A Travellerspoint blog

Castell'Arquato via Fiorenzuola d'Arda

Day Tripper's Heaven

semi-overcast 8 °C

We are loving our time in Bologna, but as we battle through this third month of a pretty long and cold winter, 'cabin fever' is setting in from time-to-time. We are therefore blessed to have so many options - almost right on our doorstep - to choose from to stretch our legs and minds, and renew our love affair with 'less-visited' Italy.

The region of Emilia-Romagna has a surfeit of beautifully preserved castles - especially in the northern provinces of Parma and Piacenza - so there is no shortage of choices for the curious. If you cross reference this long list with the shorter list from "I Borghi piu Belli d'Italia" (a guide that roughly translates as "the most beautiful villages of Italy"), you normally get a perfect match! The girls and I had already visited the awesome Castello di Torrechiara, and as a family we have also toured the enchanting towns of Dozza and Brisighella, so Castell'Arquato - helped by a recommendation from some Italian friends - got the nod last Saturday.

heading up the hill to Rocca Viscontea

heading up the hill to Rocca Viscontea

A pleasant enough regional train ride dropped us off at Fiorenzuola d'Arda - an unobtrusive town 25 minutes north of Parma - and after we tracked down the only taxi driver at the local bar (drinking espresso, not mojitos!), we were efficiently dispatched to Castell'Arquato ten minutes down the road. Like so many towns in Italy, the newer outskirts are entirely forgettable, but the ancient heart, higher up the hill, was beautifully preserved and memorable (and was apparently used in the filming of 'Ladyhawke' for those film buffs).

healthy again at last ... lovely to see the boss with a smile!

healthy again at last ... lovely to see the boss with a smile!


and again ... behind is the Chiesa della Collegiata - rebuilt 1122

and again ... behind is the Chiesa della Collegiata - rebuilt 1122

The town underwent many different rulers over the centuries until its annexion to Italy in 1860, and the highlight is the Rocca Viscontea - built between 1342 and 1349 by Luchino Visconti, a member of the ruling family at the time. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the well-reviewed Ristorante Stradivarius, including a typical plate of the local cured meats, and a glass of the very quaffable regional wine called Gutturnio, a slightly sparkling red wine made predominantly from Barbera grapes.

Ristorante Stradivarius - these amazing lunches will live long in the memory

Ristorante Stradivarius - these amazing lunches will live long in the memory


Rocca Viscontea from the other side

Rocca Viscontea from the other side


Piazza del Municipio showcasing Palazzo del Podesta (built 1293) and Chiesa della Collegiata

Piazza del Municipio showcasing Palazzo del Podesta (built 1293) and Chiesa della Collegiata


if there is any snow around, these rugrats are sure to find it ...

if there is any snow around, these rugrats are sure to find it ...

We had a jolly old time climbing the castle tower, then the kids amused themselves by pulling sheets of ice out of the nearby fountain. A leisurely stroll down the hill, a gander at the locals at play (some festa tied in with Carnevale we thought), followed by the obligatory gelati rounded out our visit. A snooze on the train home for some (Lisa came to the aid of some hapless German tourists who hadn't validated their tickets - go the parlo Italiano!), and we returned to chilly Bologna with renewed enthusiasm for the week ahead.

OH and S Italian style!

OH and S Italian style!


but Dad, did you see the size of Gabi's sheet?

but Dad, did you see the size of Gabi's sheet?


not quite Venice, but locals were having fun nevertheless

not quite Venice, but locals were having fun nevertheless


.

Posted by happellfamily12 14.02.2013 14:12 Archived in Italy Tagged parma romagna castello castell'arquato ristorante emilia fiorenzuola stradivarius

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUponRedditDel.icio.usIloho

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint