The Via Francigena in the Province of Piacenza

The Via Francigena in the Province of Piacenza

ON THE TRACES OF MEDIEVAL pilgrims...

THE VIA FRANCIGENA IN THE PROVINCE OF PIACENZA

Since ancient times Piacenza played a strategic role along the main communication routes in this area.  The Via Emilia, traced and built between 191 and 187 BC, ended in Piacenza and in 148 BC it was connected to the Via Postumia, the road that ran from the Ligurian Sea to the Adriatic Sea up to Aquileia, today’s Statale 10 Padana Inferiore road.
During the Dark Ages, the Via Emilia between Piacenza and Parma became the Via Francigena, also known as Strada Romea, one of the most important roads that crossed the Apennines between the plain and Tuscany. This led to an increase in the number of travellers and pilgrims in the Trebbia Valley and towards Bobbio and its Abbey, which in the Middle ages was an important cultural centre.
From 990 up to today: the journey of Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, along the Via Francigena in the province of Piacenza
The route starts in Calendasco, where the Archbishop crossed the Po River. After one of the main parts of the Via Francigena, the route arrives in Piacenza, once called "Placentia", a port town which corresponds to the thirty eighth stop along the route, a cornerstone of the journey from northern Italy to central and southern Italy.
In Piacenza Sigeric most probably stayed at the Ospitale di S.Brigida reserved in fact for Anglo-Saxon pilgrims.

Piacenza provides visitors with the opportunity of an overview of the artistic phases which, from the Gothic period to the Renaissance up to recent times, are expressed by the precious heritage of its old town centre. The Duomo has to be the first cultural site of the visit.

Having left the centre of Piacenza, the Via Francigena runs parallel to the Autostrada del Sole and near the Statale Emilia road. Following in the footsteps of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the route goes through the villages of San Lazzaro and Montale. Just 4 km after Pontenure there is the village of Cadeo, meaning “house of God" after the hospitality it gave to pilgrims.

Going south east along today’s Statale Emilia, the Francigena reaches Roveleto and Fontana Fredda which at the time of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, was transformed into a fortress and was later used as an important “Hospital” for pilgrims. Here there is an imposing bell tower, which is thought to date back to the ancient castle.

Sigeric’s next stop was in Fiorenzuola d'Arda, once called "Floricum", with the 18th century Palazzo Bertamini Lucca and its large garden, the 15th century Palazzo Grossi, the Teatro Verdi (1847), the Collegiata di S. Fiorenzo restored at the end of the 15th century according to the Romanesque and Gothic style of the Piacenza area and dedicated to Fiorenzo of Tours who performed a miracle here in the 4th century.

A stop not to be missed is Castell'Arquato with the 16th century Farnese tower, the 13th and 14th century Palazzo del Duca, the 15 the century Chiesa di S. Pietro, the neo-Gothic Castello Stradivari, the Palazzo Pretorio built in 1293, the Collegiata di S. Maria (beginning of the 12th century) with the Collegiate Museum and finally the imposing Rocca dating back to 1343. Travellers can also visit the former "Hospital" of S. Spirito, once built for pilgrims and currently home to the Geological Museum with findings that illustrate the geo-morphologic evolution of the area.

After Castell'Arquato there are the villages of Vernasca and Morfasso. Vernasca is on the ridge between the Arda and Ongina streams, where the remains of the Romanesque church of S. Colombano can be seen. Along the road, 15 km earlier, there is a short deviation that leads to Vigoleno, which is noticeable thanks to its embattled walls that date back to 1385; the walls overlook the Stirone stream, and surround the charming village which also has a castle.   Morfasso was once famous for the ancient Pieve of S. Salvatore and S. Gallo from Val Tolla which however no longer exists: its history is in fact connected to the Abbey of Tolla. In the area visitors can also visit the Parco Monte Moria or the excavations in Veleia, one of the most important archaeological areas in the region.

Back in the footsteps of Sigeric, the route continues towards the Taro River, and reaches Alseno, a small village with delightful artistic treasures. The next section, according to the Archbishop’s documents, leaves the province of Piacenza and enters the province of Parma reaching Fidenza.

HOW TO GET HERE

Along the A1 motorway, exit at Piacenza Nord or Piacenza Sud or along the A21 motorway exit at Piacenza Ovest or Piacenza Est. Piacenza is 62 Km from Parma, 150 Km from Bologna, 148 Km from Genoa, 64 Km from Milan, and 512 Km from Rome.

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