Monticelli d’Ongina is a small agricultural village in the plain between the meanders of the Po river close to the naturalistic park of Isola Serafini.
The small village is today the cite of an important logistic center close to the Caorso exit of the A21 Brescia –Torino autostrada but it is above all known as the capital of garlic for which a grand exhibition is organized the first Sunday of October.
The typical local dishes are tortelli with squash, river fish soup, and Bargnolino liquor.
Monticelli d’Ongina was an important passage point in ancient times as it was located along the via Postumia, built in 148 A.D. to connect Genova on the Mediterranean Sea to Aquileia on the Adriatic Sea.
The castle of Monticelli d’Ongina, also known as Castello Pallavicino-Casale, was built during the XV century for Marchese Rolando Pallavicino Magnifico. Rolando’s son Carlo Pallavicino, Bishop of Lodi, terminated its construction.
In the second half of the XVI century, the castle was handed over to the Casali backed by the Farnesi and the Ducato of Parma and Piacenza.
The Casali remained proprietors until the second half of the last century when in 1957 it became part of the diocese of Fidenza.
Quadrangular with four cylindrical towers in the corners of the perimeter, the castle is completely surrounded by a wide moat. Entirely built with bricks, the main tower shows signs of a draw-bridge which was eliminated and substituted with a bridge.
The internal courtyard is lined by an arch loggia visible only on one side as the other three have been closed. The noble residence is on the first floor and is connected to the courtyard by a grand staircase decorated with XVIII century frescos.
The 15th century chapel is of particular artistic value. The ceiling is entirely decorated with frescos of the painters Bonifacio and Benedetto Bembo from Cremona.
The Ethnographic Museum of the Po River, the Museum of Archeology and the Po Acquarium are situated in the basement of the castle. The Civic Museum is located on the ground floor. A reservation is required to visit. Tel. 0523/827048
The castle hosts concerts, cultural manifestations and fairs such as the garlic and geranium shows.
The Pallavicino-Casali castle is also involved in paranormal phenomena. The legend of a young woman named Giuseppina who was brutally murdered in the castle by her suitor gone crazy for having been refused, is tied to the castle.
According to the legend that has been handed down, the ghost of Giuseppina manifests itself through lugubrious moans which are heard near the walls of the castle.
“Piacenza e la sua provincia” di Leonardo Cafferini, Nuova Litoeffe, Castelvetro Piacentino; 2005
Foto: Comune di Monticelli