Piacenza (Italian: [pjaˈtʃɛntsa] (listen); Piacentino: Piaṡëinsa [pi.aˈzəi̯sɐ]; Latin: Placentia) is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and the capital of the eponymous province. As of 2022, Piacenza is the ninth largest city in the region by population, with over 102,000 inhabitants.
|Comune di Piacenza|
Location of Piacenza in Italy
|Frazioni||Vallera, San Bonico, Pittolo, La Verza, Mucinasso, I Vaccari, Roncaglia, Montale, Borghetto, Le Mose, Mortizza, Gerbido|
|• Mayor||Katia Tarasconi (PD centre-left)|
|• Total||118.46 km2 (45.74 sq mi)|
|Elevation||61 m (200 ft)|
|• Density||870/km2 (2,300/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Patron saint||Antonino of Piacenza (4 July),|
Westernmost major city of the region of Emilia-Romagna, it has strong relations with Lombardy, with which it borders, and in particular with Milan. It was once defined by Leonardo da Vinci as "Land of passage", in his Codex Atlanticus, by virtue of its crucial geographical location. Piacenza integrates characteristics of the nearby Ligurian and Piedmontese territories added to a prevalent Lombard influence, favored by communications with the nearby metropolis, which attenuate its Emilian footprint.
Piacenza is located at a major crossroads at the intersection of Route E35/A1 between Bologna and Milan, and Route E70/A21 between Brescia and Turin. Piacenza is also at the confluence of the Trebbia, draining the northern Apennine Mountains, and the Po, draining to the east. Piacenza also hosts two universities, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Polytechnic University of Milan and University of Parma.
The etymology is long-standing, tracing an origin from the Latin verb placēre, "to please": The name means "pleasant" or (as James Boswell reported some of the etymologists of his time to have translated it) "comely abode", and it was given as a good omen.
Before its settlement by the Romans, the area was populated by other peoples; specifically, most recently to the Roman settlement, the region on the right bank of the Po between the Trebbia and the Taro had been occupied by the Ananes or Anamari, a tribe of Cisalpine Gauls. Before then, says Polybius, "These plains were anciently inhabited by Etruscans" before the Gauls took the entire Po Valley from them.
Piacenza and Cremona were founded as Roman military colonies in May 218 BC. The Romans had planned to construct them after the successful conclusion of the latest war with the Gauls ending in 219 BC. In the spring of 218 BC, after declaring war on Carthage, the Senate decided to accelerate the foundation and gave the colonists 30 days to appear on the sites to receive their lands. They were each to be settled by 6,000 Roman citizens, but the cities were to receive Latin Rights; that is, they were to have the same legal status as the many colonies that had been co-founded by Rome and towns of Latium.
The reaction of the region's Gauls was swift; they drove the colonists off the lands. Taking refuge in Mutina, the latter sent for military assistance. A small force under Lucius Manlius was prevented from reaching the area. The Senate then sent two legions under Gaius Atelius. Collecting Manlius and the colonists, they descended on Piacenza and Cremona and successfully placed castra there of 480 square metres (0.12 acres) to support the building of the city. Piacenza must have been walled immediately, as the walls were in place when the Battle of the Trebia was fought around the city in December. There is no evidence either textual or archaeological of a prior settlement at that exact location; however, the site would have been obliterated by construction. Piacenza was the 53rd colony to be placed by Rome since its foundation. It was the first among the Gauls of the Po valley.
It had to be supplied by boat after the Battle of Trebbia, when Hannibal controlled the countryside, for which purpose a port (Emporium) was constructed. In 209 BC, Hasdrubal Barca crossed the Alps and laid siege to the city, but he was unable to take it and withdrew. In 200 BC, the Gauls sacked and burned it, selling the population into slavery. Subsequently, the victorious Romans restored the city and managed to recover 2000 citizens. In 198 BC, a combined force of Gauls and Ligurians plundered the whole region. As the people had never recovered from being sold into slavery, in 190 BC they complained to Senate of underpopulation; in response the Senate sent 3000 new settlers. The construction of the Via Aemilia in the 180's made the city easily accessible from the Adriatic ports, which improved trade and the prospects for timely defense.
The Liver of Piacenza, a bronze model of a sheep's liver for the purposes of haruspicy discovered in 1877 at Gossolengo just to the south of Piacenza, bears witness to the survival of the disciplina Etrusca well after the Roman conquest.
The first Bishop of Piacenza (322–357), San Vittorio, declared Saint Antoninus of Piacenza, a soldier of the Theban Legion (and not to be confused with the sixth-century Antoninus of Piacenza), the patron saint of Piacenza and had the first basilica constructed in his honor in 324. The basilica was restored in 903 and rebuilt in 1101, again in 1562, and is still a church today. The remains of the bishop and the soldier-saint are in urns under the altar. The theme of Antoninus, protector of Piacenza, is well known in art.
Piacenza was sacked during the course of the Gothic War (535–554). After a short period of being reconquered by the Roman emperor Justinian I, it was conquered by the Lombards, who made it a duchy seat. After its conquest by Francia in the ninth century, the city began to recover, aided by its location along the Via Francigena that later connected the Holy Roman Empire with Rome. Its population and importance grew further after the year 1000. That period marked a gradual transfer of governing powers from the feudal lords to a new enterprising class, as well to the feudal class of the countryside.
In 1095, the city was the site of the Council of Piacenza, in which the First Crusade was proclaimed. From 1126, Piacenza was a free commune and an important member of the Lombard League. In this role, it took part in the war against Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, and in the subsequent battle of Legnano (1176). It also successfully fought the neighbouring communes of Cremona, Pavia and Parma, expanding its possessions. Piacenza also captured control of the trading routes with Genoa, where the first Piacentini bankers had already settled, from the Malaspina counts and the bishop of Bobbio.
In the 13th century, despite unsuccessful wars against Frederick I, Piacenza managed to gain strongholds on the Lombardy shore of the Po. The preliminaries of the Peace of Constance were signed in 1183 in the Saint Antoninus church. Agriculture and trade flourished in these centuries, and Piacenza became one of the richest cities in Europe. This is reflected in the construction of many important buildings and in the general revision of the urban plan. Struggles for control were commonplace in the second half of the 13th century, not unlike the large majority of Medieval Italian communes. The Scotti family, Pallavicini family and Alberto Scoto (1290–1313) held power in that order during the period. Scoto's government ended when the Visconti of Milan captured Piacenza, which they would hold until 1447. Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti rewrote Piacenza's statutes and relocated the University of Pavia to the city. Piacenza then became a possession of the House of Sforza until 1499.
A coin from the 16th century features the motto: Placentia floret ("Piacenza flourishes") on one of its sides. The city was progressing economically, chiefly due to the expansion of agriculture in the countryside surrounding the city. Also in the course of that century a new city wall was erected. Piacenza, as part of the Duchy of Milan, was ruled, at alternate times, by the Sforza and by France until 1521, when, under Pope Leo X, it became part of the Papal States. From 1545, following the creation of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza by Pope Paul III to his son Pier Luigi Farnese, the city was ruled by the House of Farnese.
Piacenza was the capital city of the duchy until Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma (1547–1586), moved it to Parma. The city underwent some of its most difficult years during the rule of Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma (1622–1646), when between 6000 and 13,000 Piacentini out of a total population of 30,000 died from famine and plague. The city and its countryside were also ravaged by bandits and French soldiers.
Between 1732 and 1859, Parma and Piacenza were ruled by the House of Bourbon. In the 18th century, several edifices which belonged to noble families such as Scotti, Landi and Fogliani were built in Piacenza.
In 1802, Napoleon's army annexed Piacenza to the French Empire. Young Piacentini recruits were sent to fight in Russia, Spain and Germany, while the city was plundered of a great number of artworks which are currently exhibited in many French museums.
The Habsburg government of Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (1816–1847), is remembered fondly as one of the best in the history of Piacenza; the duchess drained many lands, built several bridges across the Trebbia and the Nure and created educational and artistic activities.
Austrian troops occupied Piacenza until, in 1860, a plebiscite marked the entrance of the city into the Kingdom of Sardinia. 37,089 voters out of 37,585 voted for the annexation. Piacenza was therefore declared Primogenita dell'Unità di Italia ("First-born of the Unification of Italy") by the monarch. The Piacentini enrolled en masse in Giuseppe Garibaldi's army for the Expedition of the Thousand.
In June 1865, the first railway bridge over the Po river in northern Italy was inaugurated (in southern Italy a railroad bridge had already been built in 1839). In 1891, the first Chamber of Workers was created in Piacenza.
During World War II, the city was heavily bombed by the Allies. The important railway and road bridges across the Trebbia and the Po and the railway yards were destroyed. The historic centre of city itself also suffered collateral damage. In 1944, the bridges over the Po became vital for the supply from Austria of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's Gothic Line, which protected the withdrawal of Kesselring's troops from Italy. Foremost among these were the railway and road bridges at Piacenza, along with supply depots and railway yards. In Operation Mallory Major, July 12–15, allied medium bombers from Corsica flew 300 sorties a day, knocking out 21 bridges east of Piacenza, and then continued to the west for a total of 90 by July 20. Fighter-bombers prevented reconstruction and cut roads and rail lines. By August 4, all the cities of northern Italy were isolated and had suffered heavy bombing, especially Piacenza. Transport to Genoa to the south or through Turin to the north was impossible; nevertheless, Kesselring continued to supply his men.
On the hills and the Apennine Mountains, partisans were active. On April 25, 1945, a general partisan insurrection by the Italian resistance movement broke out and on 29 April, troops of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force entered the city. In 1996, president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro honoured Piacenza with the gold medal for Valour in Battle.
There was a prisoner of war (POW) camp located here, Veano Camp PG 29, Piacenza.
Climate in this area is humid subtropical with no dry season, constantly moist. Summers are hot and sultry. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfa" (Humid subtropical climate).
|Climate data for Piacenza (LIPS) 1971–2000, extremes 1951–present|
|Record high °C (°F)||23.8
|Average high °C (°F)||5.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||1.7
|Average low °C (°F)||−2.1
|Record low °C (°F)||−22.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||62.2
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||7.0||5.5||6.5||8.2||8.1||6.7||4.6||5.0||5.3||8.2||7.2||6.2||78.5|
|Average relative humidity (%)||86||83||75||78||76||75||73||75||78||85||88||89||80|
|Source 1: Servizio Meteorologico|
|Source 2: NOAA (humidity, 1961–1990)|
Piacenza boasts a great number of historical palaces, often characterized by splendid gardens.
Many inhabitants of Piacenza and the surrounding province still use Piacentino, which is a variety of the Emilian dialect the Emilian-Romagnol language. Emilian-Romagnol is a member of a different Romance subfamily (Gallo-Italic) than Standard Italian (which is an Italo-Dalmatian language) and its distinct grammar and phonology make it mutually unintelligible with that language.
Although there have been a number of notable poets and writers using Piacentino, it has experienced a steady decline during the 20th century due to the growing standardization of the Italian language in the national educational system.
Piacenza Calcio 1919 was the main and most supported football team and played in Serie A for eight seasons. The team ceased to exist in 2012 after its bankruptcy. Currently there are two football teams playing in Serie D: S.S.D. Piacenza Calcio 1919, which acquired Piacenza Football Club coat of arms following the bankruptcy, and Pro Piacenza 1919, which declared bankruptcy in 2019.
Volley Piacenza is the main man volleyball team and currently plays in serie A1; its palmares entails a championship, a national cup, a national supercup and two European cups. River Volley is the main female volleyball team and won the national championship twice.
Rugby is relatively popular compared with Italian standards and Piacenza has a number of rugby teams: Piacenza Rugby Club and Rugby Lyons Piacenza are the most important.
Piacenza and its province are known for the production of seasoned and salted pork products. The main specialities are pancetta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck, containing less fat than pancetta, matured at least for six months) and salame (chopped pork meat flavoured with spices and wine, and made into sausages).
Bortellina (salted pancakes made with flour, salt, and water or milk) and chisulén (torta fritta in Standard Italian; made with flour, milk, and animal fats mixed together and then fried in hot strutto, or clarified pork fat) are the perfect coupling of pancetta, coppa, and salame, but they are also good with cheeses, particularly Gorgonzola and Robiola.
Pisarei e faśö is a mixture of handmade pasta and borlotti beans. This is served with a sauce made of tomato puree, extra virgin olive oil, onion, salt, and pepper. It's preferred to be consumed with grated Parmigiano on top.
Among the culinary specialties of the Piacenza region (although also enjoyed in nearby Cremona) is mostarda di frutta, consisting of preserved fruits in a sugary syrup strongly flavored with mustard. Turtlìt (tortelli dolci in standard Italian), or fruit dumplings, are filled with mostarda di frutta, mashed chestnuts, and other ingredients, and are served at Easter. Turtlìt are also popular in the Ferrara area. Turtéi, a similarly named Piacentine specialty, is a kind of pasta filled with spinaches and ricotta cheese, or filled with calabash. A similar Piacentine dish is the Panzerotti al Forno, which is made with pasta, ricotta cheese and spinach.
Piacentine staple foods include corn (generally cooked as polenta) and rice (usually cooked as risotto), both of which are very common across northern Italy. There are also locally produced cheeses, such as Grana Padano, though nearby Parma is more famous for its dairy products.
The hills surrounding Piacenza are known for their vineyards. The wine produced in this area is qualified with a denominazione di origine controllata called "Colli Piacentini" ("Hills of Piacenza"). The main wines are Gutturnio (red wines, both sparkling and still), Bonarda (a red wine, often sparkling and foamy, made from Croatina grapes), Ortrugo (a dry white wine) and Malvasia (a sweet white wine).
Piacenza is twinned with: