An Italian Medieval Village Untouched by Modernity

Castell’ Arquato, Emilia-Romagna – ideal day getaway from Milan.

11998960_10153526002385053_5945083266990534109_nA hilltop wonder, you approach the town through a grand archway, looking up at the towers and spires that define the skyline. Just inside the gateway we witnessed a scene worthy of a Fellini film. A window banged open above us and grandmother’s head popped out. ‘Filippo!’, she called down to the floor below. A second later the window below opened. The grandmother produced a basket covered with a flowery cloth, attached to a crudely constructed pulley system. She lowered the basket down to her son below, bellowed ‘buon appetito’, and withdrew. This brief scene of daily life is representative of a village frozen in time and its enduring culture of family life.


While there are many hilltop villages with quaint cobbled streets and stray cats, Castell’Arquato is impressive for the sheer size and integrity of the historic village. Often borghi are merely a piazza and a couple of streets trapped inside a sprawling city, but here modern construction is relegated to outside the town walls. In fact, since the Medieval period there have not been any notable changes to the village.

Aside from losing yourself in the winding streets and admiring the well-kept gardens overlooking infinite views of the hills beyond, there is even some serious history and architecture here.

The town sits on a terrace of fossil shells, deriving from prehistoric times when the sea covered the Po valley. As you reach the summit of the hill, a grand piazza opens up before you, a surprise in a little town like this. The piazza hosts la rocca Viscontea, erected by Luchino Visconti between 1342 and 1349, which is considered one of the most important military workshops in Northern Italy. You can also find a religious complex of buildings called the collegiata which is one of the oldest in the area, dating from 1117. The most attractive part of the structure is the volumetric play of the four apses set against the roof of the church and bell tower.

Piccola città eterna!

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In terms of food, have an antipasto fit for a king with local coppa, pancetta and salame piacentino.

Castell’Arquato is 45 minutes from Parma, 1hr 15 from Milan and 1hr 30 from Verona. 


31 thoughts on “An Italian Medieval Village Untouched by Modernity

  1. There’s so much history is such a gorgeous place!

    Despite living in a town full of cobbled streets and proclaiming often that I “really don’t like cobbles” there’s nothing more beautiful than an old town with uneven cobble to walk over. Especially with those incredible views! I’d walk over the cobbles to get to that any day!

    Maybe that’s what my home town is missing! Some views that make the cobbles worth it haha!

    ~ K


  2. This looks divine. I much prefer the small, quaint villages of Italy than the big metropolises. We had a fantastic time in the middle of Chianti a few years ago. This makes me want to book another trip there! #wanderfulwednesday

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow this place looks like a photographers paradise! I love the way you described the scene with the mother lowering food to her son. What a cool thing to witness! And all of this only an hour from Milan… who knew! Thanks for sharing and linking up! I love learning about hidden gems like this 😀


  4. this place looks gorgeous! i keep seeming to run into more and more towns in italy that I need to add to my must-visit list. I love that this one seems untouched by hordes of tourists. thanks and found you through wanderful wednesday!


  5. I keep reading your description over and over of this town in Italy. It sounds amazing and I’d love to visit! Your pictures capture the town so beautifully! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Very glad you enjoyed reading and I hope you manage a visit. These villages are like a little slice of another time and you feel like you’re the first to discover them because they are so tourist free!


  6. Reblogged this on Under Western Skies and commented:
    Today I feature a guest post from an informative blogger, careful observer and good writer with one of my favorite blog names, La Brutta Figura. An expatriate living in the Veneto of Italy, she writes thoughtful articles, often about lesser-known places in Italy or details of daily life from a visitor’s perspective. This piece is typical, describing a Medieval village that doesn’t appear on most itineraries: the kind of location most tourists don’t have an opportunity to see. I hope you’ll find it interesting and read some of her other posts while you’re there.


  7. Hi. I just reblogged this post on Under Western Skies. I thoroughly enjoyed it, representing as it does the advantage you take of your opportunity to get off the beaten strada to see “real” Italy.


    1. Hi Brad, thank you very much for sharing my post and your kind words introducing my blog! I’m delighted to hear you are enjoying the posts, I’m now having fun reading about other hilltop towns on your blog – what a wonderful resource blogs are!

      Liked by 1 person

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