Rivalta's Castle is a majestic fortified complex located within the Northern Italian municipality of Gazzola, in the district of Piacenza's Province.
A few kilometers from Piacenza, this small medieval village, is set on a steep scarp along the river Trebbia, facing the hillsides covered with vineyards (🍇 & 🇮🇹 = 🍷🍷).
Overlooking the bank of the Trebbia River, it has a moderate altitude (120m a.s.l.), it's located on the first hills of the Piacenza Apennines which allows it a large view on the bed of gravel of the river, the lowland and of the surrounding countryside.
Given this strategic location of Rivalta (from the “Latin ripa” translatable into “high cliff”), for this reason we should not be surprised that since ancient times, in this place, there has alwayes been a tower or a sort of fortification suitable for sighting enemies.
Right here, on the banks of the Trebbia River, in 218 BC, the Romans were defeated by the legendary Carthaginian army of Hannibal (arrived here with 20 elephants from far North Africa, through Spain and Alps! 🏔️ + 🐘🐘 = 😲).
Why a visit to Rivalta?
Although the external structure has undergone some changes over the years (also to adapt it to the defensive needs against the nascent artillery of the 15th and subsequent centuries); the inner borough still has its original mediaeval structure and and it is still today a good example of how it was to be living in a ancient medieval village.
Here you can find most of beautiful Castles of Northern Italy; many of whom are part of the circuit: “Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza” and also many other strongholds, fortresses and palaces of the Piacenza's Province (there are “only” 7 castles in the municipality of Gazzola! 🏰 × 7 = ⚠️). Oh! and, if you did not know it before, many important historical events took place here...
Crossroads of the most important communication routes in northern Italy, Rivalta (and the nearest Piacenza), is located at almost 1 hour from almost all major Italian cities (Turin, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Venice). Okay, maybe maximum 🕑 2 hours from the farest cities.. (ie. Turin, Florence, Venice)
Geographical point of departure to start discovering the “Italian Apennines”, mountain range about 1,300 km long which crosses most of Italy territory (from North to South), thus giving to the Italian country that distinctive penisular design (the infamous Italian's “Woman’s Boot” 👢).
The territory around the Castle was colonised since ancient times; thanks to Piacenza and its territory conformation, this area, constituted a real and obligatory passage, whatever your destination is. It is here that many of the oldest main roads wind their way: via AEmilia, via Romea (“for pilgrims”, the Francigena), via Postumia, the Caminus Ianuae (a.k.a. “Caminus Genuae”), the way of Oil and Salt, the way of Pond, etc. etc.
When Hannibal Wars (and the “Punica Perfidium”) ended, the Romans were finally able to complete the project to build the via AEmilia (nowadays known as SS9, Piacenza - Rimini).
After that Emilian way, Romans also planned to build a road to improve accessibility to the Val Trebbia, the so-called “Caminus Ianuae” (important way of communication to the Ligurian sea going towards Piacenza, Bobbio and finally Genova).
The castles of Rivalta, Statto, Montechiaro and Rivergaro (the latter two placed on the opposite bank of the river Trebbia), were located here in fact to watch over the entrance into the valley Trebbia of the ancient Caminus Ianuae.
After the end of the Roman Empire, Italy was invaded by various populations amongst who were the Lombards and the Franks. From the Middle Ages onwards, many of the Roman works fell into disuse (even roads) or anyway were left without the proper maintenance.
Although the Trebbia valley was always an important access route for communicating to the sea, evidence of this is the presence of the powerful 🇻🇦 Monastic Feud (and abbey) of San Colombano in Bobbio, we should still had to wait the arrival of another invader to give new life to the Ligurian road.
In the Napoleonic dominion in Italy he introduced clarity and simplicity in the intricate legislative world of the peninsula (the usual "Italian way of life"..); among the many we mention: the abolition of internal customs; unification of the monetary system, weights and measures; improvement of the tax system, introduction of the land registry, sale of ecclesiastical properties (which favored the growth of the land bourgeoisie), strengthening of higher education, construction of roads, canals and bridges, and so on...
Just at the time of his first campaign in Italy, Napoleon, commissioned the: "Route 212 de Génes à Plaisance", a large carriageable road born on the ruins of the ancient "Caminus Ianuae" (along the course of the Trebbia river), a road of primary importance for every conquest projects.
The soul of the great "Route 212" and of the "Caminus Ianuae" still lives in the current State Road 45 (SS 45), a beautiful scenic road that winds along the river Trebbia in its narrow gorge through the high Apennines.
A place that Ernest Hemingway called one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world (whose access door has always been the splendid Castle and Village of Rivalta..)
First mentions date back the early 11th century, right in the Middle Ages, when the emperor of Germany (Henry III) donated the castle to Benedictines of San Savino’s monastery in Piacenza. The abbot of the monastery (Landi di Cerreto) granted the cultivation of feud to local “de Ripalta” family, that later took possession. Afterwards, the castle became propriety of the powerful Malaspina family, who held various castles in Val Trebbia and adjacent valleys.
In the 13th century, among sieges and changes in ownership, even Rivalta was involved in fight between ♗♝ Guelphs, (loyal to the papacy) and ♚♔ Ghibellines (loyal to the emperor) which, as elsewhere in Italy, clashed mainly for divide lands and local interests. For this reason, in 1255, the ghibelline Lord Oberto Pallavicino (Imperial Vicar in Piacenza and Lord of Piacenza, Milan, and Cremona) ordered the destruction of a number of forts of Guelph party including the Castle of Rivalta.
In the early 14th century, the castle was bought by the nobleman Obizzo Landi (a.k.a. Opizzone) from the “de Ripalta” family. The castle, reconstructed and further strengthened, it was intended to act as a starting point for the conquest of the nearby Piacenza; taking it away from his powerful friend Galeazzo Visconti (🇮🇹 Duke of Milan and ♚♔ Emperor's sympathizer).
However, this intent led to three months of siege to the Castle forcing thus forcing Obizzo to run away and to seek help to the ♗♝ Popes's troops. In memory of this nobleman, the quadrangular tower positioned at the entrance of the castle it's called precisely "Opizzone" (on which you can still see the signs left by the many battles fought here).
Despite Obizzo's bad luck, these plans proved to be successful, indeed they led to the final defeat of the Visconti and to affirmation of the Landi family (that for almost 400 years ruled on these lands).
In the 15th century, since the first fire weapons appeared on European battlefields in this period, the castle was thoroughly renovated by Earl Manfredo Landi; the castle was fortified with thicker walls and stronger towers and its distinctive rounded tower was added during this period. The tower, overlooking Trebbia and Po valleys, it's crowned by an unusual roof and rumors say that it was designed by the same architect (Pietro Solari) which invented the 🇷🇺 Kremlin in Moscow. Also from this period it's dated the parish church of S. Martin located with the medieval borough.
Following the series of wars, battles, besieges, and treasons occured throughout centuries in the area of Piacenza; the castle was attacked or conquered several times by: 🇮🇹 Milanese, 🇪🇸 Spanish, 🇩🇪 Germans, 🇫🇷 French. Within the castle there is also a room dedicated to the 💥 Lepanto battle (of 1571), in which many local noble families took part
In the late 1700s, the castle lost its defense needs and was transformed into an elegant country residence; thus completing its Renaissance-like appearance that still we can see today. Also from this period are the paintings located within Saint Martin's church, related to the Emilian artist "Ferrante of Bologna".
In the 19th century, due the death of the last heir of the Landi principles, the castle was bought by Earl Carlo Zanardi Landi of Veano (whose descendants still live in the castle today).
Nowdays, the castle is still a private property; surrounded by a magnificent park (which isolates the sumptuous residence from the annexed buildings) and is frequently visited by celebrities when they visit Italy, such as the Royal Families of Britain, Sweden, and Holland ( 3 × 👑 = 💯 ). Princess Margaret of England spent her summers here in the castle for over ten years as a guest of the Landi family. It seems even that Margaret, during a night in the Castle, heard Giuseppe (cook's ghost) for more than ten minutes move furniture and turn on lights (😱 = 👻 + 👨🏻🍳).