Piacenza ItalyPiacenza is situated to the northwest of Lake Garda, about 1 ½ hours drive away. Piacenza means Pleasant Abode and it certainly lives up to that name with several fine historic buildings and local attractions. It is renowned for its arts, palazzos and splendid gardens. It is a strategically placed city on the crossroads between Bologna, Milan, Brescia and Torino. This low lying area, between the Trebbia River and the Taro River was settled long before Roman times and has some famous residents including fashion designer,Giorgio Armani; brothers Filippo and Simone Inzaghi who were both professional footballers and Pope Gregory X.
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Visitors should head for the Piazza Cavalli, the main square which is named after the two bronze equestrian monuments (cavalli means horse) of Alessandro Farnese and his nephew Ranuccio. Il Gotico, is a wonderful government building on the Piazza Cavalli and has an arched portico along the façade. It is hard to believe it was built in 1281 as it is one of the best preserved medieval civic buildings in northern Italy. The pink marble and brick building has 3 bell towers and is beautifully decorated. Inside there is a rose window and the main hall, which is still used for meetings and conferences, is decorated with beautiful frescoes. There are several other palazzos to visit in this sizeable city, including the Palazzo Farnese and the 17th century Palazzo dei Mercanti which now serves as the Town Hall.
The lovely Church of St Francis also stands on the Piazza Cavalli and was a sanctuary during the middle ages. The inside decorations include several 15th century frescoes and the main gate is enriched by a large semi-circular lunette representing the Ecstasy of St. Francis.
Another place of interest is the Cathedral, the Duomo di Piacenza, built between 1122 and 1233. This Romanesque style church in Veronese pink marble has an impressive façade with several gateways. Inside there are more splendid frescoes in the Dome and around the church by Camillo Procaccini and Ludovico Carracci. Admire the 15th century statues and the crypt with its 108 small columns which is home to the relics of Saint Justine. The Basilica of SantAntonino is also worth visiting. It is easily recognized with its octagonal tower.
You may want to sample the local cuisine before leaving Piacenza. The province is renowned for its pancetta and salami accompanied by bortellina. The preserved fruits and fruit dumplings, called turtlit make a superb dessert.
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