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Are you looking for Italy’s hidden gems? Maybe Grazzano Visconti is just the destination for you-located 15 kilometres from Piacenza, it’s an unmissable sightseeing destination.
Italy’s most successful medieval reconstruction lies hidden in the Colli Piacentini, a lovely land of elegant hills and small cities halfway between the Piacenza Po Valley and the Ligurian border, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. This area of Italy is rich in history, culture, and food & wine delicacies.
Things to do in Grazzano Visconti Italy
Grazzano Visconti is a quaint village. It was recognised as a “Città d’arte” (City of Art) by the Emilia-Romagna Region in 1986. Here, time seems to have stopped in the Middle Ages.
The thing that makes it so unique is that it only dates back to 1900, although it looks much older than its age suggests.
What we see today appears to be authentic to medieval times, but the truth is that Duke Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone built it in the early 1900s.
The only two ancient structures dating back to the 14th century are the castle and the church.
Still, there is a lot of history here because documents show that the centre was inhabited as early as the 1300s. Furthermore, the name Grazzano is derived from “Graccus Graccianum,” the name of the landowner at the time.
Grazzano Visconti History
According to the texts, at the end of the 14th century, Gian Galeazzo Visconti (lord of Milan) granted permission to his sister Beatrice, who was already married to Piacenza nobleman Giovanni Anguissola, to build a castle in this inhabited area.
The village and castle have seen important battles and tragic events over the centuries, such as the fire that destroyed the entire village in 1521.
The castle was then renovated several times between the 17th and 19th centuries, with the latter aiming to turn the Anguissola property into a country residence.
Despite many vicissitudes and struggles over borders and ownership, the castle remained in the hands of the Anguissola family of Piacenza until 1870, when Filippo Anguissola died and the castle was reclaimed by the Visconti di Modrone family.
However, it was Duke Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone’s (1879–1941) takeover that transformed Grazzano from a ruined castle surrounded by a few dilapidated barns and hovels into a neo-medieval-style village.
Giuseppe Visconti was a well-educated man with refined tastes and clear ideas who worked in many fields; he was an entrepreneur, a writer, and a sports fan.
He inherited the castle from his father at the beginning of the twentieth century and decided to renovate the entire property and establish a sort of neo-medieval village where he and his family could live away from the city, cultivating the land and recovering the ancient values of craftsmanship.
His goal was to build a village that not only served as a worthy backdrop to the castle but also had facilities that could provide work for the young people who were completing the Grazzano school’s creative wood and wrought iron craft courses.
And Duke Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone had seen it right, because Grazzano Visconti’s production of wooden and wrought-iron artefacts had been very fashionable for many decades.
His foresight ensured that Grazzano Visconti continues to exist today, preserving ancient craft traditions and attracting thousands of tourists each year from Italy and abroad.
What to see in Grazzano Visconti Italy?
Visiting Grazzano is like immersing oneself in a time machine, admiring how everything has been planned and built down to the smallest detail, a marvel that attracts hundreds of visitors each year.
It’s a small village that can be easily visited in a single day, making it ideal for a day trip.
The best way to visit is simply by getting lost. Every corner and street will impress you with the frescoed facades of the houses, porticoes, the numerous fountains and ornamental statues at the corners of the alleys and in the small squares, as well as a Well that appears to be plucked from an ancient fairy tale.
These are the main attractions in the village:
The Castle and its Park
The Visconti castle, built in 1395 and inherited by Duke Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, is the village’s focal point.
The Ducke designed the village of Grazzano Visconti and the reconstruction of the castle with the assistance of the architect Campanini. His intention was to establish a retreat away from the city and industry, where he could devote himself to farming and crafts.
He also improved the elegant park that surrounds the castle, an area of 120,000 square metres where native and exotic trees coexist harmoniously, including the more than 150-year-old plane tree.
The castle is open for guided visits, with circuits lasting 1 or 2 hours. There are also children’s itineraries available.
The tour allows visitors to admire the privately owned interior spaces, which are still furnished in the early twentieth century style, the inner courtyard, and the enormous surrounding park with centuries-old trees.
The park also has a Wildlife Recovery Center and organises an owl celebration each September.
Here’s a link to the official website for more information.
Grazzano Visconti’s ghost, the Statue of Aloisa
The Ghost of the Castle is one of Grazzano Visconti’s tales.
According to legend, it represents the soul of Aloisa, the wife of an army commander who died of sadness as a result of her husband’s betrayal. It’s said that she personally recounted her narrative through a clairvoyant.
Today, the ghost of Aloisa is revered as the patron saint of lovers, and flowers are occasionally placed on her monument in the village of Grazzano Visconti.
Cortevecchia was established in 1905 and was formerly the centre of the village’s agricultural economy.
It’s now been reorganised as a green space that hosts public exhibitions and events.
There is a permanent exhibition of agricultural instruments under the porch of the ancient barn, where you can see original traces of work in the fields.
All of the tools on show here are from local farms, particularly those owned by the Visconti di Modrone family.
The Column Angel
The “Column Angel,” built in the 1930s, has an angel in white marble on top, holding the Visconti coat of arms. It was built to honour King Vittorio Emanuele III’s visit to Grazzano.
Gian Galeazzo Visconti Square
Gian Galeazzo Visconti Square is the main square. It was completed around 1915 and is now one of the village’s most iconic spaces.
Palazzo dell’Istituzione (Institution Palace)
The Palazzo dell’Istituzione is an elegant building that adorns the main square and served as the Visconti Foundation’s headquarters.
This was the first location of the craftsmanship training school. As previously stated, Duke Giuseppe’s goal was to build a village that, in addition to providing a fitting backdrop for the castle, had useful structures to provide employment for young people completing courses in creative crafts of wood and wrought iron at the nascent Grazzano school. As of today, this is one of the village’s most symbolic structures.
Museum of Torture (Museo delle torture)
The Palazzetto dell’Istituzione also houses the small but comprehensive Torture Museum.
The exhibit is organised into four rooms, each of which houses the main torture tools used during the Inquisition period.
The Torture Museum has various artefacts, including a very rare piece from the early 17th century, the Inquisitor’s altar. Explanatory panels accompany all the torture tools.
Next to the museum is an escape room themed after the Inquisition.
The Well in Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s square is one of the most magnificent pieces of furniture in the area.
It’s made of stone and pink marble and is decorated with acanthus leaves and the Visconti coat of arms. The closing lid is composed of wrought iron and adorned with the Biscione snakes (the symbol of the Visconti).
The parish church of Santi Cosma e Damiano
The parish church of Santi Cosma e Damiano was built in the 13th century, though its current appearance is the result of a 17th century renovation.
Inside the church, you’ll find the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Near the church is a monastery which dates back to 1000.
The Wax Museum
The Wax Museum in the village of Grazzano Visconti offers a one-of-a-kind experience.
It’s located in the village centre and houses wax models of people who played important roles in Piacenza’s history. Various anecdotes are used to tell their stories during the guided tour.
There are also numerous shops where visitors can buy handicrafts and souvenirs. They are open all year, particularly on weekends and during holidays.
When to go
The village of Grazzano Visconti, which is still inhabited, can be visited at any time of year; there are several activities held every month.
The best times to visit are during the Christmas season, when it holds the Christmas Markets, and during one of the costumed events, which typically take place in the spring and fall, or else when it organises the event “Il Corteo Storico con il Torneo a Cavallo” on the last Sunday of May (The Historical Procession with the Horse Tournament).
All information about the village of Grazzano Visconti can be found on the official website.
How to get to Grazzano Visconti Italy
The mediaeval village of Grazzano Visconti is 12 kilometres from Piacenza and can be reached in several ways:
The best way to get to the mediaeval village of Grazzano Visconti is by car.
If you’re driving on the A1 or A2 motorways (expressway), the most convenient exit is Piacenza Sud. Follow the signs for “STADIO” to the end of the orbital road (bypass) and then continue along S.P. 654 towards VALNURE-BETTOLA-GRAZZANO VISCONTI.
Grazzano Visconti parking.
Grazzano Visconti has two large parking lots for cars, coaches, and campers (motor homes or vans). There are no equipped parking areas, though.
The daily fee for cars is 4 euros, 2 euros for motorcycles, and 12 euros for coaches and camper vans (24-hour fixed rate).
By public transportation:
You can also get to Grazzano Visconti using the public transportation options listed below:
By train: There is no train station in Grazzano Visconti, so you must get off in Piacenza and take the bus from there.
Every weekday, including Saturdays, buses run from Piacenza railway station to Grazzano Visconti. You can either take the urban bus to Ponte Carmiano or the extra-urban bus to Bettola or Selva.
Grazzano Visconti is a must for fans of Italian history and culture. Whether you’re travelling on a budget or looking for an Italian holiday with a difference, this destination is an ideal choice.
This is a beautiful town that looks so ancient and almost like something you would see in a film setting (but actually, it isn’t!). It’s well worth visiting if you’re anywhere near Piacenza.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article. I hope that it has provided you with all you need to know about Grazzano Visconti.
If you’re planning on going somewhere else in Italy, I’d be happy to help you with that too. You may want to read my ultimate guide to plan your trip.
I hope you have a great trip!
Ciao and safe travel.