LogoLogo

Piacenza, Province of Piacenza, Emilia‑Romagna

Piacenza coatofarms An important Italian Città d'Arte ("Art City"), it is situated on the ancient Roman Via Emilia, along the right bank of the Po river.

Piacenza was always an important communication point at the crossroads of the trading routes with Lombardy and Liguria; it was a Roman fortified colony, the vanguard to defend the Republic against the northern invaders, seat of a bishopry in the early Middle Ages, and later the seat of the Renaissance Farnese family.
Follow Italy Heritage on Facebook

Info

  • Altitude: 60 mt a.s.l
  • Population: about 100,000 inhabitants (in 2012)
  • Zip/postal code: 29121-29122 (formerly 29100)
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0523
  • Patron Saint: St. Antonino, celebrated on July 4, Santa Giustina from Padua, celebtated om 7 October
  • Demonym: piacentini
  • Frazioni & Localities: Borghetto, Gerbido, I Vaccari, La Verza, Le Mose, Montale, Mortizza, Mucinasso, Pittolo, San Bonico.

History

Founded with the name of Placentia in 218 BC by the Romans as a military outpost against the Gauls, it was an important center and also for a time the headquarters of Julius Caesar. After the devastation following the fall of the Roman empire it became the capital of a Lombard dukedom, then a bishopry, and finally a free Commune in 1126, a member of the Lombard League that defeated emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.

In the following century also Piacenza experienced as Florence and many other cities the civil strifes of the opposing factions factions called Guelphs (in favor of the Pope) and Ghibellines (in favor of the Emperor). Among the important families that followed one another in the rule of the Signoria were the Scotti, Pallavicino, Visconti, Sforza and Confalonieri.

In 1545 Pope Paolo III Farnese established a Dukedom the two cities of Parma and Piacenza, and granted the lordship to his natural son Pier Luigi, the ancestor of the eight Farnese dukes that ruled the city until 1731, when the Bourbons took over, to be followed by the Austrians, then by the French during Napoleon's occupation and from 1816 to 1847 the long government of Margaret of Austria, a sovereign who was greatly loved by the population for her enlightened rule.

On her death the town requested annexation to the Piedmont kingdom, but after the latter's defeat in the First Italian Independence War it fell under Austrian occupation. Only in 1859 during the Second Italian Independence War it was united to the newly born Kingdom of Italy. Among the great works after the unity of Italy was the first railway bridge over the Po river, which strengthened the role of the town as a communication crossroads.

What to see

  • The Palazzo Gotico in Piazza dei Cavalli, built in 1281 by Guelph leader Alberto Scoto, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture 43 mt long and 16 mt wide, originally used for assemblies, nowadays a wonderful background where exhibitions are often held.
  • The Cathedral, in piazza Duomo, which was begun in 1122 on the previous church of St. Giustina and completed in 1233. The facade is divided into 2 levels, the lower in pink marble and the upper in grey stone, with three portals surmounted by small columns and statues in the Romanesque style. Inside there are important frescoes by Carracci, Procaccini, Draghi, Guercino and Morazzone. Attached also the 14-th century belltower and a fine cloister.
  • The Basilica of St. Antonino, hosting the relics of the saint patron of Piacenza, founded in the 4th century AD, one of the stations along the ancient French route (the Via Francigena) leading from Rome to France. In the Romanesque style, it has remarkable high-relies in marble in the portal.
  • The Farnese Palace, the residence of the Farnese dukes from 1588 to 1731, built with a project by Francesco Paciotti on the previous 14th century fortress, of which the western section is still extant, since the new residence was never completed. Today the Palace hosts a Civic Museum, Pinacoteque, the Museo delle Carrozze (Museum of Chariots), an Archeological section and the Museo del Risorgimento (the revolutionary period from 1816 to the unity of Italy in 1860).
  • The sanctuary of Santa Maria di Campagna, built in the 16th century on a previous church where, before a sacred wooden image of the Virgin with Child, Pope Urbanus II holding in march 1095 a council in Piacenza, was inspired to launch during the following council at Clermont the First Crusade to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims. In the church beautiful frescoes of the Venetian painter Antonio de Sacchis, known as Pordenone.

Events and Festivities

  • 25 march: the Feast of Annunciation, with the traditional "Ballo dei bambini", when the children of the town are raised and "presented" to the image of the Virgin in the church of Santa Maria di Campagna.
  • 4 July, celebrations for Sant'Antonino, the patron of the city, with the traditional gift of a votive candle from the civil authority represented by the Mayor to the Bishop, the symbol of the religious authority.