Along the Provincial road of the Val Nure, midway between Podenzano and Vigolzone, stands Grazzano Visconti, the quaint village recognised as a “Città d’arte” by the Emilia Romagna Region in 1986, where time seems to have stopped in the Middle Ages.
The history of Grazzano was for many centuries linked to that of the Anguissola family, but it was Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, a brilliant and cultured Milanese aristocrat, who decided, at the beginning of the 20th century, to create a picturesque village here in mediaeval style. It is a rare example of revivalist architecture (so fashionable in Europe between the 19th and 20th centuries), linked to a passion for theatricals and costume and love for traditions, which today allows visitors to feel they have been catapulted back in time 700 years.
The village can be visited at any time of the year, and is still inhabited. A visit takes on an extra interest on the occasion of one of the events in costume, which take place mostly in spring and autumn, or otherwise in Advent, the time of the Christmas markets.
It is the village itelf that is the point of major interest, with its gravelled streets, the frescoed fronts of the houses, the porticos, the statues….
The Parish Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano is the oldest building in the village, though its present appearance is the result of redecoration in the 17th century. Inside there is a chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes with numerous ex votos.
The Piazza del Biscione in the centre of the village is surrounded by the Palazzo dell’Istituzione, the Albergo del Biscione and the well.
The Cortevecchia, the old farmyard, has a small museum of agricultural equipment under its long portico.
The Statue of Aloisa, the ghost of Grazzano Visconti.
Il Museo delle Cere, the Waxworks, house wax models of people who have played a role in the history of Piacenza. Their stories are told during the guided visit, with various anecdotes.
The small but exhaustive Museo delle Torture is housed in the Palazzetto dell’Istituzione. The instruments of torture are accompanied by explanatory panels. Next to the Museum an Escape Room on the theme of the Inquisition has been set up.
The houses – which are private homes – are not open for visits, but there are numerous shops selling craft products and souvenirs to visitors. They are open all year round, especially at weekends and holiday times.
The Castle and the Historic Park of the Castle.
The castle, which served both defensive and residential purposes, dates from 1395. It was completely restored and refurnished by Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, following the eclectic taste of the times; today the castle still belongs to the duke’s heirs.
The magnificent dwelling can be visited between March and October on guided visits with an entrance fee. The castle is open to individuals on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, while groups can book for times and days that they choose.
The guided visit includes the courtyard, the richly furnished reception rooms on theground floor (drawing room, library, dining room) and the bedrooms on the first floor.
The Park of the Castle, planned by Giuseppe Visconti, covers about 15 hectares. It is a place designed for relaxation and enjoyment, with an Italian garden and a park in English style. Scattered through the park are statues, vases, columns, fountains and, obviously, a great variety of trees and shrubs. The miniature cottage built for the duke’s daughters seems straight out of a fairy tale.
The park can be visited on guided visits (entrance fee) at fixed times for individuals and by arrangement for groups.
Tortelli con la coda (De.Co. of the Commune of Vigolzone) and pisarei e fasö, can be enjoyed in all the restaurants.
A point of local pride are the PDO cured meats, the salumi D.O.P. of Piacenza including salame, coppa and pancetta, to be eaten possibly with a chisolino (of various sizes and shapes, these are made from a bread dough, rolled out and cut up, and then deep-fried in lard so that they puff up) and accompanied by the wines D.O.P. dei Colli piacentini, above all the celebrated Gutturnio.
The Historic Procession (Corteo Storico) on the last Sunday in May, with everyone in mediaeval costume, is the principal traditional event.
Numerous other events set in the Middle Ages or fantasy worlds, suited to all tastes or perhaps aimed especially at children or young people, take place in spring or autumn.
Verde Grazzano, an exhibition of plants and flowers, is held in the castle park during the final week of September
Christmas markets are held in the village at the weekend between mid November and 6 January.
The village is completely closed to traffic, so there are two large car parks at the entrances, free on weekdays while there is a charge on Saturdays and Sundays.
Not far from Grazzano Visconti are the first hills clad with vineyards. It does not take long to reach Rivalta (17 km) with its castle in the Trebbia Valley.
Grazzano Visconti is the springboard for visits to the Nure Valley with its unspoilt countryside, places like the waterfalls on the Perino, near Calendasco (36 km), or Lakes Moo, Nero and Bino, all of glacial origin, near Ferriere (45 km) or to visit the small towns of Vigolzone (2 km), Ponte dell’Olio (8 km), Bettola (20 km) and Farini (29 km), on the occasion of festivals or food fairs.