Medieval Charm In The Italian Countryside
If you love fairytales, you are sure to be enchanted by the Castello di Vigoleno. In the north of Italy this real life original medieval castle is part of the charming historic Vigoleno village which dates back to Roman times. Located in the Italian countryside of Vernasca, it sits high on a hill in the picturesque Emilia Romagna Region near Parma. I stayed one night and absolutely loved it here.
A fortified castle, Vigoleno was built for defensive purposes to protect the area in the past. It has a tower of course, which is very impressive and was obviously well constructed as a keep, to guard its inhabitants during times of battle. Up until the early 1900’s it belonged to the Scotti family of Piacenza, a wealthy aristocratic clan who owned it for centuries, which is quite unusual, apparently, for a castle to have remained in the same family for so long. Interestingly, they originally came from Scotland.
The whole castle has been meticulously restored and maintained over the years, in keeping with its heritage. It is very authentic, unlike other castles you may visit. I love the ghibelline merlons everywhere, which are the fancy parts at the top of the walls that the archers used to hide behind to shoot arrows. There is a church here of course, because every Italian village has a church or three, which is the Romanesque Church of San Giorgio. Saint George is the legend who slayed, or more correctly, slew, the dragon.
I visited in Winter and it wasn’t very busy, which suited me just fine. If you like to visit places that aren’t tourist hotspots, then I thoroughly recommend coming here, especially in January. I loved the peacefulness of the place, far away from hustle and bustle.
It’s also a great location for events and functions, such as weddings. What a charming setting for such an occasion. The Italian landscape lends itself beautifully to romantic moments.
Interesting fact: The movie “Ladyhawke” starring Michelle Pfeiffer was partly filmed here.
The Vigoleno Hotel
Now-a-days the castle is a charming hotel, with rooms fashioned in elegance of a bye-gone era. The furniture is antique and in excellent condition. I was very excited to stay overnight in one of the suites. It had a beautiful four-poster bed, with curtains draped around it. I really felt like royalty. It was simply magical.
The rooms are quite small, but they do have everything you need for a pleasant stay, with attention to detail. I always appreciate the little touches provided by a hotel, such as, water bottles, toiletries, free wi-fi, a room with a view, etc. It really makes you enjoy your stay a whole lot more, don’t you agree?
Speaking of small, my bathroom had the tiniest shower cubicle I have ever seen in all my travels! Once I hopped inside it, I could barely move. It was quite hilarious.
Dining at Vigoleno Castle
That evening I dined in luxury! The main restaurant here, called Ristorante San Giorgio, is a stunning dining room, with beautiful decor and an enormous fireplace. Staff were so attentive, almost to a fault, and the food was delicious. A couple of other tables were occupied, but it was relatively quiet.
They also provided a lovely continental buffet breakfast for free, which is always a nice way to start the next day of travelling.
I recommend staying here for a totally different type of hotel experience that you won’t ever forget. You can even stay in the tower, if you really want to feel like a prince or princess.
I’m thrilled to now be able to say that I have stayed in a real Castle.
The Village of Vigoleno
We arrived by hire car from Parma to Vigoleno, about 45 minutes. A long winding uphill road leads to this historical village of Vigoleno; a very narrow two-way road, I might add. It was a little hair-raising, driving up here, but we arrived in one piece. By the way, you won’t be able to get here any other way, as public transport is scarce, and taxis probably won’t be keen to drive way out here either. So you really need to get a car. There is plenty of parking here and it’s very safe.
The little piazza is the central point of this charming little village, with a centuries-old fountain in the middle. There are shops, a church, a bar, a museum, a theatre and more. It’s a proper town with private residences here as well.
I enjoyed exploring the village, admiring the fabulous old buildings and taking in the history of the place; its ruins, architecture and artwork are fascinating. You actually feel like you have gone back in time to the medieval ages. Lots of interesting nooks and passageways to check out.
The surrounding area of Vernasca
The Italian countryside is stunning, and Vernasca is no exception. The views surrounding Vigoleno are picture-perfect, with the valley and rolling hills. Vineyards and orchards grace the landscape. Magnificent! It’s quite a remote area though and not on the typical tourist’s map, but well worth the visit.
The area is known for winemaking, in particular the Vin Santo, which is made from dried grapes to make it sweet. This is their famous drop here, but it’s in limited production.
There are other castles nearby which I would have liked to visit if I had more time, such as Castell’Arquato. If you do have time, there is plenty of things to explore in the region, including the popular Spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my stay at the historic Vigoleno Castle.
Ciao, for now.