Castell'Arquato is a very picturesque hill town in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. At the top of the town is the castle with the village spilling gently down the hill below the castle. Near the castle is a Romanesque church and abbey and great views of the surrounding countryside.
Although you can easily visit the town in an hour, it's more pleasant to spend most of the day or even spend the night. Compared to hill towns in Tuscany and Umbria, this one is a pretty easy hill to climb.
Going up Via Dante, a charming street that leads to the monumental part of town, you'll pass a few shops, restaurants and historic buildings. About halfway up is a 16th century tower and the Palazzo del Duca, from the 13th-14th centuries. By the palazzo is a fountain from 1292.
At the top of the hill is Piazza Municipio, a big square with the town hall or Palazzo Pretorio from 1293, the clocktower, two restaurants, and an the Enoteca Communale, where you can taste wines of the Val d'Arda. During July and August, there's music and wine of Thursday evenings.
The 12th century Romanesque collegiate church of Santa Maria is near the square. Inside there are frescoes from the 15th century and carved capitals and sculptures from the 12th century. Next to the church is a cloister with the Museum of the Collegiate Church.
The masterpiece of the high town is the castle, Rocca Viscontea di Castell'Arquato. You can go into the courtyard, visit the fortress musuem, and climb the tower for 3.50 euro (2007). From the top of the tower, you'll be rewarded with a fantastic view of Castel'Arquato and the beautiful countryside.
A pretty park next to the castle makes a good place to rest and enjoy the scenery. There are public restrooms below the park, just below the castle. There is another park and children's play area at the lower part of town, outside the walls.
Although it's a tiny town, Castel'Arquato has four musuems. You can buy a combination ticket for all of them for 9 euro (2007).
- Fortress Museum, in the castle, has a video about the castle, four rooms about life in the middle ages, and includes the visit to the castle tower. From mid-March to mid-October, the fortress is open daily, but the rest of the year only on Saturdays and holidays.
- Museum of the Collegiate Church, in the cloister next to the church, includes marble pieces and sculptures as well as a visit to the cloister.
- G. Cortesi Geological Museum includes local geological collections and information about the fascinating geology of the region. It's inside the former Ospitale S. Spirito, from the 16th century.
- Luigi Illica Museum is a musuem of opera and prose, including a collection of opera scores, costumes, and manuscripts and letters.
Castell'Arquato is in the Val d'Arda in the Emila Romagan region of northern Italy. It's 33 km from Piacenza, a city about halfway between Parma and Milan. (see Emilia Romagna Map) You won't be able to drive into the town but there are several free parking lots at the lower entrances to the town.
Castell'Arquato is one of the 20 castles in the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, some of the best preserved castles in Italy. At the castle you can buy a discount ticket for 2 euros that saves you money at all 20 castles, including Castell'Arquato.
Staying and Eating in Castell'Arquato
There's a 3-star hotel right at the foot of the town by parking lot 2, Albergo Leon D'Oro. You can also stay in a former convent, Ostello Conservatorio Villaggi, from April through September.
Castell'Arquato has ten restaurants serving the renowned cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region.