Tips to Find Best Castles and Vineyards

Our tiny car weaved through the country roads like a go cart on a race track. Elaine, our guide for the day, hails from New Jersey, but fell in love with an Italian and has called Italy her home for over ten years. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the driving habits of the locals in Italy and it was soon clear to me how much of a local Elaine had become. I’m normally an anxious passenger, but I relinquished control and busied my mind by admiring the passing vineyards.

Despite my love for Bologna, I longed to see the countryside of Emilia Romagna. Under the Tuscan Sun propelled the vineyards of Tuscany into the spotlight, but what about the other wine regions in Italy?

As our car sped along the twisting roads, I felt at home, even though I was thousands of miles away from my country. The green mountains, sloping vineyards, fields of haystacks, and fluid rivers reminded me of my childhood and these wide-open spaces always feel familiar to me.

The province of Piacenza has hundreds of wineries and one of the highest densities of castles in Italy. I was sold on vineyards and wine, but castles too? I could barely contain my excitement as we left our apartment in Bologna that morning. The city of Piacenza is an easy train ride from the cities of Milan or Bologna, where travelers can then rent a car to explore the rest of the province.

Our first stop was Agriturismo Racemus in Ziano Piacentino, where we met a lovely couple who run the farmhouse and B&B, which is open to travelers wishing to taste homemade cuisine and wine. We spent the afternoon eating and drinking on their large covered porch, overlooking miles of vineyards. Laura was a gracious host, serving various fresh Italian dishes and copious amounts of wine from their own vineyard.

With full bellies and a bit of a buzz, we climbed back into Elaine’s car for another picturesque drive to our next location. It was time to visit a castle! At the top of a steep hill, our guide parked her car in front of the towering exterior walls of the Rocca D’ Olgisio.

The Rocca D’ Olgisio is one of the oldest castles in Piacenza, dating back to at least 1037. The Bengalli Family has owned the castle since 1979 and built five gorgeous hotel rooms inside the fortress. Tom, the castle’s “guard” dog, greets the guests of the castle and had no problem posing for multiple photos.

My time in the Piacenza province was brief, but I still felt a sentimental connection to this area of Italy. Emilia Romagna is known as the land with a soul, which isn’t hard to believe once you’ve spent a little time immersing yourself in this remote area of the region.