Italian Language Blog

The Pale Tower Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

The milky mist of the Pianura Padana envelops the autumnal landscape. As we drive along the typically straight pianura road the majestic fortress of Torrechiara comes into focus like a pale ghost on the first low hills that rise up ahead of us.

All photos by Geoff.

In order to preserve the magic of the moment we decide to leave the car along the main road and approach the castle on foot. At the top of the steep road we pass through the outer walls via a fortified gate, and discover that Torrechiara is not just a sturdy tower, but un borgo in miniatura (a miniature hamlet) which clings to the fortress for protection like a cluster of baby chicks under their mother’s wing. The three short parallel streets are lined with stone building that overlook the fields of ploughed clay and rows of vines dressed in their autumnal colours.

From the outside Torrechiara is beautiful in its severe simplicity, but what will it be like within? On entering the main structure we find ourselves in a wide elegant courtyard with porticoes topped by un bel loggiato (a beautiful open gallery) to one side, a central well, and a wide staircase to the other.

We climb the stairs and as we enter the main hall we stop in our track, transfixed by the spectacle that greets us: La Sala dei Giocolieri (the Jugglers’ Hall). Every square centimetre of its walls and ceiling are covered with fine frescoes, an intricate intertwining composition of figures, structures and symbols. Wow, we never expected this. But it’s only the beginning!

I giocolieri.

We move into La Camera D’Oro (the Golden Bedroom), with its wood and terracotta panelled walls, and spectacular frescoed ceiling. Big French-doors open onto a beautiful loggia whose columns frame the misty landscape below. We feel like we have stepped into an enchanted fairytale land.

We continue, mesmerised, through rooms adorned with the most fantastical frescoes: hunters chase their prey past stylised ruined Greek temples against a backdrop of bluish mountains, forests, and tumultuous rivers. Exotic birds swirl and swoop above us.

We’re back into the main courtyard again and now ready to leave the castle, content, believing that the visit is over. But then we notice a previously hidden doorway in a shady corner. We find ourselves in the castle kitchen, followed by another whole series of rooms. These have lower ceilings than the upper rooms, and are frescoed in a slightly more prosaic style.

Now we’re out on the grassy terrace before the lower halls. Surely this time the visit must be over, we think. But again we are mistaken. A narrow door leads to una scala a chiocciola (a spiral staircase), which we tentatively follow up within one of the four corner defensive towers. On reaching the top of the stairs we follow along i camminamenti di guardia (the guard walkways), complete with le feritoie (the slits) from which the soldiers would have fired their arrows, and a rather draughty looking stone latrina (toilet)!

” … the fields of ploughed clay and rows of vines dressed in their autumnal colours.”

We’ve finally completed our tour, and it’s time to walk back down to where we left the car, starry eyed, and still in the land of dreams and fairy-tales. We’re pretty sure that this won’t be our last visit!

If you’d like to visit Torrechiara here’s the information that you’ll need: CASTELLO DI TORRECHIARA

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  1. Robert E. Blesse:

    Wow—fantastic! I’d sure like to visit there. Thanks, so much for all you do for Italy and the Italian Language.
    Bob in Florence

    • Geoff:

      @Robert E. Blesse If you get the chance you should definitely visit Torrechiara Bob. Plus there’s loads to see in the Parma area. We live around an hour away and we’ve only just begun scratching the surface after 10 years!

      Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  2. Annie Lock:

    I’ve just spent my day in my community garden plot getting beds ready for a variety of heritage tomato seedlings which a friend has lovingly grown but then a major thunderstorm put stop to my continuing.

    Coming home to your post and reading what you are currently enjoying in the northern hemisphere brings a smile to my face. Thank you for sharing.

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