The medieval village of Tabiano Castello is one of the many such charming hill towns to be found in the maze of rolling hills between Piacenza and Parma, in northern Italy. It is located just above the main modern town of Tabiano Bagni, which is part of the bigger one called Salsomaggiore Terme just over another hill. These are both thermal towns, where the waters are rich in sulphur and other minerals, and beneficial for many ailments.
My aunt Luciana started going there twice a year possibly even before I was born. Her doctor had prescribed baths in these specific waters to help treat the eczema she used to suffer from. That is where she originally met her husband, my uncle Mario, who was going there for inhalations to help with his chronic asthma. After they were married, not only did they continue to go and spend two weeks, twice a year, in this area, but got the whole family involved, too.
Hence, I know this area pretty well, but my brother Roberto knows it even better because he lives there. Above and below is the view from my brother’s backyard. And the medieval village is less than a mile from his house. The hills between Piacenza and Parma (here we are closer to Parma than Piacenza) are a spectacular bucolic paradise, and one of my favorite areas of Italy, as well as one of the less touristy ones.
This is the land where the most famous cheese in the world was born, Parmigiano Reggiano, aka parmesan cheese. It is also the place where everyone’s other favorite thing comes from: Prosciutto di Parma, aka prosciutto; and also salame, coppa, capocollo, spalla cotta… all lovers of these Italian cured meats will know what I am talking about. It goes without saying – but I am saying it anyway – that these hillsides are dotted with little family restaurants where everything is home made, and that serve dishes typical of the area (tortelli, gnocchi, home made pastas, truffles, porcini et all).
And just down the road from here is Busseto, the village where Italian composer and patriot Giuseppe Verdi was born. But we will explore that another time.
Nearby Salsomaggiore Terme is also the seat of one of Italy’s best culinary schools, which my brother Roberto attended, and later taught at for a few years. That is when he fell in love with the area, and after living ten years in Vienna, Austria, he returned to his “almost home” town.
In the image above you can see Parma in the distance.
Below you see the medieval village of Tabiano Castello. And indeed, castello means castle.
Here is a little bit of history. The oldest core of the village dates back to Roman times, even though the area had seen settlers even earlier than that. In 1145 the village changed hands, and went from being owned by the Bishop of Parma to being feud of the Marchesi Pallavicino. At the highest point of the hill, the new marquis built a fortified stronghold that strategically dominated the Taro river valley. As the centuries passed, the village changed hands several times through conflicts and competitions that involved some the greatest families of the times.
In the 19th century, the castle was brought back to new life thanks to Giacomo and Rosa Corazza, who hired the most celebrated artists and best artisans of the area to decorate the castle. The castle is currently a private residence, but private tours are available upon request. I had a chance to see the gardens several years ago, though I did not have a camera with me that day.
However, part of the village has been restored and turned into a charming hotel. When I took these photos they were just finishing with the restorations, so I had no chance to explore. But now that it is done, you can take a look at the inside here.
About half a mile down the road from the village is the medieval church of Saints Gervasio and Protasio. Built in the roman style of the 16th century, the church was restored in 1905, while the bell tower was built in 1950. It was locked on the day I visited, so I had no opportunity of photographing the inside.
I took all these photos on a hot and sunny day in July, the time of the year when scenes like the one above and below are frequent: hay bales drying in the sun like debris left by a spaceship.
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