Some say that the name Castell’Arquato comes from Caius Torquatus, the Roman patrician who founded the first castrum; others think that it simply derives from castrum quadratum, a description of the castle’s square shape.
Founded in the 2nd century bc as a Roman fortress, the village survived the barbarian invasions but was struck in the mid 6th century by a terrible plague.
The first records of Castell’Arquato as an organised court date back to 756, during the rule of Charlemagne; on his death, control passed to the bishops of Piacenza, who held it until the 13th century.
After a short interlude as a free municipality from 1220 to 1223, the village was ruled by the local Podestà appointed by the municipality of Piacenza from among aristocrats such as the Scotti and Visconti families. After a protracted wrangle for control, the Viscontis finally came out on top, and it was Luchino Visconti who built the fortress that we can still admire today.
The Sforza dynasty took over in 1450 and ruled until 1707, when Castell’Arquato became part of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza; the new lords, the Farnese family and the Bourbons, held power until the arrival of Napoleon and, later, Marie Louise of Habsburg. In 1860, the duchy was absorbed into the dominion of the Savoy family and then became part of the unified Italian state.