Lying on the hills of the Arda Valley, which were covered by the sea in prehistoric times, and where many fossils can still be found, Castell’Arquato is located in Placentianum Natural Geological Reserve, which owes its name to the historic period.
An Orange Flag of ‘Touring Club Italiano’, this well preserved medieval borough can, with its beauty and the view it offers, fascinate everybody, both those who admire it from a distance as well as those who explore it, going around its alleys and medieval stone houses, wonderfully preserved and in some cases restored.
Previously chosen as the location for some films (‘Lady Hawk’), it has recently joined ‘Italy’s most beautiful boroughs’. It has also been awarded the title of ‘Wine Town’.
In the winter, in the autumn, in the spring and in the summer, Castell’Arquato is always beautiful and we recommend visiting it several times to appreciate its every aspect.
Visitors will be amazed by its majestic monumental centre, with the municipal square, located in the upper part of the village and surrounded by ‘Rocca Viscontea’, an imposing fortress protecting the borough, Santa Maria Assunta Church, a remarkable Romanesque complex with Gothic and Renaissance elements, and the Podesta Palace. The small Church Museum is rich in sacred art jewels which date back to a period ranging from the 13th to the 14th century.
Located in the former 16th century S. Spirito Hospital, Cortesi Geological Museum has a permanent display of fossils found in the surrounding areas; among these the most important ones belong to a whale, whose wooden reconstruction is displayed. The exhibition follows an educational tour going through all the stages of the history of the earth.
Finally, Illica Museum is dedicated to the famous dramatist and author of librettos from Castell’Arquato, who wrote La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly for Puccini and Isabeau, Iris, and Le Maschere for Mascagni. The museum displays scores, ancient editions of librettos, costumes, sculptures, and photos portraying Illica with the great composers he worked with during his intense and adventurous life.
Visitors may enjoy a suggestive stay in Luigi Illica’s native house, from which it is possible to admire the rooftops which inspired the poet for Puccini’s Bohème. In the past, famous guests (Gabriele d'Annunzio, Giosuè Carducci and Giacomo Puccini) stayed in this liberty style historic residence. The restoration of the building was completed in 2008, under the supervision of the Board for Fine Arts. Today Casa Illica rents holiday apartments.
You can’t leave Castell’Arquato without stopping by the Municipal Winery, located in the renovated halls of the Podesta Palace. Here you’ll be able to taste typical products in a polished and cosy atmosphere or to buy local wines made from the vineyards of the surrounding hills.
Besides traditional delicacies, in the area of Castell’Arquato, along the Gourmet Food and Wine Trail of Colli Piacentini, you may taste the traditional ‘anolini’, re-interpreted. The stuffing is not made, as usual, of meat, the main ingredient in the area of Piacenza, therefore the dish is lighter. ‘Vin Santo’, produced in Vigoleno, is like nectar which can’t be anything but appreciated even by gourmets.
In Bacedasco Alto, near Castell’Arquato, Castell’Arquato Golf Club has an 18 hole golf course, Par 73, CR 71,8, SR124, a driving range with 15 areas (6 are covered), a putting green, night lights and a bunker.
Luigi Illica Award, in the last week of July the opera festival in the scenic town hall square.
Vigolo Marchese (about 6 Km away) is definitely worth a visit for the Romanesque S. Giovanni Church and Baptistery, the only remains of a wide Benedictine complex, restored at the beginning of the 20th century.