On the Piacenza’s side of the park, on the decline of the Santo Stefano hill, there is the medieval village of Vigoleno, which since 2002 entered the network of “the most beautiful villages of Italy” and with its shapes overlook the Stirone Valley.
Vigoleno has ancient origins: because the first traces are dating back to the Roman age when it was called Victus Lyaecy.
The most attracting part of the village is the medieval defence system, which still intact today: there are the walls with battlements and patrol walkways, from which you can admire the landscape of the Stirone Valley.
It was built probably during the 10th century, to control and defend the valley. During the following century, the castle was transferred to the Pallavicino’s ownership and later to the Visconti of Piacenza one. In the 1300s, they give it to the Scotti Family who kept it, except for short interruptions, until the 1900s.
Between the 1922 and the 1934, the castle belonged to the princess Maria Ruspoli de Gramont, who renewed it, turning it into a sumptuous manor house. At the first floor was built a theatre in a squared room and she called the Russian artist Alexandre Jacovleff to paint the walls: he represented animals, exotic figures, ladies dressed as in the 1700s and the princess Maria, on a baroque green background. On the sides of the entrance, two platforms delimit the space for the public, and in the other side of the room, another platform became the stage for the actors.
Maria Ruspoli de Gramont welcomed many famous characters in the castle, that became the place of cultural and worldly meeting. Among the most notorious people who came there, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Gabriele D’Annunzio, the writer Elsa Maxwell, the actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (one of the most famous couple of the cinema of the time)and the pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
In the main square of Vigoleno there is a fountain dating back to the 1500s and you can admire the Romanic church of Saint George, dating back to the 12th century. This church is one of the most important examples of holy Romanic architecture in the land of Piacenza. Inside it has three aisles ad three apses; outside, on the top of the main portal, there is a relief of Antelami’s school, representing Saint George who kills the Dragon; the subject is the same of the one of the apse’s fresco, painted in the 15th century by a local painter.
The church was renovated many times during the Renaissance and Baroque times, but a restoration of the 1963 took the building back to his original aspect.
Visiting Vigoleno means to fall completely in the history and feel part of a time that seems very far but still fascinating and charming us.
Carmen Artocchini “Castelli piacentini” - Edizioni TEP Piacenza 1967