On this Castles tour in Emilia Romagna, you will discover fortresses and manor houses dating from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. A local history guide will share the stories of Italy’s most illustrious dynasties.
Trip in a nutshell
- Ideal for: history buffs, art lovers, romantic escapes
- Highlights: Weapons Room in San Pietro in Cerro Castle, frescoes in Torrechiara, Vigoleno sweet wine
- What you will learn: history of Parma and Piacenza Duchy, the secrets of Culatello making, a glimpse on medieval lifestyle
- Local professional guide throughout your entire trip
- Length: 3 days, 2 nights
- Starts from Parma and ends in Castell’Arquato
- Transportation: self-drive or car and driver
- Accommodation and meals: family-run Agriturismo/hotels; typical meals at the farm or in traditional restaurants
- Price: starting from €1500 per person (based on a group of 4 people).
DESCRIPTION OF TOUR
The provinces of Parma and Piacenza, in the western part of the Emilia Romagna region, are linked by much more than food and wine.
Travel with locals back in time and visit beautiful castles, historic hamlets and discover local delicacies: culatello and sweet wine.
Until 1521 the territory of Parma and Piacenza was part of the Duchy of Milan under the Sforza family, but from 1545 Pope Paul III created the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza to be given to his son Pierluigi and thus decreed the supremacy of first the Farnese family and then the Bourbons over the government of these two provinces. This union, which began during the Renaissance period, lasted until the unification of Italy in the second half of the 1800s.
Are you ready to travel in the footsteps of Dukes?
DAY 1 Castles tour in Emilia Romagna: Maria Luigia, Culatello, and the Weapons Room
Morning – Antica Corte Pallavicina and Culatello Museum
This castles tour in Emilia Romagna start in Antica Corte Pallavicina. Before a series of renovations in the 1990s transformed the place into its current splendour, the building was virtually a ruin. In fact, the previous restoration dates back to 1550, and in the late 1700s Maria Luigia, Duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla (and wife of Napoleon) established her border guard here.
Now this building and its cellars house a Michelin-starred restaurant and the rooms where culatello is produced and matured. The tour begins in the vegetable garden overlooking a large courtyard, We will then visit the ancient kitchen with its coffered ceiling and elegant frescoed rooms. These quarters were the residence of the Pallavicino Marquises from the 13th to the 19th century. Finally, we will continue to the Culatello Museum, ending in the maturing cellar. Culatello is a salami with a protected origin designation of the highest quality. In fact, it is made only in this part of the province of Parma and with the best part of the ham. The flavour of this salami is strongly influenced by the refined moulds that are created during the maturing process. Finally, after 10 months, the salami is ready.
We will stop here for lunch, before setting off for the second castle of the day, the Castle of San Pietro in Cerro, which is only 13 km away.
Afternoon – Castle of San Pietro in Cerro
San Pietro in Cerro is a beautiful 15th-century structure that can be entirely visited. The attic houses the Museum in Motion, a collection of over one thousand five hundred works by both the Italian and foreign contemporary masters. Since 2017, the Sala delle Armi (Weapons Room) has been open in the castle, with over 500 unique antiques from all over the world. You will see for instance more than 80 guns from the 17th to the early 20th century, over 50 rifles, 80 sabres, swords, and halberds, 40 daggers. Finally, a gamblers’ gun or one made from a walking stick, are on display.
After the visit, we will head to our farmhouse accommodation and enjoy a typical dinner.
DAY 2 Art and adventure. Exquisite frescos and a military fortress on a spur of rock
Morning – Torrechiara Castle
Our castles tour in Emilia Romagna continues to the Torrechiara Castle.
Torrechiara perfectly preserves its elegant square-shaped medieval structure between four towers and an imposing crenelated wall. It is accessed via a long-roofed entrance that leads to the courtyard of honor, where the small church of San Nicomede is located. Special attention is paid to the Camera D’Oro, whose name originates from the pure gold leaves that once covered the tiles on the walls. The room still contains a rare cycle of frescoes attributed to Benedetto Bembo depicting scenes of the chivalric love ritual.
Afternoon – Bardi Fortress
In the afternoon, we will climb 60 km from Parma to the Bardi Fortress. This spectacular fortress perched on a spur of rock is one of the finest examples of military architecture in Italy. Towards the end of the 1500s, the fortress was partially transformed into a noble residence. Today you can admire the walkways, the towers, the parade ground, the porticoed courtyard of honor, the well, the icehouse, the granaries, the prisons, and the torture chambers. Finally, you can visit a permanent exhibition dedicated to 20th-century art entitled “Art and Crafts of Eastern Europe”.
What a long day it has been! Let’s head to our accommodation: a renovated Albergo Diffuso… in its rooms, we will still feel like we are in the castle.
DAY 3 Discover life in the middle ages in Borgo di Vigoleno, drink Vin Santo (sweet wine), and see the set of Ladyhawke
Morning – Vigoleno and La Massina winery
Ready to discover how people lived in the Middle Ages? Travel with locals to two of the most fascinating medieval villages in Emilia Romagna. They are both located about 40 km from the city of Piacenza amidst beautiful hills covered with vineyards. We will start in Borgo di Vigoleno, a perfect example of the medieval living style with its crenelated walls, village, and perfectly preserved fortifications. You can walk along the walls, looking at the surrounding landscape through the narrow slits used by archers, while in the square you can admire the 16th-century fountain and the Romanesque church of San Giorgio.
If you are a wine lover, be my guest and taste one of the rarest Italian dessert wines, the Vin Santo di Vigoleno. It is a local and little-known specialty produced by only 6 wineries in the area for a total of 1200 bottles a year. We will try the one from the La Massina winery, located on the same hillside as Vigoleno Castle, about 1 km away. The Loschi family has owned the land since the mid-1800s and for generations, they have been handing down the secrets for making this very special wine with its amber color and enchanting aroma. Very close to this winery is another one, Croci: this is my absolute favorite in Emilia Romagna! Try their ‘Valtolla’, an aromatic white wine made using Malvasia.
Afternoon – Castell’Arquato
Our castles tour in Emilia Romagna ends in the village of Castell’Arquato. You can immerse yourself in the 13th century and experience first-hand the feelings and atmospheres made famous by the film Ladyhawke. Some scenes of this movie were filmed here in 1985. The town has been awarded three titles: Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club, City of Art and Culture, and one of the 100 Most Beautiful Villages in Italy and represents an untouched corner of the Middle Ages. The Rocca Viscontea, built between 1342 and 1349, became part of the Sforza family in 1466, who held it until 1707 when it was incorporated into the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza.
The program in details – Castles tour in Emilia Romagna
This is an approximate schedule, exact times will be finalized and they might change during the trip.
– Day 1: Maria Luigia, Culatello, and the Weapons Room, what is your pick?
- 9 am meet in Antica Corte Pallavicina : the Castle and Culatello Museum
- 1 pm lunch in Antica Corte Pallavicina
- 3,00 -6,00 pm arrive in San Pietro in Cerro and visit the castle
- 6,30 pm check in San Pietro in Cerro
- 7,30 pm dinner
– Day 2: Art and adventure. Exquisite frescos and a military fortress on a spur of rock.
- 9,30 am depart from hotel to Torrechiara
- 10,30 am – 2.30 pm visit Torrchiara and Lunch
- 30 – 6.00 pm arrive in Bardi and visit the fortress
- 6,30 pm check-in Bardi
- 7,30 pm dinner
– Day 3: Discover life in the middle ages in Borgo di Vigoleno, drink Vin Santo (sweet wine), and see the set of Ladyhawke
- 9,30 am depart from hotel to Borgo di Vigoleno
- 10,30 am – 2.30 pm Borgo di Vigoleno, wine factory, and lunch
- 30 – 6.00 pm arrive in Castell’Arquato and visit the town
- 6,00 pm end of the tour
- Accommodation and breakfast: 2 nights in agriturismo / B&B / hotels 3 or 4 stars (based on double room occupancy)
- 3 meals (lunch / dinner)
- All the experiences mentioned in the program
- A local professional guide throughout your trip
- Pre-trip support and assistance during your trip
Is not included, but can be arranged
- Transportation throughout the tour
- Any other destination/experience not specified in the program
What to bring – useful info
- Pack one nicer outfit for evenings out (optional 😉)
- 1 light jacket or wrap
- 1 pair of comfortable shoes
- Small daypack that’s comfortable to carry
- Water bottle