Vigoleno Castle, the keep and the patrol walkway
It was founded in the 10th century, but the earliest documented date is 1141 when it was an outpost, on the road to Parma, of the Commune of Piacenza. Possession passed through many hands, principally that of the Scotti family, then the Pallavicino, [Piccinino] and Farnese families, and it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The history of Vigoleno is closely linked to that of the Scotti family. They made it the strong point of their undisputed political authority. In particular Alberto Scoto, one of the leading exponents of the Guelph group, fortified it in 1306. In January 1373 the castle was conquered by the papal troops of the Cardinal Legate of Bologna, but in April it returned to the Viscontis, thanks to a deceptive move. After taking possession of the fortress, the papal troops sent messengers to the garrison of Castel San Giovanni to ask for reinforcements. The messengers, however, fell into the hands of the Ghibelline Giovanni Anguissola who, knowing the purpose of the mission, went to Vigoleno with a squad of soldiers, pretending to be sent for its defence. Having entered the fortress with the “falsansa”, the Ghibellines captured its astonished defenders. The fortress was later destroyed from the foundations. On the 29th October 1389, the Duke of Milan, Odoardo Visconti, ceded the rights to Vigoleno to Francesco Scotti and granted him the necessary licence to rebuild the fortress. The fortress – a rare case in Italian history – belonged almost without interruption to the same family for five centuries: from the end of the 14th century to the beginning of the 20th. In 1404, a diploma by Gian Maria Visconti elevated the feud to the rank of county; a brief period of turmoil followed, with the Piccinino brothers stealing it (1441-1449), at the end of which the Scotti family reconquered Vigoleno. In 1622 the Farnese family conferred on Cesare Maria Scotti the rank of Marquis of Vigoleno, the highest step in the aristocracy of the duchy.
The Mastio. It has an imposing quadrangular keep with embrasures, corbels and Ghibelline merlons. In the past, the fortified tower of the walled village of Vigoleno was the extreme defence of the fortification consisting of the triangular fortress and the patrol walkway leading from the fortified tower to the southern tower and the castle proper. The high quadrangular tower has three internal sides surrounded by curtain walls. At this point it retracts and reinforces the internal access to the village, from the side facing the small square, with the leaden defence apparatus consisting of corbels alternating with machicolations. It has three floors, plus a fourth that coincides with the crenellated upper part. The internal structure has undergone considerable changes over time. The best preserved part is the one on the ground floor, with the old floor and the narrow entrance door.
On the first floor you can visit the weapons room. In addition to information panels on military architecture and archaeological finds, armour and halberds are on display. This is not the castle’s original equipment, which has been lost over the centuries: the present equipment is the result of donations. From the first floor of the keep, you can access the patrol path and reach the south tower, which is connected to the residential part of the castle-palace (still privately owned and used as a hotel) by a recently built walkway. On reaching the south tower, it is possible to admire a room used as a sitting room at the time of Princess Ruspoli Gramont. Of particular note is the ornate ceiling. On the second floor there are photographic reproductions of 16th-17th century maps of Vigoleno and the Arda valley on display. The originals, by cartographers Paolo and Alessandro Bolzoni, are kept in the Biblioteca Comunale Passerini Landi in Piacenza. Historical photographs by Alessandro Cassarini document the image of Vigoleno between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. On the third floor, two showcases display fossils from the Stirone Park. Going up the last few steps you come out on the roof of the fortified tower: from here you can observe the wonderful panorama of the surroundings and catch a glimpse of the exceptional integrity of the village, which in the summer season frequently hosts theatre and music performances.
The Red Room. The large hall, located on the first floor, is distinguished by a coffered ceiling with polychrome ornamental cartouche motifs and a double frieze: with cherubs and allegorical figures on the upper part of the walls. The hood, made of kaolin, is characterised by an elaborate decoration: two statues of cherubs, resting on large spirals, holding an enormous shell. The table in front of the fireplace dates from the 18th century; the sofa and armchairs from the early 20th century. The paintings on the walls are reproductions of originals stored in a safe.
The Blue Room. On the upper floor is the Blue Room, rich in paintings and furnishings. A large Murano glass chandelier illuminates the starred ceiling, framed by a frieze decorated with biblical subjects from the book of Genesis (The Creation, The Expulsion from Paradise, The Flood and subsequent episodes). On the left when you enter is a Renaissance painting: a Landscape by Girolamo Romani from Brescia, known as Romanino (1485/87-1562).
The sundial on the south side of a tower overlooking the square bears the date 1746.
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