From Piacenza's valleys here there are some hamlets not to miss
In the Early Middle Ages, Bobbio, that became a city in 1014 after the Gold Bull issued by Frederick II, was one of the most important religious sites in Italy. The medieval charm of the ancient village, that is peppered with narrow streets, lovely stone houses and handsome palaces, testifies to the region’s wealth, and indicates a long-standing tradition of art, culture and science. Idyllically set just in the heart of the so-called Via degli Abati (Abbots’ Route), Bobbio develops around the ancient monastery of San Colombano, and is totally surrounded by the glorious landscapes of Val Trebbia, what makes it one of the most famous tourist destinations in the province of Piacenza. The Abbey is named after the Irish saint who flocked there and left an indelible mark on the city’s culture. It is the city’s most representative landmark together with the irregular profile of its Ponte Gobbo. Legend has it that this bridge was the place where San Colombano met the Devil. Marco Bellocchio, an acclaimed director who spent his childhood and summer holidays in Bobbio, chose the city as the set of some of his best films, and established Bobbio Film Festival and Laboratorio di Fare Cinema there.
Tucked into beautiful folded hills, Castell’Arquato is one of the prettiest medieval villages in the countryside south of the river Po. Day visitors come at the weekends to explore its mysterious lanes and picturesque stone houses. The municipal square, that develops in the upper part of the town, is dominated by the impressive Rocca Viscontea, that once suited defensive purposes, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, a Romanesque building featuring some Gothic and Renaissance elements too, Palazzo del Podestà and the Museum of the Collegiate Church. Castell’Arquato’s fascinating medieval atmosphere made it the ideal location for both costume-drama films, such as Lady Hawk by Richard Donner, and important historical recollections, that are often held here all year round.
Vigoleno, that is idyllically set on the top of an impressive rock spur that rises halfway between Piacenza’s Geological Reserve and the Fluvial Park of the river Stirone, is one of the most fascinating medieval villages of the province of Piacenza. It still gazes across the countryside from on high, and boasts breathtaking views over the vine-clad hills of the surrounding area. Walking down its winding lanes and narrow streets, visitors will have the possibility to enjoy the fascinating beauty that permeates every nook and cranny of the village. The central square is dominated by the Oratory of Madonna delle Grazie and by the Parish Church of San Giorgio, the latter being one of the most important examples of sacred Romanesque architecture of the whole territory crossed by the Via Francigena.