One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
In Piacenza, a city of art in the Po Valley, there is one, or rather two possibilities to come face to face with Art in an extraordinary and unusual way: climb* up a dome and find yourself just a few meters from the frescoes of Guercino and Pordenone.
Paths unused for centuries, frescoes by great artists, religious places that have created culture and preserved it to pass on to future generations.
A combination of the civil and religious history of the area, perfect for discovering the treasure chest that the city offers, providing many emotions and suggestions.
The ascents to the dome of the Cathedral, frescoed by Guercino, and to the dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Campagna, frescoed by Pordenone, will be repeated until 30 June 2024.
We have already taken advantage of this and I am sure that you will be so fascinated that you will want to plan this experience immediately.
This new way of enjoying art, generally reserved for insiders, fascinated me right from the start: firstly because it was unusual to be able to admire the frescoes so close up, secondly because it gave a new perspective on the artwork, and finally because I was attracted by the idea of walking through spaces that had fallen into disuse and having the possibility of capturing unique perspectives.
Our experience, with comfortable shoes on our feet, begins at the Basilica of Santa Maria di Campagna, whose main dome was frescoed by Pordenone, the greatest Friulian Renaissance painter.
The ascent is along a narrow but comfortable path that leads to the dome along the ancient path known as the “camminamento degli artisti” (artists’ path), which crosses the vaulted ceilings of the nave and brings us closer to our destination. I assure you that it is strange to think that you are just above the nave, in a place unknown and forbidden to most.
Once inside the dome, you are free to wander around the circular gallery, which is open to the outside of the city, following the information provided by the guide. A breathtaking journey in which you will not know where to look, enraptured by the colors that have been restored to their original state.
After the ecstasy of the dome experience, the itinerary ends in the Chapel dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, where the Friulian artist depicts three episodes from the life of the Saint, in addition to the altar-piece of the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine and the Chapel of the Nativity or of the Magi, frescoed with the stories of the Infancy of Christ.
The cultural experience continues with the ascent to the Dome of the Cathedral, with access from the gardens behind the apses. Once again, a recovered route is used, narrower than that of the Pordenone, through secret places from which to observe the interior and exterior of the Cathedral in an unusual way.
Passing through the frescoed women’s galleries of the presbytery, one reaches the dome by entering the loggia. Here the wonders of the dome are revealed thanks to a masterful play of light.
Once again, it’s possible to walk around the entire perimeter of the dome and admire the cycle of frescoes by Guercino, a native of Ferrara: an experience that gives rise to indescribable emotions.
Then we continue with the view of the square from the stained glass window in the shape of a Greek cross on the façade of the Cathedral: priceless and perfect for taking curious pictures of the city!
During the experience, you will wonder how difficult it was at the time to create such wonders, and you will fully understand the greatness of the artists who were able to depict the figures from close up, studying an “elongated” design capable of giving the right perspective to the final spectator, who would always appreciate the work from below and (almost) never from close up.
Then, at the end, when you look up and admire from a distance the work you had just appreciated from close up, you feel very fortunate indeed to have had such a rich and exciting experience.
Important: in both cases, the churches are used for daily worship; on Saturdays and Sundays there are guided visits at fixed times; from Tuesday to Friday it is only possible to go up to the Guercino Dome if you have booked in advance.
To enjoy these two ascents at the same time, there is time until 30 June 2024, after which it will only be possible to climb up to the Dome of the Cathedral.
It is possible to purchase a single ticket for both domes, with concessions for families and schools.
* ascents are forbidden to people with heart disease, acrophobia, claustrophobia, limited motor skills and altered mental state.
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