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Piacenza
Piacenza was founded in 218 BC (according to the tradition, on May 31), the first of the Roman military colonies, and was formerly called Placentia. Piacenza, a sizeable city with a substantial business and light industrial economic base, sits on the south bank of the River Po. Piacenza offers the traveler a splendid array of buildings, museums, churches, piazzas, public gardens, artefacts and artworks upon which one's eyes and spirit may feast. Travelers may can also satisfy baser needs enjoying the culinary delights that Piacenza's cooks and chefs, drawing on the produce of the surrounding fertile agricultural plains, serve in a plethora of restaurants, cafes and trattorias. There are also a number of festivals during the year, including the Jazz Festival which takes place in the spring.

History

In Placentia and the nearby colony, Cremona, 6,000 Latin colonists were sent, in particular members of the Equestrian class of Rome. In the same year as the city's founding, Hannibal won the Battle of Trebbia in Piacenza's area, but the city resisted the Punic forces. In the following years the city's territory was drained and a port was constructed onto the Po River. Placentia flourished as a production centre for grain, barley, millet, and wool. Although sacked and devastated several times, the city always recovered and as late as the 6th century Procopius called it Urbs Aemilia Princeps, namely the "Princess of the cities across the Via Aemilia", meaning "first city across the Via Aemilia". The era of Late Antiquity in Piacenza (c. 300-700/800 AD) was marked by the expansion of Christianity, with the presence of several martyrs. The current patron saint, Antoninus, was a former legionnaire who Christianized the area and was killed during the reign of Diocletianus. Piacenza was sacked in the course of the Gothic Wars (535–552). After a short period as a Byzantine Empire city, it was conquered by the Lombards, who made it a duchy seat. After the Frank conquest (9th century) the city began to recover, being sited across the Via Francigena who lead from the Holy Roman Empire to Rome. Its population and importance grew further after the year 1000. In that period the government began to shift from the feudal lords in the hands of a new enterprising class, as well as those of the feudal class of the countryside. In 1095 it was the site of the Council of Piacenza, in which the First Crusade was proclaimed. From 1126 Piacenza was a free commune and an important member of the Lombard League. In this role it took part to the war against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the subsequent battle of Legnano (1176). It also fought with success the neighbouring communes of Cremona, Pavia and Parma, expanding its possession. Piacenza snatched from the Malaspina counts and the bishop of Bobbio the control of the trading routes towards Genoa, where the first Piacentini bankers had already settled. In the 13th century, despite some unsuccessful wars against emperor Frederick II, piacenza managed to gain some strongholds on the Lombardy shore of the Po River. In 1183, in the church dedicated to Saint Antoninus, the primilaries of the Peace of Konstanz were signed. Agriculture and trades were highly flourishing in these centuries, and made Piacenza one of the richest city of Europe. This reflected in the construction of many important edifices and to a general revision of the urban asset. As well as in the great majority of Medieval Italian communes, since the second half of the 13th century in Piacenza inner party struggles were frequent: the Scotti, Pallavicino and Alberto Scoto (1290-1313) held in sequence the power in the city. The latter's government ended with the conquest by the Visconti of Milan, which held Piacenza until 1447. Duke Gian Galeazzo rewrote the city's statues and moved there the University of Pavia. Piacenza was a Sforza possession until 1499. A coin from the 16th century shows the motto: Placentia floret ("Piacenza flourishes"). The city was in fact developing further, mainly thanks to the produce from its countryside. Also in the course of that century a new wall line was erected. Piacenza was under France until 1521, and later, with Leo X, became briefly part of the Papal States. In 1545, finally, it was included in the new-born Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, led by the Farnese family. Piacenza was the capital city of the duchy until Ottavio Farnese (1547-1586) moved it to Parma. The city lived its most grievous years under duke Odoardo (1622-1646): 6,000 and 13,000 Piacentini out of 30,000 died of famine and plague, respectively. The city and its countryside were also ravaged by bandits and French soldiers. From 1732 to 1859 Parma and Piacenza were ruled by House of Bourbon. In the 18th century, being the duke family living in Parma, in Piacenza several edifices were built which belonged to noble families such as Scotti, Landi and Fogliani. In 1802 Napoleon's army annexed Piacenza to the French Empire. The young Piacentini recruits were sent to fight in Russia, Spain and Germany, while the city was spoiled of a great number of artworks which are currently exhibited in many French museums. The Habsburg government of Maria Luisa 1816-1847 is remembered as one of the best ever seen in Piacenza; the duchess drained many lands, built several bridges across the Trebbia river and the Nure stream, and created educational and artistic activities. Austrian and Croatian milices occupied Piacenza until, in 1848, a plebiscite marked the entrance of the city in the Kingdom of Sardinia. 37,089 voters out of 37,585 voted for the annexation. Piacenza was therefore declared Primogenita dell'Unità di Italia ("First-born of Unification of Italy") by the monarch. The Piacentini enrolled in mass in the Giuseppe Garibaldi's army which went in southern Italy to fight for independence.

Main monuments

Il Gotico (Municipio)
Il Gotico Municipio Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

Palazzo Comunale, also known as il Gotico, was built in 1281 as the seat of the government of the town. It is one of the best preserved examples of Medieval civic building in northern Italy and is built by the model of "Broletto", typical of nearby Lombardy. Of the original design, only the northern side was completed, with its typical Guelph merlons, the arcaded frame, the central bell tower with two lesser ones at the sides. The façade, with five arcades, is in pink marble in the lower part and in brickwork (decorated with geometrical figures) in the upper part. A rose window overlooks the short side, which has three arcades. The main hall has frescoes, and is used for meetings, lectures and conferences.

Palazzo Landi
Palazzo Landi Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

This fifteenth-century building, now housing the court of justice, was once the residence of the Farnese family, who confiscated the palace in retaliation against the owners known to have taken part in the plot against the first duke Pier Luigi. The Emperor Charles V was another famous resident. The Lombard master masons A. de Fondutis and G. Battagio worked on the faÁade, the former having already worked with Bramante on the church of San Satiro in Milan. Of great interest is the terracotta frieze on the elevations, ornate with sirens, arms and medallions, and the marble doorway, decorated with statues of warriors, putti with musical instruments, floral motives, allegories of Concord, Harmony, Music, Poetry and Painting, and a scene representing the fight between Hercules and Antaeus.

S. Sisto
S. Sisto Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

The Benedictine monks succeeded the nuns and began the construction of the present building towards the end of the fifteenth century. The present church, the first religious architectural project by Alessio Tramello, was built between 1499 and 1511. The façade, altered in the seventeenth century, has an ample courtyard with an open gallery in front. The interior, with three aisles, is a fine example of early Renaissance architecture and contains beautiful paintings by Procaccini, Pittoni, Palma Giovane, and the Campi brothers. On display above the high altar is a copy of Raffaello's masterpiece Madonna Sistina, which the maestro had painted expressly for the church of San Sisto in Piacenza. The original canvas was sold in 1754 by the Benedictine monks to August III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, for 10,000 pieces of gold, and is now the highlight of the Dresden museum. Of remarkable beauty are the choir-stalls in carved wood by Bartolomeo Spinello of Busseto and Giampiero Panbianchi of Colorno (1514). The backs of the stalls depict floral, musical, architectonic and perspective motifs, together with almost metaphysical sketches of the towns of Piacenza, Ferrara and Rome.

St. Francis
St. Francis Emilia Romagna tourism

The church of St. Francis, in Piazza Cavalli, is a 12th century Romanesque/Gothic edifice which, thanks to its central position, assumed the role of civic Sanctuary in the Middle Ages. Part of the ancient cloisters remains. The main gate is enriched by a big lunette of the 15th century representing the Ecstasy of St. Francis. The interior, with nave and two aisles divided by low and strong brick pillars that support high gothic arches, has a Latin Cross scheme. The nave, higher than the aisles, has a pentahedric apse in which the aisle apses meet; decorations include 15th-16th centuries frescoes. In the church was proclaimed the annexion of Piacenza to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1848.

S. Giovanni in Canale
S. Giovanni in Canale Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

San Giovanni in Canale was founded by the Dominicans in 1220, and enlarged in the mid-16th century.

 
Cathedral
Cathedral Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

It was built from 1122 to 1233 and is one of the most valuable examples of a Romanesque cathedral in northern Italy. The façade, in Veronese pink marble and gilted stone, is horizontally parted by a gallery that dominates the three gates, decorated with capitals and Romanic statues. The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by 25 large pillars. It has noteworthy frescoes, made in the 14th-16th centuries by Domenico Procaccini and Ludovico Carracci, while those of the dome are by Morazzone and Guercino. The presbitery as a wooden sculpture from 1479, a wodden choir by Giangiacomo da Genova (1471) and statues of Lombard school from the 15th century. The crypt, on the Greek cross plan, has 108 Romanesque small columns and is home to the relics of Saint Justine, to which the first cathedral (crumbled down in 1117 after an earthquake) was dedicated.

S. Antonino
S. Antonino Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

The basilica of Sant'Antonino is an example of Romanesque architecture, characterized by a large octagonal tower. It was commissioned by St. Victor, first bihsop of the city, in 350 CE, and completed in 375. It contains the relics of the eponymous saint, martyrized near Travo, in the Val Trebbia. In 1183 the delegates of Frederick Barbarossa and of the Lombard League met here for the premilimaries of peace of Constance. The church was renovated after damage cretaed by the barbarian invasion, and has a 15th century cloister. In the interior, the main artworks are the frescoes by Camillo Gervasetti (1622).

santa Maria di Campagna
santa Maria di Campagna Piacenza Emilia Romagna tourism

Santa Maria di Campagna, the masterpiece of architect Alessio Tramello of Piacenza, is a gem of Renaissance architecture. It was built between 1522 and 1528 as a shrine for the polychrome wooden statue of a real-size, miraculous Madonna della Campagnola, which was previously housed in a humble chapel. In ancient times, this was probably the site of a pozzo (pit), an underground tomb of Christian martyrs who had died during the persecutions by the emperor Diocletian, at the end of the second century.
The building, characterized by a majestic octagonal lantern, originally had a Greek cross plan as favoured by Bramante and his followers, but in 1791 a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with valuable paintings by the Campi brothers, was pulled down and the presbytery extended, so that the original plan changed into an upside down Latin cross.
The façade is geometrically neat, divided on two superimposed floors; its plain shapes contrast with the lavish pictorial decoration of the interior, which covers columns, pilaster strips, ribbing and beams alike. Of outstanding quality is the cycle of frescoes by the painter Giovanni Antonio Sacchi, known as Pordenone, who decorated the dome and the first two chapel on the left-hand side with some of his most significant works (1529-31), recently restored to their original splendour under the patronage of the Town Council.
The frescoes in the chapels depict St.Augustine, The Marriage of St. Catherine, The Adoration of the Magi, The Adoration of the Shepherds, and The Flight into Egypt. Those on the dome above the lantern represent The Eternal Father, prophets, sybils and biblical characters; mythological scenes are depicted along the base of the ribs, and eight apostles on the pilaster strips dividing the gallery. By Pordenone is also the host of rosy-faced putti and little Hercules with their hair blowing in the wind, who seem to play a merry ring-a-ring o'roses on the ribs and the listel of the lantern, part of a repertory of pictorial images which, alongside Correggio's legacy, was to be employed by most Emilian and Lombard painters of the next generation.
The lower part of the dome barrel was completed by Gervasio Gatti, called Sojaro. The church contains works by Galeazzo, Antonio, Giulio and Bernardino Campi, Camillo Procaccini, Guercino, Malosso, De Longe, F. Bibbiena, Stern and Avanzini; a Baroque wooden group inspired by The Lamentation before Christ Crucified by Jan Hermann Geernaerth (1757); a statue attributed to Mochi representing Ranuccio Farnese on his knees; and the organ choir.

S. Savino

The basilica of San Savino, dedicated to St. Victor's successor, was begun in 903 but consecrated only in 1107. The façade and the portico are from the 17th-18th centuries. The presbitery and the crypts contain 12th century polychrome mosaics. The interior is in Lombard-Gothic style, with antropomorphic capitals of the columns. Over the high altar is a 12th century wooden crucifix by an unknown artist.

 

Museums

Palazzo Farnese (Museo Civico)

The construction was begun on the behalf of Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, and his wife Margaret of Austria, daughter of Emperor Charles V, who desired a residence in the city, where he could feel more secure thanks to the presence of a Spanish garrison. The new edifice was erected over a former fortress built by the Visconti in 1352, part of which can still be seen.
The initial project was devised by Francesco Paciotto, from Urbino, and works were entrusted to Giovanni Bernardo Della Valle, Giovanni Lavezzari and Bernardo Panizzari (Caramosino). The design was modified in 1568 by Jacopo Barozzi, better known as Vignola, who had also built the Villa Farnese at Caprarola (Latium) for another member of the family, cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The actual construction, however, made up only less than a half of Vignola's original project, and lacked much of the planned decorations: missing elements include part of the exterior framings, a large tower modelled on the ancient triumphal archs, on the façade, and a theater, in the inner court.
The construction in its current form was completed in 1602, under Duke Ranuccio I.
After the death of the last Farnese duke, in 1731, the Palace lived a period of decadence. It was recovered only starting from the early 20th century. Palazzo Farnese is currently perfectly restored in all its rooms, and houses an important series of museum and exhibitions.
The Ducal Chapel (Cappella Ducale or Cappella Grande) was used by the family for its religious rites. It is a hall on square plan, turned into octagonal by the presence of four apses at the corners. The sides have the same length that the chapel's height up to to hemispherical dome. The chapel is decorated with lilies from the Farnese coat of arms and Mannerist masks portraying angels; other symbols (the unicorn, the starfish, the dolphins, the turtles) referring to the Ducal family appear in the large frieze.
The Gallery (Pinacoteca). It is housed in the so-called "Duchess Apartments", in the first floor, and contains paintings from the 16th-17th once belonging to the Dukes' collections. The most important artwork is the Madonna with the Young St. John, by Sandro Botticelli.
Address: piazza Cittadella, 29
Tel. 0523 326981 / 330567