Piacenza is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. This fantastic commune is located on the banks of the Po River, between Milan to the west and Parma to the east. With a population of just over 100,000, it is an important city in the region, with an economy based on wine production, manufacturing and industrial innovation.
In ancient times, Piacenza was actually occupied by a Roman military colony around 200 BC. During this period, the outpost saw many clashes and was looted and rebuilt several times. During the Middle Ages, Piacenza was deeply involved in the wars of the Holy Roman Empire, but it also became very rich thanks to its fertile farmland.
As a tourist destination, Piacenza benefits from its rich history – the old town center has several beautiful palaces and churches, such as Palazzo Farnese and Palazzo Gotico. Additionally, this part of Italy has several stunning national parks and some stunning landscapes to explore. As the main crossroads of the E35/A1 route, Piacenza is also an ideal base for exploring other popular cities such as Milan, Parma and Brescia. The city is also known for its food and wine culture, and offers an array of wonderful dining experiences.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Piacenza:
1. Farnese Palace
One of the most impressive buildings in Piacenza, this large palace was built in the 14th century but expanded in the 1500s by Emperor Charles V.
Located on the banks of the Po River, this palatial complex has an impressive front façade and towers over 5 storeys – the building has a large number of windows, and between rows of windows are a series of miniature ornate arches.
Inside the walls of the palace you can find an interesting archaeological museum containing the legendary “Piacenza Liver” (bronze liver with inscriptions). Also, there is a great gallery with pieces from the 16th and 17th centuries, and several other museums with ancient weapons and armor.
2. Piacenza Cathedral
Piacenza Cathedral is undoubtedly the most important religious building in the city.
It is also a fine example of Romanesque architecture, one of the best preserved examples of northern Italy from the 12th century.
With a total length of 85m, it is the longest church in the region.
The front façade is beautifully designed with a large circular rose window and three ornate arches.
A central bell tower 32m high rises above the church.
Inside this delightful structure is a collection of colourful frescoes, created in the 14th and 16th centuries, and several fine wood carvings.
The dome of the church is particularly beautiful and the decoration is really solemn.
3. St. Anthony’s Cathedral
The Basilica of San Antonio is another fine church in the historic center of Piacenza, a beautiful building with many fine features.
The Cathedral is located in Piazza Sant’Antonino, a short walk from the Cathedral and Palazzo Gotico.
The church was built in 1350 in Gothic style with a large open arched portico at the end of the north arm.
The massive arch beautifully outlines the church and is topped by a rose window.
At the center of the church is a huge hexagonal bell tower with rows of arched windows.
The interior of the church has frescoes by Gavasetti and Robert de Longe – some of which have actually been transferred to the Piacenza Civic Gallery.
4. Palazzo Gotico
This beautiful palace is one of the most charming and stunning buildings in Piacenza and one of the symbols of the city.
Built by four architects including Borghetto, the building is a fine example of the Lombard Gothic style.
The structure’s front façade is split in two – the lower half has an open portico and a series of white stone arches.
The top half features a contrasting red brick design with serrations on the top.
The porch is really beautiful and walking through this open area and admiring the arches is an absolute must.
5. Castelli del Ducato di Parma e Piacenza
Close to the city of Palma is the small town of Fontanellato.
The town is approximately 30 minutes away from Piacenza on the E35 route.
In this quiet town there are several restaurants and cafés, as well as the impressive Castelli di Fontanellato.
Set in a square moat, the castle is picturesque and offers some great photo opportunities.
Built in the 12th century, the castle was an important defensive position and was attacked several times.
Walk through this beautiful building and grounds, admiring the fine architecture and stunning floral arrangements surrounding the battlements.
6. Parco della Galleana
To the south of Piacenza, on the outskirts of the city is Parco della Galleana.
If you’ve done some sightseeing, this is a great place to visit on a sunny afternoon.
The park’s grounds feature a series of well-kept lawns perfect for playing ball, sunbathing or picnicking.
There is also a small river on the west side of the park, which is a good place for a walk.
Also, in the southern part of the park, there is a large woodland area filled with many fantastic trees – walking through in the shade provides a real escape.
The palace is also located in a beautiful square surrounded by some other fantastic buildings.
7. Parco Regionale Adda Sud
North of Piacenza is the beautiful Adda Sud Park.
The park takes its name from the Ada River, which stretches for miles along this body of water.
If you love wildlife, nature and beautiful countryside, this regional park is your haven.
White storks are known to nest here, and there are several attractions including Borromeo Castle, Maccastorna Rock and Abbadia Cerreto Abbey.
This park is great for cycling and it is recommended to rent a bike in Piacenza and then head out to the area to explore the many cycling and walking paths.
8. Enjoy freshly prepared meats at Macelleria Callegari Butcher
This is a unique establishment that is actually a butcher and a restaurant.
Located on Stradone Farnses Street south of the historic city centre, this restaurant has a great atmosphere and is a local favourite.
In front of the butcher is a meat counter displaying mouthwatering fresh beef, pork, lamb and anything else you can imagine.
You choose the meat you want to try and the host cooks it for you while you wait! The meat was cooked to perfection and the quality was undeniable.
9. Visit the town of Preta
If you travel along the south bank of the Po River, you will end up in the peaceful village of Preta.
This charming village has a population of less than 200 people but has some fantastic attractions.
First, the surrounding countryside is simply breathtaking, with countless hiking trails along the Po River.
You can stroll through Parco di Rivalta before reaching the vast Ponte di Tuna.
Second, the village itself contains the beautiful Castello Di Rivalta.
This gorgeous medieval castle is open to private guided tours and contains a collection of historically restored rooms and important artifacts.
10. Take a day trip to Parma
Piacenza is ideally located between some of the most popular cities in Italy.
About 30 minutes east of Piacenza is the pleasant city of Parma – famous for its ham exports, but also for its many historical, cultural and interesting sites.
Trains run hourly between the two cities and the journey takes 24 minutes.
Some of Palma’s main attractions include the Doge’s Square, the beautiful cathedral and the stunning Renaissance Baptistery.
In addition, there are some gorgeous theaters in Parma, including the Teatro Real and the Teatro Farnese.
11. Take a walking tour of the historic city center
The Centro Storico in Piacenza is a fantastic place that you can access on foot.
Starting from Piazza Cavalli, you will marvel at Palazzo Gotico and the Church of San Francisco.
Afterwards, head east to the cathedral along the charming Via XX Settembre.
After seeing the impressive cathedral, head northeast through the beautiful and peaceful Giardini Margherita near the main train station.
The streets of the historic center are lined with beautiful old buildings and typical Italian buildings.
Also, throughout the city you can find some great restaurants and cafes.
12. Dine at San Marco’s Bar
This hotel is actually a cafe not a bar.
Located in the quieter southwest part of Piacenza, near the indoor swimming pool, this café is a great place to grab a drink and a tasty snack.
Here you can enjoy a delicious mocha or latte in a laid-back and friendly atmosphere.
The staff are attentive and the quality is on point.
In addition to drinks, San Marco serves a range of delicacies, including croissants and cakes.
13. Natural History Museum
For those interested in natural history, this museum is a great place to explore.
You can find this delightful hotel in the southeast corner of Piacenza, not far from Piazza della Liberty.
Within the scope of this museum is a collection of various artifacts and exhibitions related to the natural world and the surrounding area of Piacenza.
Exhibits include taxidermy, machinery, reconstructed natural environments, and details of various habitats including plains, mountains, and pastures.
For kids, this museum has some exhibits and is a place where they can learn and have fun.
14. Rich Audi, Gallery of Modern Art
This art gallery is Piacenza’s premier art exhibition, attracting many visitors for its impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art.
Located next to the Cathedral of San Sepolcro on Via San Siro, the museum is housed in a charming building surrounded by some beautiful gardens.
In this gallery there are over 400 paintings from a range of artists including Filipini, Canovali, Cernesi and Abati.
Most of the works are from the hands of local Italian artists, and the themes and styles are very rich.
For any art lover, this is a great place to visit.
15. Visit the town of Cremona
Cremona is just a short drive from Piacenza, on the east side of the Po River.
This wonderful city has a gorgeous historic old town center that is perfect for walking through.
Some of Cremona’s main attractions include Piazza Stradivari, Cremona Cathedral, the charming Violin Museum and Parco Giovanni Paolo II. With a history closely tied to classical music, any art lover will appreciate the history of famous musicians such as Stradivari, Guarnieri and the Amati family.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Piacenza, Italy
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