In the past, this territory was occupied first by the Ligurian and the Celtics, and then by the Romans, who fought here the second Punic war (3rd century BC), with the Carthaginian army of Hannibal. When the Roman Empire of the West fell, the territory finished under the Longobard domination.
The construction of the castle and the fortification of the village happened around the 11th century, due to the necessity of protection from the Barbarian invasions. The name come from Ripa Alta – high shore – referring to the higher riverside of the Trebbia River, where the castle was built in order to control the territory; this area had a significant strategic position for the trades between the Padana Plane and the Port of Genoa. The castle of Rivalta, together with the Statto, Montechiaro and Rivergaro ones, controlled the access to the Trebbia Valley of the Caminus Ianuae, important transport route to the Land of Genoa and consequently, to the sea.
The first certain information about the castle are dating back to the 1025; in 1048 the Emperor Enrico II donated a part of it to the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Savino of Piacenza. Subsequently, it had many transfers of ownership, ending up belonging to the Malaspina Family. In 1255, during the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor, the Marques Oberto Pallavicino, enemy of the Guelfs, ordered the destruction of the many castle built by the Church, included the Rivalta one, which was soon rebuilt. Then it was transferred to the ownership of Obizzo Landi from Cerreto; unfortunately, in 1322 Galeazzo I Visconti destroyed it once again.
The Landi recreated the village in 1412 and kept its property until the 1808, when the dynasty of the Landi, Counts of Rivalta and Marquises of Gambaro, ended.
Around the middle of the 15th century, the count Manfredo Landi decided to modify the structure of the castle, to make it functional for defence from the new weapons created at the time. Pietro Antonio Solari was the designer of this restoration: the architect is known to have renovated the Kremlin of Moscow.
The village was occupied many times: in 1636 by the Spanish soldier fighting against Odoardo Farnese, later by the Austrian during the Secession War (1746) and eventually by the Napoleon’s troops during the Battle of the Trebbia (1799).
In the beginning of the 1800s, the castle was transferred to the branch of the Landi’s Family who were Counts of Caselle and Marquises of Chiavenna. Later, by the end of the 19th century, the Zanardi Family, Counts of Veano, bought it.
Only a part of the castle is open to the public for guided tour.
The castle has a squared plan with an inner courtyard surrounded by a double order of colonnade. In correspondence of a corner of the structure there is a cylindrical Tower dating back to the 1400s, with a peculiar Torresino on top. The fortress is inside a magnificent park.
Today the castle still be a private residence of the Counts and it welcome regularly the component of the Royal Family of England during their visits in Italy. The castle has 50 rooms characterized by original furniture made between the 1500s to the 1800s. Very important is the “Salone delle armi” (hall of weapons) dedicated to the battle of Lepanto, fought by the nobles of Piacenza. The façade, characterized by neoclassic elements, is dating back to the 18th century, same as the staircase to the second floor.
The castle is ranked in the association of the “Castelli del Ducato di Parma e Piacenza” (Castles of the Land of Parma and Piacenza) and it has the Museum of Holy Art and the Museum of Military Costume. This last one stores uniforms, weapons, portrays and many documents connected with the time between the Risorgimento (time of revolutions and reformations that made Italy become one nation – 1815-1871) and the World War II.
In the village of Rivalta there are also houses, dating back to the 14th century, and the old Church of Saint Martin, built in the 14th hundred and characterized by a ceiling in truss with decorations in cotto tile.