I arrived in Rome at the end of last week and left the next morning for Piacenza in northern Italy where Fidz had a family gathering. We drove through Tuscany to Emilia-Romagna. The weather was beautiful, sunny blue skies, fields of poppies and roses in full bloom. Quite a change from spring in Ontario.
Piacenza derives its name from piacere ‘to please’ and is indeed very pleasing. Surrounded by walls complete with a moat, it dates back to Roman times. Although heavily bombed during the war, many medieval buildings in good condition still survive and there is an air of prosperity to the town. A lot of people travel around by bicycle (the old-fashioned kind) and life seems to proceed at a relaxed pace.
We were sitting in a cafe on the Piazza by the Duomo, said to be one of the finest Romanesque churches in Italy, dating back to the 12th century, when Fidz pointed out a curiousity on the bell tower. An iron cage was attached to it accessible by a narrow doorway.
Apparently, it was common in medieval times to place condemned people in such cages in order to make them suffer a public humiliation. This cage (la gabbia, which means iron cage) was commissioned in 1495 by Ludovico il Moro of the Sforza family who was then Duke of Milan, for people guilty of crimes against the church or state. No records exist as to its use so Fidz’s theory that people were doomed to slowly die of thirst and hunger might be true, though I think he’s exaggerating.