Piacenza is a city within the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. This fantastic commune is situated on the banks of the River Po and lies in-between both 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 and has an economy based on wine production, manufacturing and industrial innovation.
In ancient times, Piacenza was actually occupied as a Roman military colony around 200 BC. Throughout this time, the outpost saw much conflict and was sacked and rebuilt several times. During the Middle Ages, Piacenza was deeply involved in the wars of the Holy Roman Empire but it also become immensely rich due to fertile agricultural land.
As a tourist destination, Piacenza benefits from its historical past – the old town centre features several beautiful palaces and churches such as the Palazzo Farnese and the Palazzo Gotico. Furthermore, this region of Italy features several stunning national parks and some amazing landscapes to explore. As a major intersection of the E35/A1 route, Piacenza is also a great base from which to explore other popular cities such as Milan, Parma and Brescia. This city is also known for its fine food and wine culture and offers an array of fantastic dining experiences.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Piacenza:
1. Palazzo Farnese
This large palace is one of the most impressive buildings in Piacenza and was constructed in the 14th century but was extended largely by Emperor Charles V during the 1500’s.
Located on the banks of the River Po, this palatial complex has an impressive front façade and towers for over 5 floors – the building has a huge amount of windows, and in-between the rows of windows are a series of miniature ornate arches.
Within the walls of the palace you can find an interesting archaeological museum that contains the legendary “Piacenza Liver” (A bronze liver with inscriptions). Furthermore, there is also a fantastic gallery containing works from the 16th and 17th centuries and several other museums containing ancient weapons and armour.
2. Duomo di Piacenza
The Cathedral of Piacenza is undoubtedly the most significant religious building in the city.
It also stands as a fine example of Romanesque architecture and is one of the best preserved examples in Northern Italy from the 12th century.
With an overall length of 85m, it is the longest church in the region.
The front façade has a beautiful design with a large circular rose window and three ornate archways.
A central bell tower looms over the church at a height of 32m.
Inside this delightful structure is a series of colourful frescos created in the 14th and 16th centuries and also several fine wooden sculptures.
The domes of the church are particularly beautiful and the decoration is truly sublime.
3. Basilica di Sant Antonino
Another fine church in the historic centre of Piacenza, the Basilica of Sant’Antonino is a beautiful building with many fine features.
Located in the Piazza Sant’Antonino, this basilica is only a short walk from the cathedral and Palazzo Gotico.
Constructed in 1350, the church has a gothic style and features a huge open arched portico at the end of the northern arm.
This huge arch frames the church beautifully and is topped with a rose window.
At the centre of the church is a large hexagonal bell tower with rows of arched windows.
Inside, the church features frescos from Gavasetti and Robert de Longe – some of the works have actually been transferred to the Piacenza Civic Gallery.
4. Palazzo Gotico
This beautiful palace is one of the most fascinating and amazing structures in Piacenza and is one of the cities icons.
Created by four architects including Borghetto, this building is a fine example of Lombard Gothic style.
The front façade of the structure is split into two halves – the bottom half has an open portico and a series of white stone arches.
The top half has a contrasting red brick design and is topped with crenulations.
The portico is truly 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 Parma is the small town of Fontanellato.
This town can be reached from Piacenza in approximately 30 minutes on the E35 route.
Within this quiet town is a selection of restaurants and cafes but also the impressive Castelli di Fontanellato.
Situated in a square moat, this castle is truly picture perfect and presents some fantastic photo opportunities.
Created in the 12th century, this castle has served as an important defensive position and has been attacked numerous times.
It is possible to walk through this beautiful structure and grounds and admire the fine architecture and stunning flower arrangements around the battlements.
6. Parco della Galleana
In the southern part of Piacenza, on the outskirts of the city is the Parco della Galleana.
This is a great place to come on a sunny afternoon if you have had your fill of sightseeing.
Within the grounds of this park is a series of well-preserved lawns that are perfect for playing ball games, sunbathing or having a picnic.
There is also a small river on the western side of the park that offers a beautiful place to walk along.
Furthermore, in the southern section of the park there is a large wooded area with a host of fantastic trees – walking through here in the shade provides a true escape.
This palace is also located in a beautiful Piazza the is surrounded by some other fantastic architecture.
7. Parco Regionale Adda Sud
To the north of Piacenza is the beautiful parkland of Adda Sud.
This park gets its name from the River Adda and it runs alongside this stretch of water for some miles.
If you love wildlife, nature, and gorgeous countryside scenery, this regional park will be your haven.
White storks have been known to nest here and there is several points of interest including Borromeo Castle, The Rock of Maccastorna and the Abbey of Abbadia Cerreto.
This park is perfect for cycling and it is advisable to hire a bike in Piacenza and head out into this region to explore on the many bike trails and footpaths.
8. Enjoy some freshly cooked meat at the Macelleria Callegari butchers
This is a unique establishment that is actually a butchers and a restaurant.
Located in the southern part of the historic town centre on the Stradone Farnses street, this eatery has a wonderful atmosphere and is a local favourite.
At the front of the butchers is a meat counter that displays a mouth-watering selection of fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb and anything you can imagine.
You can select which meat you want to try and the owners will cook it for you whilst you wait! The meat is cooked to perfection and the quality is undeniable.
9. Visit the town of Pretta
If you travel down the southern banks of the Po River you will eventually come to the quiet village of Pretta.
This charming village has a population of under 200 but has some fantastic sights.
Firstly, the surrounding countryside is simply stunning and features a myriad of hiking trails alongside the River Po.
You can stroll through the Parco di Rivalta and up to the expansive Ponte di Tuna.
Secondly, the village itself contains the beautiful Castello Di Rivalta.
This ornate medieval castle is open for private guided tours and contains a wonderful selection of historically restored rooms and significant artefacts.
10. Take a day trip to Parma
Piacenza has a fantastic location and is situated in-between some of Italy’s most popular cities.
Approximately 30 minutes to the east of Piacenza is the delightful city of Parma – Parma is known for its Ham exports, but also has a great deal of history, culture and interesting attractions.
Trains run between the two cities every hour and the journey takes 24 minutes.
Some of Parma’s main attractions include the Piazza del Governatore, the beautiful Duomo and the stunning renaissance Baptistery.
Furthermore, Parma has a handful of ornate theatres including the Royal Theatre and Teatro Farnese.
11. Take a walking tour of the historic town centre
The Centro Storico of Piacenza is a fantastic place to simply walk through and take in.
Starting at the Piazza Cavalli, you could marvel at the Palazzo Gotico and the Chiesa di San Francesco.
After this, head east towards the Duomo down the charming Via XX Settembre.
Once you have seen the impressive cathedral, head north east and walk through the beautiful and peaceful Giardini Margherita near the main train station.
The streets of the historic centre are lined with beautiful old buildings and typical Italian architecture.
Furthermore, throughout the city you can find some amazing restaurants and cafes.
12. Enjoy some savoury treats at the bar San Marco
This establishment is actually a café rather than a bar.
Located in the quieter south western area of Piacenza near the indoor swimming pool this café is a great place to enjoy a drink and a savoury snack.
Here you can enjoy a beautiful mocha or a latte and the atmosphere of the café is laid back and friendly.
The staff are attentive and the quality is spot on.
Aside from beverages, San Marco also serves a range of treats such as croissants and cakes.
13. Museo di Storia Naturale
For those interested in natural history, this museum is a brilliant place to explore.
You can find this delightful establishment in the south eastern corner of Piacenza not far from the Piazza della Liberta.
Within the confines of this museum is a varied collection of artefacts and exhibitions relating to the natural world and the region surrounding Piacenza.
Exhibits include taxidermy animals, machinery, recreated natural environments and details of various habitats including plains, mountains and pastures.
For kids, this museum has some hands on exhibits and is a place they can learn and have fun.
14. Galleria d’arte Moderna Ricci Oddi
This art gallery is the premier art exhibition in Piacenza and draws a wide amount of visitors due to its impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art.
Located next to the Basilica di San Sepolcro on the Via San Siro, the museum is housed within a charming building and surrounded by some beautiful gardens.
Within this gallery is a selection of over 400 paintings from a range of artists including Filippini, Carnovali, Sernesi and Abbati.
Most of the works are from local Italian artists and the range of subjects and styles is great.
For any art lover this is a wonderful place to visit.
15. Visit the town of Cremona
Cremona is only a short drive from Piacenza and lies to the east on the opposite side of the River Po.
This wonderful city has a gorgeous historic old town centre that is perfect to walk through.
Some of the main sights of Cremona include the Piazza Stradivari, the Cattedrale di Cremona, the intriguing Violin museum and the Parco Giovanni Paolo II. With a history that is deeply involved in classical music, any lover of the arts will appreciate the history that can be found here about famous musicians such as Stradivarius, Guarnieri and the Amati family.