02. PAST AND PRESENT
Potentially the river could provide the city with a set of ecosystem services in the four broad categories defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005): provisioning (production of food and water); regulating (control of climate and disease); supporting (nutrient cycles and oxygen production); cultural, (spiritual and recreational benefits). Instead of that, over the centuries Piacenza has always related to the Po as to an “external” dangerous element, only partly at the service of the city, for fishing, navigation and leisure. The distance between Piacenza and its river is as old as the city, founded by the Romans in 218 BC and always protected from floods by massive defensive works. The construction between the ancient walls and the Po of the railway (in 1850) and the motorway A21 (raised on pylons, inaugurated in 1968) has definitively interrupted the systems of relations between the city and the river landscape.
Piacenza, Latin Placentia, city, Emilia-Romagna regione of northern Italy, on the south bank of the Po River just below the mouth of the Trebbia, southeast of Milan. It was founded as the Roman colony of Placentia in 218 bc. After being besieged unsuccessfully by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 207 bc and sacked by the Gauls in 200, it was restored and reinforced. In 187 bc it became the terminus of the Via Aemilia, the great arterial road to Ariminum (Rimini), and was later the focus of other major Roman roads. After the barbarian invasions, Piacenza was governed by its bishops from 997 to 1035. It became a free commune in the 12th century and a leading member of the Lombard League of towns in opposition to the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Despite political vicissitudes, it prospered from its control of river and road traffic. A long period of struggle between the Visconti and Sforza families, alternating with papal and French rule, was ended in 1545 by the creation by Pope Paul III of the hereditary duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his son Pier Luigi Farnese.
No Roman monuments survive, but the rectangular street plan in the centre of the city is Roman. The brick cathedral (1122–1253) is a fine example of Lombard Romanesque style. Other noteworthy medieval churches are the former Cathedral of San Antonino, incorporating an 11th-century facade and elements of the 13th- and 14th-century construction; the restored San Savino (consecrated 1107), with unusual 12th-century floor mosaics; San Francesco (begun 1278); San Sisto (1499–1511), the original home of Raphael’s painting “Sistine Madonna”; and Santa Maria di Campagna (1522–28), with frescoes by Pordenone. Notable palaces include the Palazzo Comunale (begun 1281) and the grandiose Palazzo Farnese, begun in 1558 for Margaret of Austria and never completed.Piacenza is a rail and road centre on the main routes from Milan to Bologna. It is a long-established centre for cereal growing and viticulture and has a number of rapidly developing light industries, including the manufacture of chemicals, office furniture, and buttons.
Today Piacenza is not only the natural geographical crossroads of European traffic, but also the crossroads of the most advanced experiences that from Moncler to Ikea, from Leroy Merlin to Conad to the providers Amazon and Prologis are developing around the globe and here, in the 5 million square meters of distribution settlements, are contaminating: the parks of Le Mose, Castel San Giovanni, Pontenure, Cortemaggiore and Monticelli employ one in ten people in the province, with 720 companies operating between logistics operators, warehouse and terminal managers, forwarding agents, couriers and hauliers, and with a total turnover of 1.1 billion euro.