On the Apennines, discovering or rediscovering the "Castles of Women"


On the Apennines, discovering or rediscovering the "Castles of Women"

Stories of important women who left their mark, during a special journey through the most beautiful castles in the area of the Apennines hills through Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.

The history of some of the most charming Castles of Women in the territory of Reggio Emilia is asociated with one of the most important protagonists of the Italian Middle Ages: Matilde di Canossa, an affluent feudal lady close to the Papacy in the period of the battle for the investiture.
The heart of his dominion was Canossa. Today, in this area, you can visit the ruins of the Canossa Castle, where the emperor Henry IV obtained the revocation of the excommunication endorsed by Pope Gregory VII: Matilde was a key figure to this reconciliation.

Another manor house tied in with Matilde di Canossa is the Castle of Bianello, surrounded by the woods, where her mother Beatrice of Lorraine lived. She was a princess of royal lineage: here Matilde was crowned vice queen of Italy by the emperor Henry V. She bought it in 1044, while dominating a huge territory together with her second husband, Duke Goffredo of Lorraine.
As a r4esult, she became one of the most powerful women in her time.

In the municipality of Casina we discover the medieval Castle of Sarzano. Its history dates back to old times and is associaterd with Maria Bertolani Del Rio, scientist and historian of the late nineteenth century, who first studied the manor. She also commissioned fine artifacts, which are still identified as "Ars Canusiana", meaning the refined handicraft from Emilia to which a room on the first floor of the keep ("mastio") is dedicated.

On the lower hills of the Parma Apennines, a visitor can admire the Rocca Sanvitale of Sala Baganza, a manor where one can relive the events of Maria Luigia, wife of Napoleon, empress of the French and duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. The castle was a key spot for the local defense system between the 15th and 16th centuries. In its rooms today, it is possible to discover precious frescoes and decorations dating back to the 16th and the 18th century. In the cellars is located the Wine Museum and around the Farnesian Garden.

Torrechiara Castle, a romantic 15th-century manor with medieval and Renaissance features, stands out on the most beautiful panoramic rocky hill at the beginning of Val Parma, in the Langhirano area. It was built by Pier Maria Rossi for his beloved Bianca Pellegrini, whose love story is celebrated by the "Golden Room" attributed to Benedetto Bembo. This painting displays all the castles located in the feud.

Maria Ruspoli Gramont, princess of the Castle of Vigoleno, had a marked artistic sensitivity. Vigoleno is an austere manor located in Vernasca, in the province of Piacenza. It dominates the Emilian hills and preserves a medieval stunning fortified village, included among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Maria Ruspoli Gramont, in the 20th century, turned the castle into an artistic and social "salon", meaning a place where artists could meet and work, for example Max Ernst, who right here painted "The embalmed forest", and also writers such as Gabriele D’Annunzio.