A flat area, with slight differences in height, and a historic center closed to traffic: this is the city of Piacenza, that can be discovered and visited on two wheels.
The itinerary foresees spending the morning among the churches in the center, dedicating the intermediate hours to a bike ride along the walls and continuing in the afternoon on the embankments, concluding with a visit to Santa Maria di Campagna at the edge of the walls.
Climbing into the saddle and starting from the north side of the city, the first ride is along Viale Risorgimento, that leads from the Monumento dei Pontieri towards the heart of the city. On the right there is Campo Arena Daturi, which gives way to the massive Palazzo Farnese.
Palazzo Farnese currently hosts the Civic Museums, but it was built as a ducal residence on the remains of the military citadel of the Visconti era.
Nowadays, observing the palace from the south (Piazza Cittadella) you can still see the two distinct structures: to the west the moat and the circular tower; to the east the windows with tympanum and the refined decorations in white stone to emphasize architectural details.
A pass through the courtyard allows you to discover that the non-finished project foresaw a theater in the courtyard area; it can be noticed by the presence of a curved wall.
At the end of the courtyard there are some columns that recall the ambitious project of Jacopo Barozzi, known as Vignola, for the dukes of Parma and Piacenza.
From Piazza Cittadella you go back to the main road and, just after the Romagnosi High School, you turn left in Via Gregorio X. This narrow street leads to the urban grid that still recalls the Roman foundation of the city.
After a few meters you will find a peculiar building, its facade cuts the right angle of the intersection offering a scenic surprise to the traveler. It is the Oratory of San Cristoforo, also called Oratory of Death for the congregation that in the past managed it. It is a building of the end of the 17th Century designed by the architect of the Farnese court, Valmagini, and internally decorated by the scenographers in vogue at the time, the Bibiena.
At present it houses the Piccolo Museo della Poesia.
Continuing on Via Gregorio X, on the left there is a former Jesuit church, nowadays a school and a theater, and at the crossroads with Via Melchiorre Gioia there is a plaque that indicates the house of one of the protagonists of Piacenza's Risorgimento.
At the end of the street there is an open space overlooked by the court, which is located in the building once belonging to the Landi family; opposite there is the building of the Public Prosecutor's Office, behind whose gates there is a seventeenth-century Farnese palace, Palazzo Madama.
Next to it the imposing facade of the 14th Century former church of San Lorenzo is visible, founded by the mendicant order of the Augustinians.
Via del Consiglio closes with the Church of Sant'Eustachio (Parish of Santi Tre Vescovi), used by the Orthodox Christians.
Leaving Via del Consiglio and continuing (on foot) on Via Legnano, you arrive in Piazza del Duomo. Here is the Cathedral of Piacenza, built starting from 1122 and dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Giustina.
From the outside, the side portals are interesting with their telamons and architraves that narrate the advent of Christ. A detail that stimulates curiosity is also the cage hanging from the bell tower; it is a warning wanted by Ludovico il Moro in 1495: whoever had committed a crime would have been imprisoned there.
Inside, the panels set in the pillars celebrating the entities that financed the construction of the church and the presbyterial area with its 17th-century frescoes are striking.
Going back to Via Legnano and returning to Via Roma you will find on your right the Merluzzo Gardens, so called because of their shape (merluzzo means cod); at the end of the green area is the entrance to the medieval Basilica of San Savino.
Don't miss the medieval mosaic in the crypt, the one on the altar and the wooden crucifix.
Returning to Via Roma, passing again through Piazza Duomo and Via Chiapponi, you'll reach the Basilica of Sant'Antonino, dedicated to the patron saint.
A few steps away, on Via Giuseppe Verdi, is the Teatro Municipale (Municipal Theater), inspired by the Scala in Milan.
From Piazza Sant'Antonino going south along Via Giordani (at the traffic lights you can also stop to admire the former church of Sant'Agostino, now an art gallery and a restaurant), go up the hill and turn left.
In this way you can access the tree-lined avenue of the public promenade (called Facsal) that runs along the southern stretch of the ancient walls of Piacenza.
At the end of the path, just after the playground, turn right and after a few meters take the bike path, always keeping right downhill to admire the walls from below.
Then go up again from Via Alberici to return to Piazza Sant'Antonino.
From Piazza Sant'Antonino, turn left and take Via Sant'Antonino, you'll find a palace with a facade similar to that of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara.
It is the headquarters of the Post Office, but it was originally built as a bank. Next to the main entrance, you have to stop and look for the stone lizard carved on one of the "diamonds", which for the people of Piacenza is a good luck charm.
Continue along Via Sant'Antonino to the end and on the right you will find Largo Battisti and Piazza Cavalli.
That's the heart of the city, where you can enjoy the view of the Equestrian Monuments of Ranuccio and Alessandro Farnese, the Gothic Palace, the Church of San Francesco, and where we suggest you stop for lunch.
After lunch, it is time to take the bike back to explore the northern part of the city.
Take Via Cavour, which then becomes Viale Risorgimento, as far as the Monumento al Pontiere (Monument to the Bridgeman); take the bicycle path on the bridge and after a few meters go down on the right to get to Via del Pontiere.
You will then arrive along the bank of the river Po, which you can ride for several kilometers.
Going back along the same route, from Via del Pontiere you turn right - where you meet the intersection that proceeds downhill - and go up towards the city from the underpass.
Crossing the traffic circle of Via XXI Aprile you can see a door that allows you to cross the city walls. Cross it and walk along Via Maculani towards the right, passing next to the Bastione di Porta Borghetto.
Following Via Maculani and Via Tramello, you'll reach the Basilica of Santa Maria di Campagna.
The current building, erected on the burial site of Christian martyrs of the 4th Century AD and on the remains of previous religious buildings, dates back to the early decades of the 16th Century.
The architect Alessio Tramello from Piacenza designed it, starting from 1522, as an architecture inspired by Bramante: a Greek cross building, enriched by corner chapels that create a system of connection between the arms.
The interiors were decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis, known as Pordenone, giving a mannerist imprint to the basilica. Behind the altar an epigraph recalls that Isabella Farnese is buried here, with the heart of her brother Francesco.
The Basilica overlooks Piazza delle Crociate, the place where Pope Urban II in 1095 announced the First Crusade, later made official in Clermont-Ferrand.