An ancient "descritione" of Bardi fortress


The Bardi fortress, in the background fog over Ceno Valley and the mountain group of Pizzo d'Oca mount


The Bardi castle, with its size and its unmistakable profile that characterizes the entire surrounding landscape, is one of the most fascinating in the Parma area, for its boldness, its size and the charm of its intricate tunnels, underground passages and walkways. .

Carlo Natale, a Cremonese painter and engraver, as well as a pupil of Guido Reni, who lived from 1590 to 1683, left us a beautiful series of engravings that describe the ancient Val Ceno accompanied by interesting annotations, of which I want to report some particularly evocative ones. All very ancient descriptions that are still echoed today in many areas of the area.

In fact, you should know that "Bardi is Cappo della Val di Ceno (...) has a fortress on top of a very red rock, very hard, and very high beyond any climb, fortified for every fort of Batteria, warned to live, such as Artillery, & other monitoring for offense and defense.

Prince Don Federico enlarged it, fortified it, monitored it and embellished it with apartments, gardens, fountains, caves, three fire, wheel and edge armouries, and among the other ancient weapons that are there is the sword of Emperor Charlemagne Quinto Magno given to her by the King of Spain Philip II.

A species of fifth essence, & other rare things, is making a bookshop. (...) There is a well-decorated chapel with relics and daily masses. It has mills, cisterns, shops, and what is needed. (...) There is the Zecha, there are doctors of theology, law, and medicine".

Among the workshops and artisans present in Bardi, "three very perfect file masters" and "Readers of Cases of Conscience" are also mentioned.

And the description of the territory continues picturesquely... "There is also a parish of San Giouanni, in which a Christian life is lived. They are now building a hospital for the sick and pilgrims, and a Compagna De Disciplinati. (.. .)

It has copper mines, iron mines, Codignino alabaster mines and some crystal mines. There is a beautiful mine of stones to make a necklace, & other buildings, some small diamonds so beautiful, and cut into faces, which seem to be made on purpose". Even today near Bardi there is a place called "the forest of diamonds" where I myself I found several very pure quartz crystals, and interesting minerals are also found in some nearby streams.

The author does not fail to mention the legendary City of Umbria: "There are the ruins of the City of Ombria, turn a mile, you can still see the ruins of the walls of the houses on top of Mount Occa, it is a mountain called Barregaz, around which you can still see the ditch, & trenches carved with stone, which are a sign of its antiquity, and a sign that the army that conquered the said city was housed there".

The description of other treasures and the fauna that lived in our mountains at that time is also very interesting:

"Silver medals with the imprint of the Romans before the Emperors are found in many places. It has beautiful hunts of hares, partridges, red wolves, bears, and the Peschiere mountains. Goshawks, Sparrowhawks and exquisite falcons are born there: very good air, and healthy at all times (...) It has many woods, mountains, valleys, plains, various streams, and fountains, such as there is a fountain that heals the skin.

The Prince has now introduced the Caualli breed", in fact these are horses originally introduced from Gallia Belgica by the Romans, small and strong horses, suitable for the mountains. The Prince attempted to "improve" these animals with various crosses with Arabian horses, leading to the current breed that has become typical of this area, the Bardi horse, a breed that risked disappearing at the beginning of the last century, but has now fortunately been recovered and is the protagonist of the annual fair held in August.

from the Book of the copperplate description of the Imperial States and Fiefdoms by Don Federico Landi collected and engraved by Carlo Natale, a Cremonese painter - sec. XVII​

see photos of Bardi fortress

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