Journey through the Emilia of women who made history

Where every stone tells a story of courage, determination and feminine charm.

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Emilia-Romagna has been the stage for many fascinating stories and extraordinary women who have been able to leave an indelible mark on Italian history. 

Traveling through Emilia means immersing oneself in the lives and vicissitudes of these women, who were able to contribute significantly to the formation of the social and cultural fabric of the territories between Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.

Among the imposing and majestic walls of the Matildic Castles, one encounters the shadow of Matilde of Canossa, a figure of strength and wisdom; among the elegant boulevards and historical palaces of Parma, the figure of Maria Luigia of Austria, a sovereign of great culture and refinement; in the heart of Piacenza, at Palazzo Farnese, one encounters the elegance of Margherita of Austria.

  • Duration
    72 hours
  • Interests
    Culture & Castles
  • Target
  • First stop - Canossa Reggio nell'Emilia

    Among the most notable protagonists of medieval European history is surely Matilde of Canossa, heiress of one of the most powerful noble families of the time, a bold and powerful woman, heiress of vast domains, who ruled alone for a long time. 
    A great supporter of the Church, she was a key figure in the complicated medieval political landscape at the time of the investiture struggle. 

    The first stop on the itinerary can then only start from the heart of her domain, the Apennines of Reggio Emilia, where the ruins of the fascinating Castle of Canossa stand today. 

    A visit to the castle allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the medieval atmosphere and discover the environments that were witnesses to the most significant historical events, including in particular the famous episode of the "humiliation of Canossa" that occurred in 1077. 
    On the occasion, her cousin, the Emperor Henry IV went to the castle to obtain the forgiveness of Pope Gregory VII, submitting himself to a humiliating act of penance that lasted three days, so much so that even today the saying "going to Canossa" is widespread. 

    To learn more about the figure of Matilde, however, you must also visit other castles in the area, known as Matildici, perhaps by walking a stretch of the Via Matildica del Volto Santo.

    These include the Castle of Bianello, where the great countess was crowned viceregent of Italy; the Castle of Rossena with its Rossenella tower, a defensive outpost of the Canossa family, where it is possible to stay overnight; and finally, Matilde of Canossa's favourite manor, the Castle of Carpineti, the highest of the Apennine fortresses. 

  • Second stop - Parma Parma

    The second stop of the itinerary takes us to Parma to discover the figure of Maria Luigia of Austria, second wife of Napoleon and daughter of Emperor Franz of Habsburg, duchess of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from 1814 to 1847.

    Visiting the city of Parma is like taking a journey through her life. Maria Luigia, in fact, brought Parma to its greatest splendour: she implemented the collections of the Ducal Library (now Palatina) building the great Salone Maria Luigia and had the Teatro Regio, one of the symbols of the city, built and inaugurated in 1829. 
    A crucial stop to learn more about the history of Parma between the 18th and 19th centuries and delve into the figure of the duchess is the Glauco Lombardi Museum, rich in historical and artistic evidence. 

    To meet Maria Luigia, you can also visit the Complesso della Pilotta where, inside the National Gallery, several works related to her activities as a patron are preserved: the imposing sculpture by Antonio Canova dedicated to 'Maria Luigia of Habsburg in the guise of Concordia' and the large painting by Giovan Battista Borghesi portray her. 

    Just a few kilometres from Parma, the Reggia di Colorno is an expression of the marvels that bear the signature of Maria Luigia. Better known as "the 'Versailles of the Dukes of Parma', this mansion was made splendid in the 18th century by the French architect Petitot, becoming Maria Luigia's first favorite ducal residence. 

    Not to be missed is a walk in the Boschi di Carrega Regional Park, just outside Parma: here Maria Luigia stayed for a long time with her children at the Rocca Sanvitale di Sala Baganza, at the Casino dei Boschi and the Villa del Ferlaro.

  • Third stop - Piacenza Piacenza

    An important female personality of the Renaissance, Margherita of Austria loved the city of Piacenza so much that she chose it as her favourite and where she wanted to be buried.

    Duchess of Parma and Piacenza between 1547 and 1586, daughter of Emperor Charles V, married first at the Medici court to the Duke of Florence Alessandro de' Medici and then to Ottavio Farnese, Pope Alexander's nephew, she initiated the construction of one of the most important buildings of the 16th century in Italy, Palazzo Farnese, now housing the Civic Museums
    In addition to sculputers, frescoes and ceramics, its interior contains art masterpieces such as Botticelli's Tondo, depicting the Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, and the Fasti Farnesiani, i.e. celebrative representations of the most significant events of which the Farnese family were protagonists.

    The complex houses the Museum of the Risorgimento, the Art Gallery, the Carriage Museum and the Archaeological Museum with its Roman section. Valuable is the Etruscan Liver, a bronze model of a sheep's liver, rare direct evidence of Etruscan religious practices, linked to divination by haruspices. 

    Following in the footsteps of Margherita of Austria, along the streets of Piacenza, another unmissable stop is the beautiful Piazza Cavalli, the heart of the city: one of the two equestrian monuments (the other to her grandson Ranuccio I), splendid Baroque bronze sculptures created by Francesco Mochi in 1625, is dedicated to Alessandro, the duchess's son. 

    Finally, the burial place: Margherita, by her own will, was buried in the Church of San Sisto, the same church for which Raphael created the Sistine Madonna. The funeral monument dedicated to her can still be admired.

Last update 20/12/2023


IAT Reggio Emilia
Via Luigi Carlo Farini 1/A Reggio nell'Emilia (RE)
+ 39 0522 451152 Opening: Annual
Tourist Information and Reservation Office Parma
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi Parma (PR)
+ 39 0521 218889
IAT R Piacenza
Piazza Cavalli 7 Piacenza (PC)
+ 39 0523 492001 Opening: Annual

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