Bardi is an Italian town of 2.131 inhabitants in the province of Parma in Emilia-Romagna.
Bardi, according to the legend, derives from “Bardus” or “Barrio”, the last of the elephants following Hannibal’s army who died here during the march towards Rome. In its memory, Hannibal would then have decided to set up a colony. According to history, on the other hand, the toponym “Bardi” derives from the name that distinguished the Lombard nobility – the so-called Arimanni – a group of which settled here around 600 AD. The first attestation of a “Silva arimannorum” very close to Bardi, a wood entrusted to free men linked directly to the king, dates back to 898 and probably refers to the still predominantly wooded area near Cogno di Gazzo.
The territory was inhabited since the Paleolithic (the archaeological findings on Monte Lama are proof of this) and later by the Ligurians; in Roman times, it was part of the municipium of Veleia, and was crossed by the road axis that led to Luni and Rome.
The monks of the abbey of San Colombano di Bobbio have operated in the area since the Lombard era, who owned assets along the Via degli Abati or Via Francigena in the mountains, a path that Lombard put in communication the city of Bobbio (PC) with Pavia, capital of the Lombard Kingdom and Pontremoli, passing through Bardi and Borgo Val di Taro towards Lucca and Rome.
It was traveled by the abbots and monks of the abbey of Bobbio to visit the Pope Ad limina Apostolorum, to visit the royal court of Pavia, and for the control and exchanges with the vast possessions of the great royal and imperial monastic fiefdom that extended from Oltrepò Pavese to Tuscany; it was also crossed by Lombard kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, religious and numerous pilgrims, who left testimony of passage to the Bobbiese monastery and to the network of other monasteries and xenodochies that hosted them.
Always part of the territory of the Province of Piacenza, it passed to the province of Parma in 1923. In 1926 the municipality of Boccolo de ‘Tassi was aggregated for the most part to the municipality of Bardi, Farini d’Olmo, now Farini (PC), and Ferriere (PC), partly constituted the former municipality of Pione then always aggregated to Bardi the following year.
From the end of the nineteenth century to the whole of the twentieth century, the history of Bardi is characterized by the phenomenon of emigration to Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the United States.
During the Second World War and after the Armistice, the surrounding mountains of Bardi were the scene of clashes between the German troops and the partisan brigades of the Val Ceno and Val Taro.
On July 17, 1944 at dawn, Bardi was bombed by 12 “Stukas” bombers which caused considerable damage, while German troops in retreat from Bedonia and Borgo Val di Taro carried out numerous roundups: the Wallenstein operation.
Let’s start our journey in this lovely medieval town!
Castle of Bardi
The castle of Bardi, also known as the Landi castle, is an imposing fortification that stands on a “rock” of red jasper in the homonymous town in the province of Parma.
Located in the center of the Ceno valley, the building overlooks the point where the Noveglia stream flows into the Ceno. Even if today the geographical position of the village seems to be secluded and outside the commercial and tourist routes, in the Middle Ages, when the paths and the need to control the territory were different, it was an important stop on the route of the Via degli Abati. Furthermore, the pilgrims of the Via Francigena passed not far away.
The name “Bardi” derives from the Lombards. The existence of a fortress that was built in the early 9th century and completed in the early 10th century dates back to the reign of Berengario del Friuli. In 898 the building was sold to the bishop of Piacenza Everardo, who made it a safe refuge in case of aggression by the Hungarians who in those days raided the Po Valley.
Until the twelfth century, the castle was governed by a coterie of local nobles, known as counts of Bardi, until, in 1257, it was bought, with the nearby castle of Compiano, by the Ghibelline Ubertino Landi of Piacenza, who made it the capital of the domains of his family. At the foot of its mighty walls, many battles took place against the Guelphs, defeated among other things in 1313. During the 15th century the Landi family modified the fortress, adapting it to the new defensive needs and giving it its current appearance.
The Fortress of Bardi has been perched for over a thousand years on a red jasper spur, at the confluence of the Ceno and Noveglia streams, and represents a maximum example of military architecture in Emilia. Austere and impregnable, it presents itself to today’s visitors as the peasants of the Middle Ages who sought shelter within its walls to defend themselves from enemies.
Among the mountain typology of medieval fortification, of which the province of Parma boasts important examples, the fortress of Bardi is certainly the most interesting and best preserved to this day.
Inside the fortress, in addition to the fortified structure, the following can be visited: Museum of Valligiana Civilization. 5 Alpine rooms dedicated to Captain Pietro Cella, 1st gold medal of the Alpine Corps. The Museum of Fauna and Poaching. The Archaeological Museum of the Ceno Valley.
Valligiana Civilization Museum
The Museum is housed in the ancient fortress which has maintained the original fortified structure of the 13th-14th century. The collected material, including objects, tools, and furnishings, testifies to peasant life, arts and work in the valley from the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century.
Located in the south wing of the Castle, the Museum aims to illustrate the styles and crafts of peasant life, present in Val Ceno between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, through a collection of objects, tools and furnishings (all donated by the families of the valley).
The objects included in the exhibition are mainly distributed with a criterion of environmental re-enactment; it is largely about furnishings and equipment relating to work and daily life, pastoralism, woodland activities, livestock farming and agriculture. The itinerary is enriched by a permanent exhibition of medieval war machines reconstructed in full size and functioning.
In the rooms called “The Kitchen”, “The Bedroom” and “The Household Works”, we find installations that show how waste and cold were fought at the time.
Then we move on to those dedicated to the main trades of each autonomous peasant community: the basket maker, the chair maker, the tailor, the shoemaker, the rope maker, the woodcutter, the carpenter, etc., without forgetting the processing of dry chestnuts, one of the main sources of nourishment of those times.
The larger objects are located in other parts of the Castle, while in the “Houses of the past” there is the reconstruction of one of the council houses present in the Fortress up to the mid-fifties.
Museum of Fauna and Poaching
The Museum, currently being updated by the Municipality of Bardi in collaboration with the University of Parma, documents the history and tools used in poaching and trapping over the centuries and in several continents through finds and dioramas. In relation to the phenomenon of poaching, which began in Europe in the IX-X d. C., exhibits a series of traps or their reconstructions used from antiquity to today. To better document the expedients and mechanisms used in the capture of various animal species, numerous life-size and other scale dioramas are used.
The museum’s main objective is to explain the ancient meaning that this illegal activity had in the life of mountain populations and at the same time illustrate the main aspects of protection of fauna and the environment and to illustrate, through a series of dioramas, the techniques used by poachers in the Val Ceno.
Today illegal, at the beginning of the twentieth century poaching was one of the most widespread “professions” among the poor people, an integral part of the trades of rural life in the valley.
The itinerary is divided into display cases-dioramas that reproduce portions of the natural environment with the embalmed specimens of the species object of poaching (including the wolf, the buzzard, the sparrow hawk) and the tools for the capture.
Each display case is flanked by panels for didactic purposes that illustrate the biology of animals and the particularities of their natural environment. Of great interest is the section dedicated to the CITES law (which regulates the trade and possession of rare or endangered species) where objects obtained from protected species are shown organically.
The museum itinerary includes: a first room dedicated to the theme of poaching in legislation, history and its most common techniques; a second room with the section on the C.I.T.E.S, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which regulates the trade and possession of rare or endangered species; a third and a fourth room dedicated to the local fauna, showing the different methods of illegal trapping of which it is targeted (we find glass dioramas with animals in display).
In the Parma Apennines, along the valley that runs along the Bardi river, you can find numerous abandoned buildings.
Among them, stands out an entire country left to neglect since the 1970s. It can be reached along a dirt road that runs along a tributary of the largest stream. This is Case Scapini, a ghost town in the Parma Apennines, more precisely in the Compiano area, completely uninhabited for more than forty years. It is not clear what the reasons for this abandonment are. As always, historical, and social reasons merge with legends with a disturbing aura.
Some hidden in the woods, others close and clearly visible from the dirt road. The semi-collapsed ruins of the town, now literally swallowed up by brambles, tell of a possible quick and not very “premeditated” abandonment.
A second legend tells instead of the sudden disappearance of most of the inhabitants following the discovery of the body of a shepherdess, horribly mutilated.
The third legend, the less accredited one, tells of seven orphans left to die of hunger and thirst, either out of simple misery, or because they were suffering from some rare disease And once upon a time, you know, diseases were not only treated. They were dammed.
Reason why, according to this third version, the children would have been abandoned in the country and left to perish of hardship. It does not take a lot of effort to understand why the country would later be considered “haunted”.
Boots paired and artfully arranged in the compartments, wicker chairs arranged under the tables, sorghum brooms leaning against the walls. The very few elements that have come to us would support the hypothesis of a “flight” of the former inhabitants.
It is not a historically established fact, but legend has it that the country witnessed a bloody Nazi massacre, which allegedly caused the death of numerous children. According to the same stories, the inhabitants left their homes due to strange events during the day and, above all, due to the crying and screams of the murdered children at night.
Testimonies of the most susceptible report that, throughout the years following the abandonment of the place, shrill moans, strange lights and sudden changes in temperature could still be heard.
In support of this hypothesis, some point out that the word “scapini” is the dialect equivalent of “children’s shoes”.
Monte Lama is located between the provinces of Parma and Piacenza, at the junction of the valleys of the Ceno, Arda and Nure streams. It reaches 1,342 m asl and occupies an extensive meridian coast, culminating in the north with the highest peak of Monte Menegosa (1,356 m asl).
The ridge of Monte Lama is occupied by an extensive slab of Jurassic red jaspers (overall thickness of a few tens of meters), overlying, in inverted succession, calcareous units, in turn resting on shale or polygenic breccias, with ophiolitic elements, all units referable to the ancient ocean called “Ligure-Piemontese”.
The discovery of the Monte Lama deposits is due to Osvaldo Baffico, born in Savona in 1944 and died in Isola del Cantone (GE) in 1979. Graduated in economics and commerce and researcher at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Genoa, he was a passionate self-taught archaeologist who conducted, since he was a high school student and for a period of 10-15 years, an intense reconnaissance activity, mainly on the surface, driven by exemplary enthusiasm and an undeniable intuition on the value of the finds .
Supported and sometimes accompanied by his parents Jole and Erminio, he collected a huge amount of material, tens of thousands of signed and cataloged finds, accompanied by a “country notebook” whose annotations guided subsequent researchers in the discovery of the original exploration sites (more than thirty), stimulating new analysis activities.
The Baffico Collection is now located in Genoa, under the protection of the Archaeological Superintendence of Liguria, which recognized the positive intentions of that attentive and scrupulous young researcher and his precious contribution to the development of scientific knowledge on the subject.
As our distant predecessors were able to identify and widely use the “mountain of stone blades”, so Baffico and the other scholars, in their rediscovery, were able to highlight its value, otherwise completely ignored.
The collected finds turned out to be a very precious testimony, a modest but powerful didactic tool available to all, to see, understand and preserve the signs of our territory and also reflect on the importance of a rock as “humble” as it is useful for the destiny of humanity itself.
Church of Santa Maria Addolorata
The Church of Santa Maria Addolorata is a neo-Byzantine Catholic place of worship located in Piazza Vittoria in Bardi, in the province of Parma; inside it preserves the Bardi altarpiece by Parmigianino.
The church develops on a basilica with three naves, flanked on both sides by three side chapels.
The symmetrical salient facade, covered in brick, is preceded by the large churchyard, surrounded by a stone staircase with five flights.
The central body, slightly overhanging, is flanked by large pilasters, which rise on the stone ashlars base; in the middle is the main entrance portal, surmounted by a three-light window with columns and higher up by a lunette in red marble, decorated with a geometric pattern in green marble and, in the center, the representation of the radiant sun; on both sides there is a double order of three small columns, with bases and sculpted capitals, supporting a round arch in relief decorated with bas-reliefs depicting acanthus leaves, medallions and, in keystone, the Lamb; to the side of the three-light window there are two single-lancet windows with round arches, closed by slabs of perforated white stone.
Further up there are five other arched single-lancet windows, divided by paired columns; the two outermost house the mosaics depicting the Madonna Addolorata and San Giovanni Battista. At the top, inside the triangular tympanum stands a large painting with a golden background, representing the Madonna on the throne holding the model of the church and on the sides the community of Bardi.
The lower lateral bodies, also delimited by large pilasters, are characterized by the presence of two secondary entrance portals, delimited by pink marble frames and surmounted by round arches, which contain lunettes decorated with mosaics with a golden background; higher up there are two triple lancet windows closed by perforated stone slabs and divided by small columns.
The plastered sides, punctuated by pilasters and hanging brick arches, are pierced by narrow single-lancet windows with round arches and, in the upper part, by circular windows.
The chapel to the right of the presbytery houses the most valuable work of the church: the Marriage of St. Catherine and the Saints John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, better known as the Pala di Bardi, made by Parmigianino between 1521 and 1522.
The picture was painted by the Mannerist artist in Viadana, where he had taken refuge with his cousin Girolamo Bedoli at the time of the war for the possession of the Duchy of Milan, which opposed the Emperor Charles V of Habsburg and the French; the oil later came to Prince Federico Landi, who exhibited it with other important works inside the castle of Bardi.
Palazzo Maria Luigia
Palazzo Maria Luigia, formerly Palazzo Vecchio and Maria Luigia theatre, is a Renaissance and neoclassical building located in via Pietro Cella 13, in Bardi; it is the seat of the Municipality di Bardi, the Maria Luigia theater room, the municipal library and the tourist office.
The town hall was built in the 16th century in the Renaissance style.
The building was enlarged and modified in 1831 with the construction of a theater inside, financed by the Duchess of Parma Maria Luigia, at the request of the Elders of the Bardigiana Community.
In 1870, the Municipality moved its headquarters inside the castle, also moving the archive there.
In 2003, the municipal administration undertook the renovation of the building, which was transformed into a multipurpose center; the ancient theater, almost completely lost, was used as a conference center.
At the end of 2018, the building returned to its original functions as a municipal seat, with the offices arranged on the three floors of the building next to the Maria Luigia theater room, the municipal library and the tourist office.
The building develops on a U-shaped plan, with access both from the main road, through a portico, and from the square behind it.
The asymmetrical plastered facade is divided into two parts, distinguished by different colors. The high northern portion is characterized by the presence of the portico with three round arches, supported by stone columns with loti form capitals, the ashlar edge on the left is distinguished by the scarp shape; on the first floor the openings are delimited by stone architrave frames, while the windows on the last level, placed above a molded string course, are without them. The lower southern portion instead develops on four levels above ground, divided by a series of horizontal stone bands, with openings delimited by simple cornices; the ashlar edge on the right closes the façade.
The rear facade is also divided into two parts. The low central body and the northern wing are characterized by the scarp shape of the masonry; in the middle opens the low-arched entrance, connected to the main access through a gallery covered by a barrel vault. The high southern wing, developed on three levels, is distinguished by the presence of the ashlar edge on the left.
Inside, the technological room is accessed through the portico with cross vaults; there is also the conference center, which preserves only the small wooden balcony of the ancient theater, used as a gallery. On the first floor, there is also the municipal library, containing over 10.000 books, the council room and the mayor’s office.