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Fidenza is a small town found towards the western end of the Emilia-Romagna region, between Piacenza and Parma and on the historical trade route known as Via Emilia. The town has its origins in Roman times, and gained importance in the Middle Ages as part of an important pilgrimage route - the via Francigena - that led to Rome.
Fidenza has had an eventful history, including suffering severe damage or destruction on several occasions (by Emperor Constantine in the 5th century; by troops from Parma in the 13th century; by allied planes in 1944).
The impressive cathedral - the main legacy of the middle ages and sight of interest in Fidenza - dates from the 13th century and is the principal attraction for visitors to Fidenza (apart from the shopping village - see further down).
The facade of the cathedral is a successful and unusual mix of romanesque and gothic styles (known as the Lombard-romanesque style). The beautiful facade includes typical romanesque arches, some sculptures including statues of Ezekiel and David by Benedetto Antelami in recesses either side of the door and bas-reliefs, and three towers (one either side of the facade and a third to the side of the apse).
The upper part of the facade is much plainer, the decorative work having remained incompleted.
Inside the cathedral the layout includes three naves. there are various frescoes including a 13th century fresco cycle in the apse and the relics of San Donnino are in the church crypt. Further items such as the cathedral treasury can be seen in the adjoining museum.
While the cathedral is the main highlight in Fidenza the rest of the town deserves an amble, admiring several other attractive buildings and remnants from the middle ages, such as:
- the Viscontea Tower;
- the Porta san Donnino, one of the medieval gates that originally allowed access to the historical twn of Fidenza;
- the 19th century Magnani Theatre
- the church of San Michelle, an 18th century neo-classical style rebuild of a much older church
- the 12th century Palazza Communale (Town Hall). This building was substantially rebuilt in the 14th and 16th centuries and had a new facade added in the 19th century so its medieval provenance is rather hidden, but it is still an attractive red-brick building with five large arches along the ground level and decorative features above.
Note: until 1927 Fidenza was known as Borgo san Donnino - it was renamed as part of a substantial rebuilding and expansion program in the 1920's and 1930's.
Fidenza shopping Village
Fidenza is also well know for its shopping village on Via San Michele Campagna, a street entirely given over to shops, many of them well known brands, who sell their products at substantially discounted prices. The shopping village attracts more visitors than the cathedral, if truth be told, who come not just from Parma but also from towns as far afield as Milan to shop here!
You can find more local travel ideas in the Emilia-Romagna guide.