Pallavicino – memories from the past

22 Mar

From our day out following Verdi footsteps, a name came up often: Pallavicino. The Pallavicini, Pallavicino, and sometimes Paravicino, Paravisini, or Paravicini, were an Italian noble family descended from Oberto I (died 1148). The first Pallavicino fief was created by Oberto II, who received it from Frederick Barbarossa in 1162. A number of lines descended from Guglielmo (died 1217), possessor of a series of fiefs between Parma and Piacenza and a descendant of the Lombard Obertenga family (along with the Este, the Cavalcabò and Malaspina). They are:

  • The Pallavicini of the Latin Empire
    • descendants of Guglielmo through his sons Guy (also known as Galdo) and Rubino
  • The Pallavicini of Lombardy
  • The Pallavicini of Varano
  • The Pallavicini of Polesine
  • The Pallavicini of Busseto
  • The Pallavicini of Ravarano (today part of Calestano)
  • The Rospigliosi Pallavicini of Tuscany and Rome
  • The Pallavicino of Sicily

A second main branch of the family (or perhaps a separate family) was formed by the descendants of Niccolò Pallavicini (alive in 1154), whose origins are doubtful—probably he belonged to the Genoese patriciate—and whose links with the Obertenghi are uncertain:

  • The Pallavicini of Genoa
    • patricians of Genoa

Of the Varano Castle I wrote already at the end of this post. Another Villa bought by the Pallavicino family in mid-1800 is now available for rent, and I had the opportunity to see it when my cousin L. got married. Of Busseto I wrote on my previous posts of last week.

The castle in Ravarano reminds me when I was a little girl and with my family we used to have picnics on summer sundays at the foot of the castle, ancient and picturesque stronghold of the Pallavicino family preceding the 13th century……

There’s another palace in Zibello (not far from Busseto) owned by the Pallavicino, that now houses offices, shops and a very good restaurant. Zibello, site of Prehistoric and Roman settlements , came under the Pallavicino family in the 14th century, who kept control until the Napoleonic era, even if there was a relationship based on servitude with the Visconti family and the Sforza family of Milan (14th and 15th centuries), the Farnese family and the Borbone family (from the 16th to 18th centuries).
The Pallavicino Palace, which rises up from the town’s main square, is based on a square plan with a central court and main portico with polygonal pillars and buckler capitals.
The most ancient part reveals itself in its wide arches and lively decorations in terracotta and limestone, typical of gothic at its height. The clay tiles that adorn it date this part of the palace to the first decades of the dominion of Giovan Francesco Pallavicino (1460 / 70).
The other part of the building that had once served as the public oven, the local restaurant and the main custom office might have been built in the first few years of the 1500s at the time of Clarice Malaspina , widow of Federico Pallavicino.
The terracotta decorations on the 16th century part of the palace are from the De Stavoli kiln of Cremona active in Zibello starting from 1470. In 1804, with the decisive intervention of Marquis Antonio Pallavicino, a theatre hall was created in the palace open to the public. The property remained under ownership of the Pallavicino and Rangoni families until the time of feudal suppression during Napoleon’s reign, and the building was purchased by the town administration in 1905.

But the most cherished memories of the Pallavicino family is from the early years of my working career. In 1986 I was working for a private management consultant, owned by a man who numbered the best names in town as close friends. One of them was the late Marquis Pier Luigi Sforza Pallavicino. He owned dozens of properties in town, and for about two years I was in charge to collect the rents from private leases. So, once a month (and occasionally more than once) I knocked at the door of the Marquis to check the takings. He and his wife, Marquise Maria Gabriella (now a retired literature teacher at the local University) were always so kind to me, every time offering me a seat for a littlle chat, a drink, from time to time a book from their huge library….too bad back then I never took a photo of the interior (I remember a stunning, huge golden mirror in the Marquis study – no cell phones at the time!). So I have to rely on the web to show you what I’m talking about (and there’s not much, they were very private persons). The Pallavicino palace in Parma is located about 500 mt from where I work right now…..

Alfonso Pallavicino , of the Zibello family branch, gave the go-ahead for the construction of the current Pallavicino Palace in 1646, above an old palace from the end of the 1400s and beginning of the 1500s once belonging to the Sforza family of Santafiora (the name of the square in front of the palace is the same, Santafiora).
 Since 1977, the palace has been the main office of the Regional Administrative Law Court (now rumored to ble closed soon).
The palace’s façade, built over a long arc of time, is presumably from 1705 and characterised by windows of various sizes and designs framed in marble. The perspective of the windows creates an incredible relief with the balcony held up by brackets over the portal.

On the interior there is a Baroque courtyard, a three-ramped stairway in the Bolognese style from the end of the 1600s adorned with large statues; various rooms with Austrian marble fireplaces with mirrors above; a Chinese living room with a multi-coloured inlaid marble floor from the 18th century; and a large hall decorated and frescoed by Sebastiano Galeotti .
Giriamo Donnini , from Reggio Emilia, created four ceiling paintings and decorative paintings above the doors in the second decade of the 1700s.
There are also paintings from the Bologna-native Aureliano Dilani and other mounted door panel decorations from Bresciani .

The photos below are from one of the rare interviews the Marquis allowed, just a couple of years before his death (2003).

Here he is in the rooms loaned to the Regional Administrative Law Court

And here the Marquis and the Marquise at their last public event together. After his death, the Marquise Maria Gabriella gave all the private documents of the Pallavicino family, dated back from mid-1400, to the Cassa di Risparmio Foundation in Busseto, a unique example of well preserved and complete collection of local history data.

At Christmas they were always so thoughtful, I received a silk scarf by Hermes (now in my mother’s closet) a pair of silver napkin rings, a pair of silver and peridot earrings, and when my daughter was born a white gold pendant for her…..

Obviously, what they said it’s true……”la classe non è acqua”….It means that class (referred to a person, being classy) is a rare quality, not common like water which instead you can find everywhere……


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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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