From Parma to Piacenza
Via Emilia runs further west of Parma through numerous small towns, which, however, most often come down to a row of shops and roadside cafes. The first larger town is FIDENZA, with a cathedral in the Lombard-Romanesque style with a richly decorated facade made by followers of the Parma master, Foreplay. It was originally a Roman colony, known for centuries as Borgo San Donnino, until Mussolini brought back in 1927 r. Roman name in Italian wording.
The bassa stretches north from here (flat, low area, where Bertolucci made the film 1900), traversed by drainage ditches and unfenced fields of grain and corn, sugar beet and grapevines. In summer, it is extremely hot and almost absolutely silent, and although bassa has a kind of beauty, is commonly considered an area, which can only be viewed while driving. The towns and villages of the region are quiet and rather unremarkable. It is worth going to SORAGN on the second Sunday of May on Giostra dei Nasze (Nose festival). In the village of FONTANELLATO, a few kilometers northeast of Fidenza, there was a camp, where Erie Newby was imprisoned. Rocca San Vitale dominates the town square (summer Tue-Sun. 10.00-12.30 i 15.30-19.00; in winter, Tue-Sun. 9.30-12.30 i 15.00-18.00; 2000 L), A 15th-century castle surrounded by a moat, where the Sanvitale family lived until the outbreak of the war. Inside is some old furniture and a fresco by Parmigianin.
Giuseppe Verdi lived in BUSSETO, further north; it is minor, but an attractive fortified city, and a few mementoes of the 19th-century composer can be found in the Museo Civico. More things related to Verdi can be found in the nearby village of LE RONCOLE, the composer's birthplace, where the entire souvenir industry has developed, and in summer there are regular opera performances. Verdi's villa, a few kilometers outside Busseto, w SANT’AGATAN DI VILLANOVA, is open to guided tours (V-X 9.30-12.00 i 15.00-19.00); it houses an imitation of a hotel room in Milan, where he died.
South of Via Emilia, good food and fun are as important as the rest of the province: so here are teeming with local festivals, the subject of which is cheese, berries, nuts or mushrooms, and all the townspeople come to the great feast. It's worth going to the Rodeo del Maiale (pig festa) at NOCETO, which usually takes place on the second Sunday of July, but it's better to check it with the tourist office in Parma.
When traveling by car, it is worth wandering around the area, to do SALSOMAG-GIORE TERME, 9 km od Fidenzy, can be easily reached by bus. It is a famous spa town, where the inhabitants of the region come to detoxify the body in the local sulphate springs. You can join them in the domed piscina thermale on via Valentini (w 0524/79495). You can undergo the full treatment either in the fabulous Art Nouveau Terme Berzieri (open to everyone in summer) in the city center or in the less romantic Terme Zoja. Some of the larger hotels also offer medical treatments. There is nowhere to stay, though there is hardly any reason, because - as you might expect - the place is quite lethargic; however if you decide to stay here overnight, information can be obtained from AAST on viale Romagnosi 7, near Piazza del Popolo.
Further into the hills, CASTEL ARQUATO is a small town with a beautiful medieval square, stuck to the side of the mountain above the valley of the Arda River. The road goes further south from here, by LUGAGNANO, on the banks of the Arda among the low hills to BARDI, over which the 11th-century castle crowns the karst rock (codz. VI-IX, limited opening hours in other periods; 1 daily bus from Parma).
In Lugagnano the descents are steeper, narrower roads leading to the town of VELLEIA - 5 km west of RUSTIGAZZO (4 daily buses from Piacenza) - where there are remains from Roman times, dug in the eighteenth century. Velleia was the capital of a vast mountain region, inhabited by the first five centuries AD and named after a Ligurian tribe, which the salt springs attracted here. The road continues south through beech forests to the mountain range - Apennino Piacentino - stretching from BOBBIO to BORGO.
Taking just over an hour by bus from Piacenza, you can reach the small town of BOBBIO, the former mountain refuge of St.. Columbus, who lived here until his death. His tomb is in the abbey, which he founded in the 7th century and which have been rebuilt many times since then. Pilgrims came here on their way to Rome - the route led from VARZI in Lombardy via PASSO DEL PENICE down, from BOBBIO. There are several interesting mountain routes north of Passo del Penice, but Monte Penice itself is adorned with the great relay of the RAI station and crowded with tourists. On two maps published by EPT Bologna, obejmujących Apennines Piacentino - From the Mercatello Pass to the Zovallo Pass, the trails are marked, slope angles and shelters.