[Emilia Romagna Villages] Compiano and its Castle
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Compiano is a delightful medieval village of just over 1000 people in the first hills to rise from the plain near Parma. It stands at 500 metres above sea level and for centuries was the hub of a tiny independent principality that has a surprising link to the Royal House of Monaco. This old aristocratic story in a pretty village with a magical castle amid some stunning countryside has made this a truly charming little place to visit at any time of year.
Compiano’s history goes back to the 9th century, when it was a small Carolingian stronghold guarding the upper reaches of the River Taro valley. Around the year 1000, it was in the hands of the Malaspina family from Liguria; then in 1312, the feud was taken over by the Landi family, of Ghibelline allegiance, who governed it for 426 years, making it the longest-held lordship in Italy.
In 1532, Emperor Charles V proclaimed a principality, granting the new Prince the right to mint his own money from 1552. And in 1595, Princess Maria Landi of Compiano married Ercole I Grimaldi, Lord of Monaco, whose son Onorato II, was the first prince of the Grimaldi dynasty in Monaco.
After the struggle with the neighbouring Farnese family (the Dukes of Parma and Piacenza), the Landi family forfeited the lands of Compiano and Bardi, which came under the control of the Farnese in 1682 and of the House of Bourbon-Parma in 1738.
What to see
The castle was both a defensive bastion and a lavishly decorated and frescoed luxury residence. Inside, you can visit the Masonic Museum and the Gambarotta Collection of 18th-century furnishings and paintings left to the town by the last owner, Countess Lina Raimondi Gambarotta. Another experience not to be missed in Compiano is a walk among the old town’s narrow alleys. Wander up far enough, and you’ll be rewarded with some lovely views over the aristocratic mansions to the countryside beyond.
Speaking of which, the surrounding area is well worth exploring. Compiano revels in a beautiful setting amid classic Parma Apennine scenery. There are plenty of places to explore on foot, by bike or on horseback, and you’re bound to work up an appetite for the local delicacies such as the PGI Porcini Mushrooms from Borgotaro.
What to do
Autumn: This is the ideal season to enjoy the fruits of the harvest, such as the PGI Porcini Mushrooms from Borgotaro, which grow in the local woods, especially in September and October.
Winter: This is a fine time for walks on the ridge separating Emilia-Romagna from Liguria amid a carpet of powdery white snow. The winter is long and cold, and the hearty winter recipes are very welcome.
Spring: The Parma area has some great horse-riding country. The Parma Apennines bridleway is a lovely route for exploring the landscape and the area’s cultural attractions while staying off the major roads.
Summer: Flee the heat of the plain with a relaxing few days among the leafy Apennine hills, while savouring Compiano’s fantastic food.
With its location and its lovely old centre, Compiano is one of those places in the Apennines that hosts numerous events throughout the year, especially in summer. Highlights include the Festival of the Holy Crucifix (14 August) and The Fiera Millenaria di San Terenziano, in the 1st weekend of September.
Food & Wine
Compiano shares some recipes and ingredients with the wider Taro valley area, such as a liking for the king of mushrooms – the Porcino, a popular tradition hereabouts. If you want to taste something really special, you simply have to try the gnocchi with chestnuts and ricotta and the veal alla Valtarese.
Pilgrim paths and walking trails
The village of Bardi lies on the famous Abbots’ Way, which marches from the city of Pavia to the Tuscan village of Pontremoli.
How to get here
Compiano is nearly 50 miles from the city of Parma and can be reached:
By train: The nearest station is Borgo Val di Taro (5 miles away)
By bus: The TEP company operates urban and rural services between Parma, Borgo Val di Taro and Bedonia. Get off at Compiano Ponte and take another bus towards Berceto, alighting at Compiano castle.
By car from Parma: Leave the A15 Parma–La Spezia motorway at Borgo Val di Taro or take the Tangenziale Sud (junction 12) towards La Spezia along the SP62 main road towards Fornovo di Taro, then turn on to the SP308 road towards Borgotaro.