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Under the porticos on the Piazza del Duomo in Piacenza
by Claudio Gatti

Chiesa Sant'Antonio, Piacenza

Sabina Kobango at the 2005
Piacenza Jazz Festival

Info about:
The 2007 Piacenza Jazz Festival

Welcome to Piacenza
From Jesse's Journeys in  Italy

Population: 95,132 (2004)
Official website:

Piacenza, a sizeable city with a substantial business and light industrial economic base, sits on the south bank of the River Po.  It is an old city whose history dates to the Bronze Age when the local area was inhabited by Celtic and Ligurian tribes people. The city itself was founded by the Romans as a military colony - known as Placentia - in 218 BC.

Over time, with the draining and reclaiming of the fertile land around the River Po, Piacenza became an inland port, and an important agricultural center known for its grain and wool production.  But, like other cities of Emilia Romagna and Lombardia to the north, throughout the period of Rome's decline into the late middle ages and beyond, Piacenza, like other cities of the region, was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, resulting over the centuries in a layering of architectural styles.

Piacenza is historically distinguished because it was actively involved in the revolutions of 1848 that were  among the precipitating causes of the unification of Italy in 1860.  Declaring itself an "Italian" city in 1848 during these violent times, a large number of men from Piacenza joined Garibaldi in his campaign in southern Italy.  Indeed, the city prides itself on being the "first" city of a united Italy.

Today, Piacenza offers the traveler a splendid array of buildings, museums, churches, piazzas, public gardens, artefacts and artworks upon which one's eyes and spirit may feast.  Travelers may can also satisfy baser needs enjoying the culinary delights that Piacenza's cooks and chefs, drawing on the produce of the surrounding fertile agricultural plains, serve in a plethora of restaurants, cafes and trattorias.  There are also a number of festivals during the year, including the Jazz Festival which takes place in the spring.

Main Sites

The Palazzo Comunale, built in the Gothic style in 1281, as the seat of government has a pink marble facade that features five arcades.  The shorter side has three arcades and a rose window overlooking the piazza.  The frescoed main hall is now used for meetings and small conferences.  The building is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in northern Italy.

The nearby Palazzo Farnese was built in the middle of the 16th century, in the Renaissance style, for the powerful Farnese family which ruled the city at that time.  The complex integrates the museo civico - or civic museum - a part of which is the archaeological museum.  Here one will find an incredible Etruscan educational artefact - a medal depicting a sheep's liver showing parts of the liver and their functions.

The Duomo - or cathedral - was started in 1122 AD and completed over a century later in 1233 AD.  Built in the simple Romanesque style, it also features a pink marble facade offset by stone work.  The impressive interior, with a central naive and 25 pillars that separate the space into two side aisles.  There are important, and quite beautiful  frescoes on the walls by leading artists from the 14th to 15th centuries.  The alter, presbytery and crypt can easily distract one by their architectural integrity and by their craft and artistry.

The large piazza with the two magnificent bronze equestrian statues in the mannerist tradition (by Francesco Mochi), not surprisingly is called Piazza Cavalli.  One statue is of Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza from 1586 AD, the other of his son, Ranuccio.

Another of the important, and most beautiful churches in Piacenza is the Chiesa San Francesco, built in the 12th century with a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architectural features.  Of particular interest are the lunette over the main gate which depicts the Ecstasy of St. Francis.  It was in this church in 1848 that Piacenza was proclaimed annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia - the forerunner of the modern Italian state.

The basilicas of Sant'Antonio and San Savino should also be on the list of "must sees" for those interested in churches and church architecture.  The former, which possesses a substantial octagonal tower, is a Romanesque style building, while the latter is Gothic, but of the particular style found in Lombardy.  It was begun in 903 AD but only consecrated in 1107 AD.  Other churches to add to the list include the Renaissance style Santa Maria Campagna (1522-1528) in which there is a stunning wooden sculpture of the Madonna, San Sixtus, built in the Renaissance style by the architect Tramello, in the 15th century upon an ancient temple that had been built in about 874 AD.  Tramello also did the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.   The Dominican church dedicated to San Giovanni in nearby Canale, was built in 1220 AD but enlarged in the 16th century.

Dining in Piacenza

But, one can not live by art and architecture alone, so eventually one must submit - quite happily - to Piacenza's gastronomy.   Of the principal dishes that make their way to local menus, are pancetta (rolled salted and seasoned pork belly), coppa (pork neck) and salame - pork sausage, usually cured and flavoured with wine.  Gorgonzola and Robiola cheeses are local favourites and often eaten instead of meat.  Various fried breads like  bortellina (pancakes) and chisulen usually accompany the meat or cheese dishes.  The best of the local pastas is Pisarei e faso - a mixture of handmade pasta and beans. Naturally, polenta and risotto, eaten more than pasta in northern Italy, are delightful mainstays of the Piacenza.  One's just desserts will likely be made of locally grown fruits and nuts, some times oddly, but delightfully preserved in mustard sauces.

A meal in Piacenza should be supped with one of the delicious wines produced from grapes grown on the hills around the city.  Try a Gutturnio dry or sparkling red or a sparkling, nearly foamy Bonarda red.  If you prefer white, you can rarely go wrong with the Ortrugo or the much sweeter Malvasia.

After dining, why not make your way  to one of old Piacenza's lovely public gardens, some along the River Po, and take a stroll, or sit quietly under the shade of a plane tree, and contemplate your good fortune:  You are in one of Italy's most beautiful cities!

By Vian Andrews, September 28, 2006


4503′N 0942′E


Parma - 66 km;
Milan - 71 km;
Genova - 145 km;
Bologna - 158 km;
Ravenna - 230 km;
Florence - 240 km;
Venice - 255 km;



Coat of Arms for Piacenza

A street in Piacenza by Claudio Gatti

The Carthiginian General, Hannibal, defeated the Romans at the Battle of Trebia near Piacenza in the year of the city's founding, 218 BC.
One of the most famous families of  violin makers, the Guadagnini, began violin making in Piacenza in the 18th century.
Giorgio Armani was born in Piacenza in 1934.
Tell us about your trip to Piacenza. What were your favorite places to visit, stay, and dine.  TalkItaly Forum