Immersed in the nature of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines or located on the banks of the River Po, a series of fascinating places become the starting point for this authentic journey back in time, through some of the most beautiful villages in Italy in the provinces of Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia: places that preserve practically intact the signs of a past indelibly inscribed on the stones of streets, palaces and castles.
Located close to the left side of the Po River, Gualtieri shows its medieval origins but in particular its amazing development during the Renaissance, which is visibile in the scenographic square designed by Giovan Battista Aleotti, where you find The Clock Tower, Collegiata di Santa Maria della Neve and Palazzo Bentivoglio.
The latter hosts surprising halls such as Sala dei Giganti (the Giants' hall) and Sala di Icaro (Icarus' hall) hosting stage costumes made by the tailor Umberto Tirelli and paintings by artists such as De Chirico and Guttuso, and the Antonio Ligabue Museum, dedicated to one of the most famous Italian naive painters, who lived in Gualtieri for most of his artistic period and died in 1965.
As it often happens for those villages that seem preserved intact under a medieval glass jar, Montechiarugolo grew around its majestic castle.
Its promotion among the few Italian municipalities able to promote their own historical, urban and architectural heritage, does justice to this place whose charm is undeniable. It was founded around the 10th century, and is haunted, according to the legend, by the ghost of the fairy Bema.
According to documents, Compiano was fortified in the 11th century and together with the village of Bardi has a short history as an institutional territorial state, probably due to its nature as a defensive bulwark of Alta Val Taro.
Useless to say, in this setting, the true protagonist in this village is the castle, proudly built on a rocky outcrop, designed as an invincible fortress, where noble palaces and tower houses are alternated in an architectural competition to dominate the hilly streets.
All around are the protective fortress walls, surrounding the urban layout whose focus is the square with a panoramic view over the valley.
Strolling along the streets of Castell'Arquato means to forget the present and travel back in time, for the views and architectures seem unchanged over the centuries. Member of the club "most beautiful villages of Italy", hometown of librettist Luigi Illica, built on a hill with a square on the top, where you find Palazzo del Podestà and Collegiata: the baptismal font and the west porch testify to the many works that have taken place throughout time.
Rocca Viscontea and Torrione Farnese let you remember the great past of the House of Sforza, which was also on the big screen in some scenes of the film "Lady Hawke".
With a mixture of different styles, between Baroque and Reinassance, Pieve di San Giorgio is one of those emblematic architectures that explain the reason why the village of Vigoleno has been listed among the "most beautiful villages of Italy". The surrounding crenellated walls seem to hug and protect the ancient elegance of a panoramic centre dominaring Val Stirone, with the square tower of its legendary castle, where the duchess Maria Ruspoli Grammont Hugo hosted famous people such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Max Ernst and Jean Cocteau.
In an interweaving of roads and alleys full of history and legends, the village of Bobbio is bound to the story of San Colombano Abbey, a majestic building in Late Gothic and Renaissance style, founded by order of the abbot Agilulfo at the beginning of the 7th century. It preserves the amazing decorative painting by Bernardino Lanzani from San Colombano al Lambro.
Immersed in the lush and metamorphic natural setting of Val Trebbia, the "Village of villages" also houses elegant civic symbols such as the Malaspina Castle and the Old Bridge, a true architectural jewel, a charming and multilayered monument to human genius.