If it is true that the dome is architecturally to be understood as the symbol of the sky and the contact between the earth and the divine, to admire - sometimes even from very close - the frescoes at altitude of great artists such as Correggio, Guercino, Pordenone and Lionello Spada, is a real immersion in the pictorial paradises of Emilia along a path close to the sky...
From Piacenza to Parma, up to Reggio Emilia, this itinerary through beautiful cities of art and culture shows the beauty that you can appreciate with your nose up.
The itinerary starts from the Cathedral of Piacenza, inside which the Kronos Museum provides, even in a separate formula, the climb to the dome. Winding through medieval paths in the thickness of the brickwork, spiral staircases and attics, 160 steps lead to the destination in a succession of continuous breath-taking views both over the city and inside the church. The final destination is the masterpiece created between 1626 and 1627 by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino, where, going along the entire perimeter of the dome, it becomes possible admire closely the prophets David, Isaiah, Haggai, Hosea, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Micah and Jeremiah; the lunettes in which episodes of Jesus' childhood alternate - Announcement to the Shepherds, Adoration of the Shepherds, Presentation in the Temple and Flight to Egypt - and eight fascinating Sibyls.
A small Renaissance jewel on the edge of the historic centre, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Campagna reserves a dome (the ascent of which is possible on the occasion of special events) embellished with an important cycle of frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Sacchi known as Pordenone, who worked there since 1528 to 1539. The route winds through the side chapels representing the Birth of the Virgin, the Adoration of the Magi, the shepherds at the crib, Flight to Egypt and Stories of St. Catherine of Alexandria, until reaching the complex iconographic program of the dome, depicting themes from the Old and New Testaments, among which, in the central lantern, dominates God the Father who in flight descends from heaven.
The second day sees the transfer to Parma, where, in the Baptistery, you can admire a surprising dome divided into sixteen segments, painted in tempera by Byzantine-style workers. A visit to the city in the footsteps of the domes of Antonio Allegri known as Correggio, can only start from the Chamber of San Paolo, in the private apartment of Giovanna da Piacenza, Abbess of the Benedictine Monastery of San Paolo. Here, in 1519, the painter paints, with a brand new and original style which presupposes the knowledge of Mantegna's work in Mantua, a pergola from which putti and allegorical figures appear.
A little later the dome of the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista, part of the monastic complex with the Convent and with the Historic Pharmacy of San Giovanni, which shows Christ surrounded by the eleven apostles, with the elderly John at the base, protagonist of the vision. Cloud architecture is a splendid example of the ability shown by Correggio in managing foreshortened figures.
Described by Antonio Raffaello Mengs as "the most beautiful of all, painted before and after him", the dome frescoed in the Cathedral of Parma dating from 1524-1530, located above the main altar, represents the Assumption of the Virgin with an innovative language for the time, which pierces the architectural structure using bold perspectives and glimpses that mark the transit between earth and sky in a vortex populated by cherubs, saints, clouds and light.
Finally, we arrive at the Temple of the Blessed Virgin of the Ghiara in Reggio Emilia, one of the most artistic Marian shrines in Italy, an extraordinary monument of faith erected following a prodigious miracle. An elite of Emilian artists of the first half of the seventeenth century (1614-1648) participated in the grandiose pictorial decoration, including Ludovico Carracci, Gian Francesco Barbieri known as il Guercino, Lionello Spada and Alessandro Tiarini. Raised by Francesco Pacchioni to a design by Cosimo Paglioni, the imposing dome was frescoed in 1614 by Lionello Spada, a pupil of the Carraccis, who was inspired by the writings of the Old Testament and was able to show great perspective qualities, especially in the creation of the angels.
Inside the church there is also the precious altarpiece of the city (built at the expense of the Municipality of Reggio, whose coat of arms stands on the top), depicting the Crucifixion with the Madonna, the Magdalene, St. John the Evangelist and the patron S. Prospero. Realized between 1624 and 1625, it is certainly the work of greatest commitment of Guercino on his return from Rome.
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