A long narrow strip of territory, lying between the Chero and Riglio rivers, and covering the area between the gentle rolling hills and the mountains of the Apennines, this is the municipality of Gropparello. The road from Carpaneto rises quickly, following the green Vezzeno valley, with glimpses of cultivated fields, vine-clad hillsides, woods and pastures. Scattered through the countryside are small rural villages, towers, castles and ophiolithic rocks.
Thanks to its mild climate, the area around Gropparello has always been popular for summer holidays, but is pleasant to visit in all seasons. The festivals and fairs in summer and autumn are another attraction.
In spring and autumn the educational events at the castle attract many school groups to Gropparello.
To visit: the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta, built in neogothic style in the 1920s, and the Chiesa Vecchia, the old church.
A dream come true: to sleep in a castle. The castle of Gropparello meets this wish with the suite in the Torre del Barbagianni (Owls’ Tower), high above the drawbridge and the central courtyard.
The Rio Rosello trail, a path along the stream, gives you the chance to discover one of the nine areas of the Parco del Placenziano (Geological Park of the Piacenziano), walking in the blue clays where there are particular botanical and animal species.
The Castle of Gropparello, dating back to the 8th century, was granted to the bishop of Piacenza by Charlemagne in the 9th century. It suffered various sieges and attacks during the period of struggles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
The castle, occupying a breathtaking position on a spur of ophiolithic rock towering above the Vezzeno river, has been transformed and restored over the centuries but has kept its fascinating appearance. Today the castle is a private home but is also open for visits and is the setting of many events, as is the surrounding green area.
The woodland and the green area beside the castle have been turned into the Park of Fairy Tales, the Parco delle Fiabe. This is the first multi park in Italy, a place where children can experience the excitement of fantasy worlds and learn to enjoy themselves. The castle of Gropparello is part of the Association of the Castelli del Ducato di Parma, Piacenza e Pontremoli.
The village of Bersani, the village of fairy tales. The outside walls of the houses have been painted with illustrations of favourite fairy tales, a wonderful accompaniment to the breathtaking scenery around this rural hamlet.
Typical products of the area are the cured meats or salumi PD, cheeses and wines, game and mushrooms. Also the traditional first course dishes of Piacenza like pisarei e fasö or tortelli served with butter and sage, or with mushrooms.
Many of the local restaurants serve an afternoon snack as an alternative to dinner. In such cases the preferred dishes are local cheeses and cured meats served with the bortellina or chisolini. The chestnuts, especially those of Gusano, are famous for their quality, as are the grapes.
People have begun cultivating the olive once again, and producing oil. The area of Gropparello is included in the wine route, the Strada dei Vini e dei Sapori dei Colli Piacentini.
At Gropparello the beginning of spring is marked by the Corsa dei Carretti, the cart race, while the Festa dell’Allegria takes place in August, a unique festival of happiness, a mixture of sport and entertainment. In September there is the Grape Festival.
The Castle of Gropparello organises themed events almost every month.
During summer and autumn there are many local festivals and fairs that bring the many little villages to life.
At Bersani near Gropparello there are Christmas nativity scenes every year between 8 December and 6 January.
Castles and towers can be seen from the outside, small rustic villages, and church towers distinguish the countryside.
Worth mentioning are the Castle of Sariano, the Castle of Montechino, the former castles of Tavasca and Veggiola now transformed into villas, and the village of Obolo, a summer holiday destination and the starting point of trekking and excursion trails.