Wandering in the Bassa Parmense you have to stop in Soragna, village of a big, wonderful and charming Rocca (fortress).
The origins of this village are dating back to the Longobard period: Soragna was first mentioned in a document of the King Liutprando of 712. Almost at the end of the 11th century, the Lupi family settled down in the territory: they were coming from Cremona and soon started a conflict with the Pallavicino Family. After more than a century of fights, the two families split the territory: the Lupi took Soragna and soon they built a fortress, moved by the presence of the pressing Pallavicino Family, who took the close village of Castellina. Around the middle of the 14th century, Charles IV of Boemia awarded Ugolotto Lupi with the title of marquis, turning the imperial feud into a marquis land. In 1385, Gian Galeazzo Visconti authorized Bonifacio and Antonio Lupi to build a new fortress. They designed it with a squared plan, four towers on the sides and a fifth one in the middle of the main façade, as we can appreciate today.
In 1513, Diofebo I died with no heir. In a first time, it seemed like the three brothers should share the land, but the will of the marquis named an only universal heir: the nephew Giampaolo Meli (son of his sister and Giambattista Meli, who belonged to an ancient family of patrician from Veneto). In 1530, the emperor Carlo V authorized the adding of the name Lupi to the Family: so it born the new dynasty Meli Lupi.
In the two following centuries, the Rocca had important transformations, turning in a sumptuous lords’ residence and a precious example of Baroque style. A brick bridge, replacing the old drawbridge, takes to a porched yard decorated with frescos representing vine leaves; in the lunettes are represented the crests of the families who joined the Meli Lupi one with weddings. The oratory of Saint Cross, erected in the first part of the 1600s and used for two centuries also as tomb of the family, is connected to the main building through the Poets Gallery that, once upon a time, was taking also to the Theatre, realized by the brothers Ferdinando and Francesco Galli, said “the Bibiena”, today disappeared. Among the many rooms, rich of furniture and décor, worthy of note are the Baglione Room, with grottesche frescos, and the Plasters’ Room, projected and painted by the Bibiena. To get to the first floor you have to go up an honorary staircase in red marble of Verona; here is the Big Gallery, which is also painted by the Bibiena, who represented images referring to happenings and stories of the Meli Lupi Family. At the first floor, there is also the Bridal Chamber, where the bed is separated from the rest of the room by a small golden gate. From the Chamber, we can enter the Salottino (small living room) rich of plasters and gold wooden carving and characterized by an inlaid marble floor made by Pietro Oliva da Parma. In the 1700s it was realized an Italian garden, extended during the following century, turning into an English park, by the project of the architect Luigi Voghera from Cremona.
In 1709, the marquise land turned into a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming an independent state with the right to mint coins.
The power of the Meli Lupi princes ended in the 1805 after the introduction of the Napoleon’s Code that put an end to the feudal power.
A prince still living in the Rocca today: his name is Diofebo VI Meli Lupi, who defines himself as “just a farmer”, but actually administrate his lands and opened the castle to the public.
He is not the only tenant of the Rocca though. If you read already the story of Cassandra Marinoni, better known as Donna Cenerina, you certainly know that her ghost appear, walking around the rooms, about the time a member of a family is about to die…
The Big Rocca dominate over the centre of Soragna, that host the Museum of Parmesan Cheese, the Museum of Farm Culture and the synagogue, realized in a neoclassic style, and the Jewish Museum “Fausto Levi” collecting furniture and documents coming from Jewish communities of the Land of Parma, today disappeared.