There is a new place in Emilia-Romagna that has recently become part of the list of the I Borghi più Belli d’Italia (“the most beautiful villages in Italy), the association that has been enhancing the artistic, historical and cultural heritage that marks much of the Italian small towns for years
The place we are talking about is Montechiarugolo, a little village nestled on the foothills of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, on the left bank of the Enza River, which functions as the geographical and administrative border between the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia.
Counting just over 11,000 souls, the centre is in the heart of the Food Valley, that strip of land considered by the most the undisputed homeland of the best food and wine products in Italy, such as Parma Ham, the Black Truffle of Fragno, Parmigiano Reggiano, Salame di Felino and many others (in this regard, take a look at the “Strada del Prosciutto e dei Vini dei Colli”).
What to see
Maybe it’s for the mighty castle and its imposing walls, from which you can see the most evocative lowland landscapes overlooking the Enza River, that you feel as if above Montechiarugolo hovers a late medieval aura.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the 14th century (1313), spurred by the Torelli family, the stronghold took on the severe defensive and military architecture we see today, marked by battlements, loopholes, drawbridges and patrol walkways.
This hardness, however, is only the surface, which stands in strong contrast with the gentle and refined noble interiors. The main courtyard and the boardrooms are striking for the typical decorations of the noble dwellings of the 16th century, deeply desired by Pomponio Torelli, humanist and man of letters of the time.
The courtyard leads to a large rectangular hall that was dedicated to feasts (called “delle Feste”), decorated according to the late Mannerist style by Cesare Baglione and his students. Proceeding, you will enter the Ancient Room, marked by cross vaults and allegorical images, and the Middle Room, embellished with the delicate figures of Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin. Finally, you will arrive to the large columned loggia, directly overlooking the Enza River.
Although the structure is of private property and belongs to the family of Antonio Marchi, a prominent personality of Italian cinema of the mid-last century, Montechiarugolo is part of the virtuous castle circuit managed by the association of the Castles of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Pontremoli, and it can be visited as well as rent as a location for weddings and events
Beyond the castle, the Municipality offers many surprises. Parma is a polycentric town that counts five fractions, offering several destinations worth a visit.
Not to be missed are the church of San Quintino and the nearby Palazzo Civico, the seat of the municipal council and of the Tourist Information Office, the abbey of Santa Felicola, the church of Santo Stefano, the San Donnino Sluice and the Oratorio del Romito.
Moreover, you definitely shouldn’t miss the historic thermal baths of Terme Borrini, located in Monticelli Terme, famous for their salsobromoiodic waters and therapeutic treatments.
Rumors claim that the castle of Montechiarugolo is protected by the fairy Brema, a young girl born towards the end of the 16th century and endowed with magical powers. Legend has it that every year, on 19 May, the woman wanders through the halls of the palace, mourning her lost love Pio Torelli.
Throughout the year, the village of Montechiarugolo offers a rich program of events, many of which boasting a long historical tradition.
First of all, there is the exhibition-market “From alabaster to ginger“, usually scheduled on Friday evenings in July, and then, there is the Parmigiano-Reggiano Festival , usually held in the last weekend of August, and lastly, there’s the recent historical re-enactment of the Battle of Montechiarugolo, occurred on 4 October 1796, when the Italian tricolour appeared for the very first time.
Food and Wine
If we want to rest and enjoy a good lunch along our tour of art, then Montechiarugolo happens to be the right place where to stop.
There are plenty of dishes to try. Just to begin, you should definitely try the tortelli d’erbetta (square shaped handmade pasta with herbs and cheese filling), drowned in butter and dried in Parmesan cheese, accompanied ― as usual ― by a good glass of Lambrusco wine, but you deserve also a tasting of the renowned Parma Ham, Salame Felino and Fried Cake.
How to reach Montechiarugolo
Located less than 20 km from the highway Autostrada del Sole (A1), Montechiarugolo is easy to reach by car or, if you prefer, you can take a bus, which departs from the city centre of Parma.
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