The Renaissance has been a golden era for Italy and Europe, it has left a powerful print also on the villages, monuments and structures of a corner loaded with history and culture as Emilia.
When the suffocating and anxious shapes of contemporary risk to suffocate the spontaneity and the taste for the beauty, a journey back in time towards the grace of what was the real artistic boom between 15th and 17th centuries can only reveal itself a providential break; but it can also transform itself into a saving medicine for the mind and the eyes, enchanted by the testimonies around the territory of Reggio Emilia, Parma and Piacenza.
A village marked by the Gongaza dominion, Guastalla (RE) is an evident example of how that historical period gave life to authentic urban jewels.
“Palazzo Ducale”, symbol of the “ideal town” – with a central cross of streets developed from a flamboyant perspective and with the cathedral façade which ends the path.
By stepping into the Renaissance history of Reggio Emilia, San Martino in Rio is a stop for real connoisseurs, who can pick up clues and testimonies of the Estensi family, masters of the village since 1420.
“Rocca Estense”, with painted chest of drawers, frescoes and plasters, is obviously the undisputed queen of the plot. It shows off the magnificent 15th century hall of the north-east wing tower of the noble floor and the adjacent 16th century room; the first one painted by Pellegrino degli Erri from Modena and the second one probably by famous names of the Emilia painting as Amico Aspertini, Lelio Orsi and Niccolò dell’Abate. There are also the Theatre hall, the Eagles room and the private apartments of the east wing.
In the heart of the historical centre, the “Collegiata di San Martino e Venerio" – built by the will of Filippo I d’Este – San Carlo dei Cappuccini Church – wanted by Marquis Carlo Filiberto d’Este San Martino – and the “Torre Civica o dell’Orologio” are further symbols of the golden age of a small Renaissance capital in Emilia.
In Parma, the Renaissance has as a link the figure of Pier Maria Rossi, a real myth in the local 15th century history but not only, he was a brave leader, a famous humanist and fond of castles, with an approach to the fortifications that reminds a stamp collector. He owned 30 castles, some of them designed by himself; four of them still identify and exemplify plastically his multi-faceted personality.
The Castle of Torrechiara, a concrete expression of the love for Bianca Pellegrini, was specifically built for the lady between 1446 and 1460. Inside it, the profane painting of the Golden Room is a hymn to their love, described by private scenes realised by a member of Bembo family. It was meant not for war but for love. The castle is a refined fortification that dominates the valley of river Parma, a sort of stone shell to protect the apartments decorated with a taste of an elegant palace.
Always for his lady and in the same period, Pier Maria Rossi commissions the Castle of Roccabianca – now location of the Distillery Museum – which speaks of the beautiful Milanese since the emblem.
If, in cloudless days from the keep, you can admire the Torrazzo di Cremona, the “Sala dell Griselda” hosts on the other hand 15th century paintings inspired by the 100th novella of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.
The “Rocca di San Secondo” holds his institutional and familiar side, as Antonia Torelli’s husband. The “Gesta Rossiane” room and its huge decorative plant makes the fortress a sort of illustrated catalogue of the life and history of one of the most important houses of Parma.
The tale of Apuleio’s “Asino d’Oro” in 17 frames and the several artistic interventions testimony an enormous cultural interest alongside his soldier soul, embodied by the Castle of Felino, impregnable shelter which will resist to every assault until 1483 when Ludovico il Moro manages to take it, by forcing Pier Maria Rossi to escape to Torrechiara where he will die.
In Piacenza, the Castle of San Pietro in Cerro, founded in 1460 by Bartolomeo Barattieri, stands out.
It is a faithful testimony of a Renaissance residence; the castle has a solid and tough appearance which actually guards an elegant and rich interior, full of surprises in the refined square court. The ceiling, decorated in wood with hunting scenes, overlooks the lovely Salone d’Onore; while the restructuring did justice to trompe-l’oeil portals, drapes, amphorae and other details that enable to give back and describe the spirit and atmosphere of the period. But also the kitchens, the ice-house and the dungeons.
Besides the 30 rooms well-furnished, there is also the collection of 800 contemporary works (MiM- Museum in Motion) and a section reserved to painters from Piacenza.
We have to mention Palazzo Farnese, sophisticated and huge work of the genius of Jacopo Barozzi, called “il Virgola”, who unfortunately had to abandon the project for lack of money. It was commissioned by the duchess Margherita d’Austria and built between the 1560s and 1602 in the area of the “Cittadella Viscontea” in Piacenza, as a symbol of the power of her husband family, Ottavio Farnese.
With its wrought-iron gate decorated by Farnese lilies, the galleries and the octagonal ducal chapel, it is not an uncompleted huge fortification but it is now the location of Civic Museums, articulated in a path which allow the visitor to admire the apartments of the duke and duchess.