Live like royalty while in Italy — try staying in a castle overnight.
Tourists driving through the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy will find numerous storybook castles dotting the hillsides, especially when passing through the provinces of Piacenza and Parma. Remnants of a time when various city-states in the region were at war, some of these Medieval and Renaissance fortifications are so well preserved that travelers can stay at them overnight.
Castello di Compiano, a castle atop a hill in the Apennine Mountains, is worthy of a one-night stay. Located in the charming medieval village of Compiano, about an hour from Parma, it houses a 13-room hotel, restaurant and three small museums. The grounds offer commanding views of the Taro valley.
The massive trapezoidal structure is built around an inner courtyard. Guests must leave their vehicles at the bottom of the steep path leading there from the town. After checking in, they are led to one-of-a-kind rooms through a winding staircase surrounded by ancient stone walls. The refurnished rooms are clean and comfortable, with contemporary bath fixtures, although the eclectic decor seems discordant with the historic setting.
Al Panigaccio, a lovely informal restaurant and grill within the castle walls, specializes in panigacci. The round, unleavened flatbreads, made only with flour, water and salt, are shaped by hand and baked over a high flame or in an oven. A specialty of Lunigiana (the nearby border area close to Tuscany and Liguria), the delicacy is served warm with various kinds of cold meats, local cheeses or sauces.
Before leaving, tour the three diminutive museums. The Freemason museum displays unusual relics, medals and paintings. A food and wine museum exhibits old kitchen implements and farm tools. Lastly, tour the preserved living area of Marchioness Lina Raimondi-Gambarotta, who resided in the castle from 1966 until her death in 1987, when she bequeathed it to the municipality. The collection of furnishings, art and personal possessions reflect her eccentric lifestyle. The library includes a secret door that leads to medieval prisons.
Built in the 11th century, the castle was once inhabited by the Landi family, who ruled over the area for 425 years. In later years before opening to the public, it also housed a state prison and then a Catholic school for girls.
IF YOU GO
Castello di Compiano
Overnight stays start at 150 euros (about $157) and include a simple buffet breakfast.