Just outside of Piacenza, and an hour from Parma, lies the medieval hamlet of Rivalta (sometimes referred to as Rivalta-Trebbia) with its castle. Positioned along the Trebbia river, Rivalta’s history dates back to Roman times. Today, it is one of the most spectacular castles in Italy and a must-see!
Brief History of Rivalta
This is the land of the famous battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC in the Second Punic War. The first records of the town and castle of Rivalta date to the early 11th century under the rule of the Malaspina family. About 200 years later, the ruler of Piacenza at the time ordered Rivalta to be completely destroyed as it was a Guelph state. With the exception of brief interruptions, the Landi family gained control of Rivalta rebuilding its castle and town in the 15th century, and are still the owners as of this day.
The Hamlet of Rivalta
Rivalta is a walled city with some elements dating as far back as the 13th century. There used to be a drawbridge at the entrance of the city but now all that remains is a tower which is part of the Oratory of the Madonna del Ponte (Mary of the Bridge).
The entrance into the town is a beautiful ogival arch with its 36 meter-tall square tower known as a “dungeon”. This was the original watchtower of Rivalta.
Another important stop along your tour is the Church of San Martino. Dedicated to Hungarian Saint Martin of Tours (died in 397 AD), this church’s origins could possibly date to before the 11th century. It has been entirely rebuilt over the centuries. Its architectural style is Lombard Romanesque.
Rivalta’s castle’s most striking exterior feature is its unique cylindrical tower which is unlike any others in the area. It is also unique in that it has been maintained by the Landi family and perfectly restored. The rooms are enormous and furnished with authentic period pieces. The great hall, chapel, library, and kitchen, among other rooms, are all part of the guided tour. It is also surrounded by a large courtyard.
Within the Castle, there is also a museum which houses a fabulous collection of military uniforms and weapons as well as sacred art. The private collection of armory dates from the 15th to the 17th centuries and includes rare pieces of Japanese origin as well. Uniforms displayed on life-size mannequins and some on horses, date from the pre-unification of Italy period to World War II.
The most unusual piece in the sacred art collection is a Christ statue which is in ebony and portrays a completely nude Christ. There are also pieces from the Church of San Martino and miscellaneous items from the Landi’s private collection.
The Piacenza province happens to be the only one in all of Europe to boast the prestigious DOP (Denominazione d’origine protetta) label on 3 of its cured meats: salame, coppa, and pancetta. Two cheeses are also DOP- the famous Grana Padano and Provolone Valdapana.
For your first course, try Pisaréi e Fasö which is a version of gnocchi with beans served with tomato sauce and usually pancetta. Rich and filling!
Don’t forget to try the delicious cookies known as Busslanein and pair them with the liqueur Bargnolino!