On the borders of the Bassa, opposite to the Po riverside, there is a town notorious especially for the production of the “King of the cold cuts”: His Majesty the Culatello. Yes, I am talking about the town of Zibello. This small village has his own history. Shall we discover it together?
Even if Zibello used to have a certain political-military prestige due to the presence of a castle erected during the Roman age, the real administrative an religious centre was Pieve (now called Pieveottoville), who governated the territories of Zibello, Ragazzola and Santa Croce. Around the 800, Charlemagne gave Pieve to the Bishop of Cremona. Later, he gave the feud to the Da Bariano Family from Bergamo, between the 10th and 11th century, following, the long domination of the Sommi Family. This town reached its maximum authority in the first half of the 1300s, when in 1330 Cremona gave it the rights of control of the right Po riverside, between the Taro and the Arda Creeks. Only three years later Pieve was given to the Rossi Family: it began a quick decadence and, during the century, it lose its dominant role in favour of Zibello, which ownership was transferred in 1249 to the marques Umberto Pallavicino, together with other lands and castles (between which Busseto and Polesine). Since then the Pallavicino Family dominated those territories without any contrasts. In the middle of the 1400s, Rolando the Magnificent created the Pallavicino State that held its own regulation. Zibello, which feud included also Santa Croce, Ragazzola and Pieveottoville, was subject to many architectonic-urbanistic interventions: it was built a fortress, the city wall and a palace. In the end of the 15th century, the zone of Zibello was transferred to the government and administration of the new Land of Parma and Piacenza, while it depended on Cremona for the Religious issues. In the 17th century it was transferred to the diocese of Fidenza. In 1530, the Pallavicino Family contended the feud with their close relatives from Modena, the Rangoni Family, who made it to own the territories for almost a century, but did not really cared about it and ruined the fortress. Even the Pallavicino Family, once they reconquered the State, hardly cared about the town, but they governed it until the Napoleonic occupation, happened in 1802. The branch of the Pallavicino Family of Zibello, begun with Giovan Francesco, son of Rolando the magnificent, still living.
In Zibello, you can visit interesting museums and monuments. Among the noteworthy buildings, there is surely the church of Saints Gervasio and Protasio, built in the 16th century in a late-Romanic style, wanted by Umberto Pallavicino, but consecrated only in 1620. The building develops on three aisles, highlighted by buttress in the outside. On the left, there is a baptistery with 1800s decorations, realized by the scenographer Girolamo Magnani from Fidenza. Inside the church is preserved a canvas of the 1700s made by the Austrian sculptor Ignazio Stern, representing the Immaculate Mary, Mary Magdalene, Saint Catherine from Alessandria and the Dominican Saints. Otherwise, the most ancient building of the town is the church of the blessed Virgin of Graces: it was built in the 1300s and it was originally dedicated to Gervasio and Protasio. In the 17th century they covered the ancient frescos and only during the 1900s some restoration rediscovered them and dated them back to the 15th century. The church is developed in one aisle only and is fully covered by red bricks. Among the religious buildings, there is also the Dominican monastery, which construction began in 1494 wanted by Giovan Francesco Pallavicino. Today part of the convent turned into a school and the other into the Museum of Farm Culture “Giuseppe Riccardi”, but the structure still preserve the cloister with frescos in the lunettes. Some traces of the domination of the Pallavicino Family are also in the homonymous Palace, realized in gothic style between the second half of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th; it has a long gallery with pointed arches and a small theatre inside.
Many of you may know Zibello because of one of the most famous DOP product of the Emilia-Romagna: the Zibello’s Culatello. The fog, typical weather phenomenon of these territories, is a decisive factor for the maturing and aging of the cold cut. The Culatello was mentioned for the first time in a document of the Parma Municipality in 1735. For many centuries, the secrets of this cold cut remained confined to the original zones, but with time, it gained fame and became notorious all over Italy and abroad. To protect its quality and typical features, in 1996, the Culatello obtained the European accreditation of Designation of Origin Protected (DOP), given just to those aliments which qualitative features depends primarily or exclusively from the territory they are made in. In 2009, it was created the Consortium of Protection of the Zibello’s Culatello. Every year the town celebrates the “King of cold cuts” with two festivals: by the end of May there is the Culatello’s festival, while November is the month of the November Porc, a festival that stops in many different localities of the Bassa, among which Zibello.
Close to Zibello there is the village of Ardola, where is located the Sanctuary of San Rocco. I imagine that you read already the story of the miracles happened there back in 1746…haven’t you? What are you waiting for? The small church rise on top of a pre-existing oratory and was realized in three years only, thanks to the offers of the pilgrims who were going to the place of the prodigious event to pray and celebrate in honour of Saint Rocco. The fact you may not know yet is that during the centuries, the sanctuary had vacillating moments, being subject many times to negligence and abandon. After a long time of decadence, the building presented some structural problems. Thanks to the Committee of Saint Rocco and to the contribution of foundations, dioceses, parishes, companies and single citizens, it was possible to complete the renovation works, that rescued the ancient colourful walls and the restorated the wells risen right where, in 1746, flowed the miracle water. In 2014 the sanctuary, which had always been a reference point for the devoted of the Bassa, was finally reopened and made accessible. Still today, there are many activities promoted to keep this place alive.