Maybe some of you already knows that Roccabianca is a town near the Po River, in that part of the Land called Bassa. As written on a certificate released by Federico Barbarossa in 1189, in a zone of the Bassa of Parma there was a town called Arzinoldo or Rezinoldo, that was annexed to the feud of Oberto Pallavicino. Between the 14th and the 15th century, the Rossi Family, lords of the near San Secondo, and the Pallavicino Family disputed the territory of Rezinoldo. After harsh battles, the Pallavicino Family made to get it, but they soon burned it down in flame. In 1449, the duke Francesco Sforza decided to resolve the contest confirming the ownership of the Rossi Family: short after Pier Maria II began the constructions of the fortress, erected to defend the possessions around the Po and completed it in 1465. Two years later the count gave the fortress as a gift to his lover, Bianca Pellegrini d’Arluno, who made her residence of it. The Rocca (as it is called today by the inhabitants of the town) and Roccabianca were born together: the construction of the building coincided with the fusion of the two older villages (Tolarolo and Rezinoldo), united under a new place-name. It seems that the name Roccabianca – white fortress – came from the name of the lover of Pier Maria II, but some believe that the name is because the fortress was entirely plastered of white. From the beginning of the 1500s, the land was transferred in the ownership of the Rangoni Family from Modena, who kept it until the 1762, often disputing it with the Pallavicino. In 1831, I decided to keep it in my Land while in the beginning of the 1900s the castle was conquered by the Facchi Family from Brescia. In 1968, it was sold to the Scaltriti Family (owner of the distillery Faled) who still the owner today, and renewed and opened it to the public in 2003, after many years of abandon. The building still have his original architectonical shapes: surrounded by a ditch, it is characterized by a squared plan, two corner towers and a big internal court. In the middle of it, there is the body of the castle with an open gallery with frescos of heraldry and vegetal motif, where you can spot the medlar, tree symbol of love loyalty. Next to the open gallery is the Griselda’s room, dating back to the time of the construction of the fortress. In this room are represented the episodes of the 100th novel of Boccaccio Decameron, whose protagonist is Griselda, a poor girl turned into wife of the marquise Saluzzo, who she remained loyal to despite the oppressions she received. The represented subject is a symbol of uncontrollable love attachment. The original frescos were taken to the Sforza Castle of Milan in the 1800s; those you can appreciate today are a remarkable copy realized by Gabriele Calzetti between 1997 and 1999. On the southeast side, the fortress is preceded from the ruins of the ancient fortifying walls in bricks and a ravelin that is a protection of the entrance. The renovation intervention of the Feud, the Landscapes, the Four Elements and the Rangoni rooms, showed a decoration worthy of note. For some decades, the castle was place for ageing the liqueur and the distilled products of the family industry Scaltriti, while today it has inside the Museum of Distillery, with its degustation room. Some basements of the castle are dedicated to the aging of the Culatello and others cold cuts, while others, which ages ago were probably stables, are dedicated to the aging of the Aceto Balsamico. Since 2003, the castle has officially entered the circuit of the “Castle of the land of Parma and Piacenza”.
Not far from the fortress, there is the Theatre Arena of the Sun. The theatre was built as an open arena, wanted by Enzo Tomasinelli and opened on the 29th of September 1946, with the performance of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”, in which played also the famous baritone Rinaldo Pelizzoni. Later, it was covered and designated to opera and theatrical plays and cinema. Surely, you are wondering what is so important about this place… Well, inside are preserved nine statues of the sculptor Ettore Ximenes that were part of the monument to Giuseppe Verdi, erected in the city of Parma; these sculptures are the only ones to survive the bombardments of the World War II. Tomasinelli rescued them and put them in his own theatre. After the crisis of the cinema and the economic collapse of the town, in 1980 the Arena of the Sun turned in a warehouse first and into a gym later, until it was closed in 1995. The Municipality of Roccabianca decided to buy it in 2006, restoring and turning it again into a theatre. The sculptures still displayed there, in all of their beauty.