Today we would like to suggest 5 of the most beautiful places that Emilia has to offer by camper. Sometimes, we think of such places as “lost in time”, that is accessible and welcoming but seemingly locked in the past, with their narrow streets, stone houses and where you can still experience the smells of traditional cooking, particularly the “resdore”, as we call those who prepare the classic ragù meat sauce. Three of our five selected places are in Piacenza province, one in Parma and one in Reggio: so are you ready set out to discover them together? Let’s go!
The Humpback Bridge at Bobbio
We are in the Trebbia Valley, in Piacenza, and Bobbio is considered the jewel of the Valley, with its medieval look of stone houses and tight streets. But even more splendid is the Trebbia river, which runs alongside the town, perfect in summer for bathing or an excursion. You must not miss a trip to the very old Devil’s Bridge, world-famous as the site of one of Hannibal’s three Punic Wars. But the most important feature of Bibbio is Colombano, the medieval Irish monk who founded an abbey and turned it into one of the most important cultural centres of Europe. It is in his honour that a statue was placed on the Penice Pass, just after you reach the car-park.
What to see at Bobbio
We should definitely start with Piazza Santa Fara to see the Abbey of Saint Colombano, which once held 150 monks devoted to study, maintaining a library, transcribing Roman works that are still well preserved today. The Museum of the Abbey, the Mazzolini Museum (closed from November to January), and the City Museum rdetail the history of the Saint and the town.
In the Piazza, there is also the San Colombano Basilica, with its crpyt, open all day throughout the year.
Following Porta Nuova, we reach the medieval centre of the town, where you can still see collonaded houses and the majestic Cathedral with its two towers of differing heights. Carrying on we go up the slope to see the Malaspina-Dal Verme castle. From there, you can see the entire town below you.
Back in Piazza San Francesco, to finishn our visit to Bobbio, do not miss the Santuary of the Madonna dell’Aiuto, a place of miraculous legends. For more infrormation, please see the Council Tourism website.
Eating at Bobbio
A typical dish are the Bobbiese snails, which you can definitely find in the restaurants and trattorias of the town.
How to get there, and where to park your camper
Getting to Bobbio is easy, 45 km from Piacenza, leaving the motorway at Piacenza Sud and following the signs on the ring-road. There is a very convenient camper rest area right next to the historic town centre.
And so now we visit another beautiful, and romantic little town, but in another valley altogether: the Arda Valley. Reaching the town by foot, you can already see high up above you, the splendid medieval town towers and bell-tower. Everything about the town transports you back to the past, its tiny streets, the ironwork shops, the windows filled with flowers.
What to see in Castell’Arquato
We start from the main square, also known as Piazza Alta or Piazza del Municipio, where the famous film “Lady Hawke” was recorded in 1985. you can see the Romanic church of Santa Maria Assunta and crossing the enchanting cloister, you enter the Museum of the Collegiate, that gathers together religious objects and works of arts from across the Arda Valley. The square also hosts the stunning Podestà palace, home to the council Wine association, where you can enjoy tasting sessions of the the wine products of the area.
We enter the Rocca Viscontea and climb the tower, 42 m up, to learn how the tower was defended, and of course to see the panorama below and around us. We then go back down towards the gardens, to enjoy a fantastic view of the Valley: on clear days, you can see as far as the Alps. We also suggest a visit to the Giuseppe Cortesi Geological Museum, which shows how life was three million years ago, when the entire Padana Plain was actually underwater, even though it is hard to believe. On the other hand, if you love music, the Luigi Illica Museum will take you back to the lyrical music of late 19th-century Italy. You can find all the information you need about the town, including opening hours and guided tours, at the Council Tourism website.
Eating a tCastell’Arquato
We are in the province of Piacenza, so you must try the typical delicacies, pisarei e fasò, anolini in broth, Piacentine cold cuts, cured ham, and pancetta and a nice glass of Monterosso Val d’Arda, Ortrugo, or Gutturnio. You cannot leave without tasting these culinary treats.
How to get there and where to park your camper
Leave the motorway at Fiorenzuola, and follow the sign-posts for 10 km. There are many unserviced car-parks, and the most convenient is N.4 or N.1 if if you want to walk up the hill to the town, It’s up to you, depending on how energetic you feel! But the views are spectacular whichever you choose.
10km from Castell’Arquato is Vigoleno, one of Italy’s most beautiful towns. You will be amazed on your arrival by the superb fortress, intact with its walls and guard-routes that offers splendid views of the area.
What to see at Vigoleno
In the square, you can admire the 15th century fountain and the oratory to the Beata Vergine delle Grazie. But the most important place is the small Romanic church of San Giorgio. You should also not miss the Orsanti Museum: an interesting place devoted to the ambulants who wandered the Appennine towns in the 17th and 18th centuries, putting on street plays, music and aimnal displays, including monkeys, camels and bears: the latter would rise up on their hind-legs to entertain the public. There is only one entrance, to the left of the Tourism Office, where you can ask about the guided tours.
Eating at Vigoleno
The classic delicacy here is Vin Santo, a sweet wine that is excellent alongside cakes. A DOC product from the town of Vernasca, the regulations on its production are very strict. Another excellent local dish is wild meat stew.
How to reach Vigoleno and where to park your camper
Leave the motorway at Fiorenzuola and follow the signs. There is no serviced rest-area, but there is car-park at the foot of the fortress. If you need aservices area, there is one at Salsomaggiore, where you can discharge your water, or at the Parma rest-area
Next we have a little town in Parma province, known as the little Parma San Marino. It is deep in the Appennine woods and paths, and its name in fact means field level. If you are looking for peace and quiet, this is the place.
What to do at Compiano
The castle interior is superb, a rock fortress that overlooks the Taro river, and that served as a prison during the reign of Maria Luigia. It later became a female college and from 1987 a private dwelling. Walk into the town and you will find an incredible silence: you can visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista, or once again the ambulants’ theatre, who entertained the people with animals, which you also saw at the Museum of Vigoleno.
The Castle features the furnished rooms of the Marquissa Raimondi Gambarotta, with paintings and furniture, and the International Museum of Massonery and the Gastronomic Museum. You can find more details on the town here
What to eat Compiano
there are two restaurants at the base of the Castle, where you can enjoy local dishes, but in particular you should try the “panigacci”, a type of unrisen round bread that is cooked over a flame, and garnished with cold cuts, cheese and much more. ossia un tipo di pane rotondo, non lievitato cotto nei testi sopra al fuoco e si condiscono con salumi, formaggi e tanto altro. Open from 7 February 2019 onwards, booking is essential. (call (0039) 0525 811100).
How to get there and where to park
You can reach Compiano from Parma heading towards Borgo Val di Taro on the A15 and follow the signs on the main road that runs alongside the morotway, deep in the splendour of the Appennines. You can park in the unserviced facility at the base of the Castle.
And lastly, our final entry and the only one in Reggio province: Gualtieri, considered the capital of the Italian Rennaissance, and you get there following the Po River, to enjoy peace and quiet, the Tower of the Clock and gardens, and the palace..
What to see at Gualtieri
The town is basically the square, and the Bentivoglio Palace and the Civic Tower are still connected via the original collonades. The Palace exterior might be austere, but the inside is welcoming, with interesting frescos: one of the rooms has 28 scenes depicting Jerusalem Liberated, by Torquato Tasso. Inside, you also find Icarus’s Room, and the Umberto Tirelli Donazione. Outside the Palace to the right, you can visit the Collegiate of Santa Maria della Neve, and in Piazza Cavallotti, you can see the Church of Sant’Andrea, with the ancient well in front of it.
Many local public places feature depictions of painter Antonio Ligabue, who lived part of his life here in Gualtieri. The Palace is closed in winter until 28 February 2019: for more information call (0039) 0522 221869 (Monday to Saturdays 8am-1pm).
What to eat in Gualtieri
Since this is Reggio territory, you must taste the gnocco fritto and cold cuts in the restaurants of the town, with a nice Lambrusco. Other first dishes to try include green tortelli or tagliatelle with meat ragù.
How to get here and where to park your camper
Follow the Cispadana road direct into the town, and park in the unserviced car-park next to the Palace, or in another of the small riviera towns of the Po. But that is another itinerary entirely. The nearest serviced point is Foro Boario in Reggio Emilia
We put together this travel plan of our Emilia with the hope of inspiring you to visit places that maybe you have only heard of, or to give you some hints for local dishes to try, which otherwise you might not find. This trip is not just 5 beautiful towns, but a trip into our regional history, our uniquenesses and our identity. A journey of discovery of our loved region of Emilia.