Mist softens the colours of new paintwork to blend gently with walls faded over the centuries. There’s not much stone to be seen in the old town of Piacenza, apart from the cobbles underfoot. This is a town of brick, tile and render, painted in the colours of traditional earth pigments. Even the cathedral and the great palazzo of the Farnese family are mostly made from brick with stone reserved for arches and carved details.
(Click on any photo to view the gallery)
The town was not quite as deserted as it looks in these pictures. There were people out and about on the main shopping streets but tourists were few and far between. I received a warm welcome at the complex of museums in the Palazzo Farnese where I was the only visitor of the day. If there’d been a crowd I might have dipped in and out more quickly and would have missed some treasures, including a fascinating tour of the collection of coaches and carriages and the Etruscan Liver of Piacenza. No, that’s not a typo.
The life sized bronze model of a sheep’s liver, found in a field near Piacenza in 1877, is covered in a complicated pattern of inscriptions in Etruscan and has been dated to the late second century BC. Apparently it bears striking resemblance to a Babylonian clay model of a sheep’s liver dating from the Middle Bronze Age, now to be found in the British Museum. Maybe you’re familiar with that object or the writings of Cicero on the Etruscan practise of divination (or fortune telling) with the aid of a liver. It was all new to me.
The Liver of Piacenza has its own Wikipedia entry so you can, should you wish to, read about it here. Or you might prefer a virtual visit to the collection of carriages here. I was too busy paying attention to my guided tour in carefully simplified Italian to take any pictures.