Torrechiara castle

A love nest that smells of mystery and passion

by Silvia Calcavecchia


Set on rolling hills adorned with vineyards, the Torrechiara castle is one of the best preserved in Emilia Romagna and perhaps in Italy. It is a national monument protected by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and it offers a view of unbelievable beauty for those who, from Parma, return back to the ancient "ham valley". It was erected in 1448 on the behest of Pier Maria Rossi, great military leader and highly educated intellectual, as a tribute to his love for Bianca Pellegrini a noblewoman known at the Sforza’s court in Milan.

Both young, beautiful, refined but married, felt in love passionately. Unlike any other tragedy in Dante's style, the noble Pier Maria built mansions and fortresses and if he left to his wife the castle of San Secondo, he erected for Bianca, in addition to the castle of Roccabianca, the enchanting castle of Torrechiara. A wonderful love nest, where the two lovers were able to live their brilliant amorous passion. The castle is a pearl in which Middle Age and Renaissance come together in a perfect marriage, mixing elegantly the powerful military architecture and the sophistication of the typical forms of residential structures, which give this gem a massive appearance and, at the same time, graceful. Elegance and sophistication of the forms are manifested in subtle and long corbels that decorate the corner towers, slender and light. Defended by three rings of crenellated walls and surrounded by four corner towers, the castle perfectly preserves the architectural characteristics of the late Medieval Era. The entire structure is spread over two floors around a prestigious Honor’s Courtyard, where there is the small church of St. Nicomedes, whose door is studded with monograms of the two lovers.
Today the courtyard is used, especially during the summer, for shows and theater events that recall the ancient atmosphere: assaults, fights, shooting competitions with bow giving new life to the entire castle. The rooms on the ground floor (those of Jupiter, the pergola, of landscapes, of Victoria, the Angels, the Velario and Coat of Arms) are a magnificent “explosion” of natural and grotesque frescoes realized during the Sforza’s period by Cesare Baglione. Upstairs, on the other hand, there is the room of Dawn, the Noon and Vespers: three rooms that occupy the north-western side and connect the tower of the Golden Camera at the one of San Nicomedes. Flight of birds in a sky strewn with clouds completes a landscape between the real and the fairy in the side lunettes and mythological scenes characterize the three rooms very similar to each other also in size.

But it is the Golden Room the most impressive room, considered one of the highest pictorial expressions of international Gothic in Italy. It was the bedroom of Pier Maria Rossi, whose name derives from the pure gold leaves that once upholsters the tiles on the walls. The room still has rare frescoes, attributed to Benedetto Bembo, depicting scenes of rituals of chivalrous love and the celebration of the bond between Bianca and Pier Maria. But in establishing itself in a dynamic sequence of scenes, is the protagonist, with gentle grace, that advances to the crags of the Apennines, in a quilted sun blazing by golden rays, and in a glossy cobalt sky. But to make it even more charming there is a large porch built at the end of the fifteenth century, on which the Camera d'Oro overlooks offering a view that is breathtaking. The view invests at 180 degrees allowing the visitor to dominate the entire valley through which the river Parma flows. Like many castles also the Torrechiara Castle is wrapped in an aura of mystery. It is said that during the full moon nights when the fog is thick, Bianca's ghost appears because the husband, mad with jealousy, walled up her alive in a room in the castle. But it also said that when the lady wakes up in search of her husband, she offers passionate kisses with men she meets. In short, history, legend and passion wrap between the green and an infinite sky the Torrechiara Castle. Offering those who want to walk within its walls, or wandering around the old town that surrounds it, the feeling of finding romance and passion that has engulfed the two lost lovers.

*A last curiosity: in 1985, the American director Richard Donner set here his film “Ladyhawke“, a story of love and magic set in the Middle Ages and starring the Hollywood stars Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfiffer and Matthew Broderick.


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