
In the upper Valley transited the Abbots route, the journey between the seventh century and the year one-thousand by the abbots of the abbey of St. Columban of Bobbio to go to Rome and that allowed the monastery to maintain contact and control over the possessions that stretched as well as in northern Italy, to Tuscany. Also during the eleventh century, the valley was crossed by caravans of pilgrims who used the trail on the valley floor to move from North to South and Dealers at the time of transporting goods (oil, salt, spices, lemon, cedar, flour, and grains) for trade with the Genoese territory.
Around 700 b.C. was a thriving mill near Ferriere (a name derived from the presence of quarries and iron mills in this mineral) waters of the Nure
river moving the machines from the iron (hammers and bellows).
The history of the valley is linked to the feudal lordship of Anguissola, for the lower and middle, and Nicelli to the top. In addition to the Malaspina Gambaro had the center court and feudal most important. About eighty castles dotted the once Valnure but many are now reduced to ruins.
Many artists were born in Val Nure in particular between 800 and 900 and others who "worked" in the valley because they were attracted by the special beauty of the landscape, it is worthwhile to recall Ghittoni, Toscani, Sidoli, Richetti, Romagnosi and Soressi.
Remind that in the thirties came in the Val Nure "Littorina" (a type of locomotive) as a means of electrical transport on "railroad" that linked the town of Bettola with the city of Piacenza and the various countries of the valley, and remained in service until 1967 when was finally replaced by the road.

Arda Valley
Secondary valleys: Val Chero

Arda Valley is the valley's western province of Piacenza, in addition to other valleys that make up the profile of this hilly and mountainous province, the Nure, Trebbia and Tidone Valleys. The homonimous rorrente originates at about 1200 mt. of altitude, from north-west slopes of Mount Lama, in the Ligurian Apennines, in the town of Morfa and flows into the Po in the town of Parma Polesine after a distance of about 55 km.

It's undoubtedly become the main protagonist in the story in these places, both the Roman era, with the archaeological finds of Veleja, both the Middle Ages, castles and hilltop villages (Castell'Arquato, Vigoleno) , traces of the via Francigena and Pellegrini, mingle with the more recent so-called Verdi's land. Even nature can hardly be considered in second place with beautiful scenery of nature parks, such as the Fluvial Regional Park of Stirone.
And actually get to merge with the same story as in the case of the Natural Reserve of Piacenza who occupies a surface of 1800 hectares divided between the municipalities of Alseno, Vernasca, Salsomaggiore Terme and Fidenza.
The whole river ecosystem of the river's natural features intact despite the human presence in the area. The high sandy shores are home to numerous species of burrowing birds, while the dense riverine vegetation that grows along the stream consists mainly of willows, alders, poplars, elms, oaks and maples. The river erosion in some places is so marked as to form veritable canyons with walls up to ten meters. A lick this park is Vigoleno, a medieval village, surrounded by a sea of vines. In the upper part of the valley lies the valley of the river which takes its name from Borla the nearby inhabited. The area to the south of this zone is mountainous and typically occupies the right side of the Arda Valley. Immediately visible are the forests and the largest artificial lake created between 1919 and 1934 in the locality of Mignano, where stands a small chapel which houses a semicircular apse of the Roman (XII century) decorated with a fresco of St. James. The foundation of this structure dedicated to St. Geminiano is closely connected with the period of pilgrimage along the Via Francigena.
The residential places on this side are typical rural villages made up largely of old stone buildings as in the case of Vezzolacca, Castelletto and Settesorelle. These places have always found in subsistence crops ripped the mountain. Just the difficulty of living has determined, as indeed in almost all the most inaccessible areas of the Apennines, strong migration flows that have nearly depopulated the old countries, which are reborn in the summer months as a tourist destination.
Even nature can hardly be considered in second place with beautiful scenery of nature parks, such as the River Regional Park Stirone, and actually get to merge with the same story, such as the Nature Reserve covers an area of ??Piacenza of 1769 hectares, divided between the municipalities of Alseno, Vernasca, Salsomaggiore Terme and Fidenza.

The town of Vernasca, occupies a territory narrow and elongated in the direction northeast-southwest on the border with the province of Parma and made up of three parallel valleys of the rivers Arda, Ongina and Stirone. The name derives from Vernasca "ver" spring and "nascor" I was born,  "where does the spring", or from the Ligurian dialect and would indicate the alder. Here we are in an area where you feel the hegemony of the monastery of Val Tolla, then Upper Arda Valley. This was a remarkable complex which made its presence felt even in villages in the middle valley seat. Over the centuries, belonged to the Malaspina, the Rossi, the Sforza of Santa Fiora and to the Sforza Cesarini. Of the original characters of Vernasca remains of the Romanesque church of St. Columban (XII century), or the bell tower and the apse, which is currently included in the exquisite setting of a square garden - in the upper part of the country, which hosts Del and mnifestazioni; the rest of the temple was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century, when it had already been rendered unsafe by a landslide. The surviving parts of the parish church, originally built on a basilica with three aisles near the castle of the late Vernasca, are flanked by the ancient rectory, which now houses the Visitor Center of the Provincial Via Francigena, a museum and learning in which they collected artworks and historical artifacts relating to the trafficking of Piacenza path of pilgrimage to Rome, where they are exposed apse frescoes detached from the walls of the old parish, including that of Our Lady Crowned, "dating back to 1474. The fortified village of Vigoleno is one of the most important historical monuments of the entire province of Piacenza for the elegance of its forms is the great integrity of the entire system castrense, showing uncommon Tuscan influences, perhaps due to ' employment of workers from Lunigiana. The whole village is surrounded by impressive and intact battlements, covered entirely by a walkway from which you have the opportunity to enjoy exceptional views across the valley Stirone. The only access to the village, at the tower, is preceded by a "barbican": an elongated fortification that served to protect the port itself and to facilitate the sorties. The urban structure is dominated by a square tower, with arrow slits, battlements corbels and blackbirds ghibellines.
Vigoleno is also famous for the tradition of wine Vin Santo. Vin Santo di Vigoleno Doc is a sweet wine with a delicate finesse and is produced according to ancient tradition. Its name derives from the fact that in ancient times the grapes took place in the Holy Week before Easter. To determine its characters contribute very valuable characteristics of soil, exposure, and vines that are used in the production technique. For the vines, only white, non-aromatic as ingredients in traditional Vin Santo Vigoleno (Santa Maria, Melara, Beverdino all from the production area) have been added more recently Marsanne, Sauvignon, Ortrugo, Trebbiano. Each of these leads to wine grapes characteristic taste and aroma that are fused into a harmonious balance.
Built in an eccentric position with respect to the village, near the eastern wall, is the church of San Giorgio, built as the foundation to the time of the twelfth century, one of the examples of Romanesque architecture's most important sacred Piacenza.

Photo courtesy of Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza

Val d’Arda
Valli secondarie: Val Chero

La val d'Arda è la valle occidentale della provincia di Piacenza, accanto alle altre vallate che costituiscono il profilo collinare e montuoso di questa provincia, la val Nure, la val Trebbia e la val Tidone. L’omonimo Torrente nasce a circa 1200 m di quota dalle pendici nord-occidentali del Monte Lama, nell'Appennino Ligure, in comune di Morfasso e sfocia nel Po nel comune di Polesine Parmense dopo un percorso di circa 55 Km.
Val d'Arda - Castell'ArquatoE' indubbiamente la storia a farla da padrona in questi luoghi, sia l'epoca romana, con i ritrovamenti archeologici di Veleia, sia il Medioevo, con i castelli e i borghi arroccati (Castell'Arquato, Vigoleno), le tracce della Via Francigena e dei Pellegrini, si mescolano a quella più recente delle cosiddette Terre Verdiane.
Anche la natura non può certo considerarsi in secondo piano con i suggestivi scenari dei parchi naturali, come il Parco Regionale Fluviale dello Stirone. Anzi, addirittura arriva a fondersi direttamente con la stessa storia, come nel caso della Riserva Naturale del Piacenziano che occupa una superficie di 1800 ettari circa suddivisi tra i comuni di Alseno, Vernasca, Salsomaggiore Terme e Fidenza. L'intero ecosistema fluviale del torrente ha caratteristiche naturali integre nonostante l'antropizzazione del territorio. Le alte sponde sabbiose costituiscono l'habitat di numerose specie di uccelli scavatori, mentre la fitta vegetazione fluviale che cresce lungo il corso d'acqua è costituita in prevalenza da salici, ontani, pioppi, olmi, farnie ed aceri. L'erosione fluviale in alcuni tratti è talmente accentuata da formare veri e propri "canyons" con pareti alte fino a dieci metri.
A lambire questo parco si trova Vigoleno, un borgo medievale fortificato circondato da una distesa di vigneti. Nella parte alta della vallata si trova la valle laterale del torrente Borla da cui prende il nome anche il vicino nucleo abitato.
La zona più a sud di questo territorio è tipicamente montuosa ed occupa il versante destro della Val d'Arda. Immediatamente visibili sono i boschi e il grande lago artificiale realizzato tra il 1919 ed il 1934 in località Mignano, dove si erge un piccolo oratorio che conserva un'abside semicircolare dell'età romanica (secolo XII) decorato con un affresco raffigurante S.Giacomo. La fondazione di questa struttura dedicata a S.Geminiano è strettamente connessa con il periodo dei pellegrinaggi lungo la Via Francigena.
I nuclei abitativi posti su questo versante sono tipici borghi rurali costituiti in gran parte da antichi edifici in pietra come nel caso di Vezzolacca, Castelletto e Settesorelle. Queste località hanno da sempre trovato sussistenza nelle coltivazioni agricole strappate alla montagna. Proprio la difficoltà delle condizioni di vita ha determinato, come del resto in quasi tutte le zone più impervie dell'Appennino, forti flussi migratori che hanno quasi spopolato i vecchi paesi, che rinascono nei mesi estivi come meta di villeggiatura.
Anche la natura non può certo considerarsi in secondo piano con i suggestivi scenari dei parchi naturali, come il Parco Regionale Fluviale dello Stirone, anzi, addirittura arriva a fondersi direttamente con la stessa storia, come nel caso della Riserva Naturale del Piacenziano che occupa una superficie di 1769 ettari suddivisi tra i comuni di Alseno, Vernasca, Salsomaggiore Terme e Fidenza
Val d'Arda - Castello di VigolenoIl comune di Vernasca occupa un territorio stretto ed allungato in direzione nordest-sudovest posto al confine con la provincia di Parma e costituito dalle tre vallate parallele dei torrenti Arda, Ongina e Stirone. Il toponimo Vernasca deriverebbe dal "ver", primavera e "nascor", nasco (dove nasce la primavera), oppure dalla parlata ligure e starebbe a indicare l'ontano. Siamo qui in un territorio in cui si fa sentire l'egemonia del monastero di Val di Tolla, cioè dell'Alta Val d'Arda. Era questo un complesso notevole che faceva avvertire la propria presenza anche nei borghi posti nella media vallata. Nel corso dei secoli passa ai Malaspina, ai Rossi, agli Sforza di Santa Fiora e degli Sforza Cesarini. Dei caratteri originari Vernasca conserva i resti della romanica Pieve di S.Colombano (secolo XII), ovvero il campanile e l'abside, attualmente inserite nel gradevole contesto di una piazza - giardino nella parte alta del paese, dove si svolgono cancerti e mnifestazioni; il resto del tempio è stato abbattuto all'inizio del Novecento, quando era già stato reso pericolante da una frana. Le parti superstiti della Pieve, originariamente edificata su di un impianto basilicale a tre navate nei pressi dello scomparso castello di Vernasca, sono affiancate dall'antica canonica che attualmente ospita il Centro Visita Provinciale della Via Francigena, uno spazio museale e didattico nel quale sono raccolti materiali illustrativi e reperti storici riguardanti la tratta piacentina del cammino di pellegrinaggio verso Roma e dove sono esposti gli affreschi distaccati dalle pareti absidali dell'antica Pieve, tra cui quello della "Madonna Incoronata", risalenti al 1474.
 Il borgo fortificato di Vigoleno è sicuramente uno dei monumenti storici più importanti dell'intera Provincia di Piacenza sia per l'eleganza delle sue forme sia per l'eccezionale integrità dell'intero impianto castrense, che mostra non comuni influenze toscane, forse dovute all'impiego di maestranze provenienti dalla Lunigiana. L'intero borgo, è racchiuso da imponenti ed integre mura merlate, percorse interamente da un camminamento di ronda dal quale si ha l'opportunità di ammirare un'eccezionale panoramica su tutta la Val Stirone. L'unico accesso al borgo, in corrispondenza del mastio, è preceduto da un "rivellino": una fortificazione di forma allungata che serviva a proteggere la porta vera e propria ed a facilitare le sortite. La struttura urbana è invece dominata dal mastio quadrangolare, dotato di feritoie, beccatelli e merli ghibellini.
Vigoleno è famoso anche per la tradizione enologica del Vin Santo. Il Vin Santo di Vigoleno d.o.c. è un vino passito di delicata finezza e viene prodotto secondo un'antica tradizione. La sua denominazione deriva dal fatto che in epoca remota la pigiatura delle uve avveniva nella settimana Santa che precede la Pasqua. A determinare i suoi pregevolissimi caratteri concorrono le caratteristiche del terreno, dell'esposizione, dei vitigni che vengono impiegati e della tecnica di produzione. Ai vitigni, esclusivamente bianchi, non aromatici che entrano nella composizione tradizionale del Vin Santo di Vigoleno (Santa Maria, Melara, Beverdino tutti originari della zona di produzione) si sono aggiunti in tempi più recenti Marsanne, Sauvignon, Ortrugo, Trebbiano. Ognuna di queste uve porta al vino particolari caratteristiche di gusto e di aroma che vengono fuse in un armonico equilibrio.
Edificata in posizione eccentrica rispetto al borgo, in prossimità delle mura orientali, è la Pieve di San Giorgio, risalente come epoca di fondazione al secolo XII, uno degli esempi di architettura romanica sacra più importanti del piacentino.

Foto per gentile concessione dell'Associazione Castelli del Ducato di Parma e Piacenza