Collecchio and its environs
The first men to live in the area of Collecchio in the paleolithic age came originally from the East, but it was in the Neolithic period and the bronze age that actual settlements made up of pile-dwellings were built as has been established by excavations carried out half way through the XIX century at Torrazzo di Madregola and Poggio di Collecchio, both of which occupied important positions along the road which went up the valley of the river Taro to the Cisa pass and then down to the sea.
Between 1.000 and 500 B.C. the settlement of Sustrina
on the hills of Collecchio entered in the orbit of the Etruscans. In 27 B.C. the Emperor Octavian destroyed Sustrina
completely because of the quarrel with Parma
which was threatening traffic along the road which led to the important port of Luni
. Traces of Roman ‘centuriation’ of the territory are still very evident in the municipality of Collecchio
both in the lay out of the roads as well as in the geometry of the fields.
The present day nucleus of Collecchio was established in the Christian era with the name of “Colliculum” or small hills and was under the temporal power of the Bishops.
The discovery of Longobard burial sites going back to the high Middle Ages is evidence of the presence of that people in the territory of Collecchio, but even stronger at that time was the religious organisation confirmed by the presence of two important ‘Pieve’ or Parish Churches: the Church of St. Prosper of Collecchio
and the Pieve di Madregolo
were hospices (xenodochi) for pilgrims and served the route which led to Luni and Rome called the road of “Monte Bardone
” and later the Strada Romea or Via Franchigena.
Situated on the ‘Romea’, just south of the town of Collecchio can be found the “Corte di Giarola”, a farm or ‘grancia
’ dependent on the Benedictine Order and centre of production for the Convent of St Paul in Parma. It is a vast agricultural complex with ample stables, a watermill and a cheese factory which is now public property; carefully restored it is the seat of the Regional Fluvial Park of the Taro River
which safeguards 20 km
of river and extends over an area of about 3.000 hectares
. Its richness is due to the presence of numerous animal and vegetable species and to the diverse nature of the various environments which render this area unique. Along the Taro one kilometre to the south can be found the typical Church of Oppiano
, now deconsecrated and silent refuge of the painter Amos Nattini who is totally committed to the titanic task of illustrating the three books of the Divine Comedy
on which he has been working for twenty years.
In Collecchio already in the XI century there was mention of a “Castrum”
” which was probably a building inhabited by a vassal. Walls surrounded the settlement while the court with its farms and agricultural land was outside. Some historians identify the ‘court’ with Villa Paveri
at the time owned by the Dalla Rosa family.
In 1300 there is still mention of castles around Collecchio connected with the Rossi family. In 1335 Parma
fell to the Scaligeri who destroyed the Castle of Collecchio.
Between 1200 and 1500 Collecchio was the site of a battle bound up with the history of Parma
whih involved Federico II, the Visconti family as well as the Rossi, Pallavicino and Sforza families.
In 1545 Parma
became a Duchy under the Farnese family. At that time the Farnesian property registers were set up where village boundaries were noted as well as the names of all the various hamlets and localities and the names of all land and property owners. These volumes can now be found in the Parma State Archives.
The large reserve of the Boschi di Sala
along the river terracing between Sala Baganza and Collecchio which used to belong to the Sanvitale family was swallowed up by the Ducal Chamber. It would become, in time, the Summer residence of the Dukes and would be progressively enlarged until it was at the centre of a large area called the Boschi di Carrega
or Carrega woods
from the name of the last owner: the woods are now a Regional park.
In 1777 Collecchio became a feudal possession of the Dalla Rosa-Prati family.
In 1796 Napoleon brought about admission of the Duchy of Parma to the French Empire and Collecchio became a municipality or “Mairie” in the official language.
Following the plebiscite which took place between the 14-21 August 1859, the Municipality
, like the whole of the Parma
area, was admitted to the Kingdom of Sardinia
under the Constitutional Government of Victor Emanuel II.
Between 1859 and 1892 the famous puppeteer and local dialect poet, Domenico Galaverna (1825-1903), was the municipal secretary for Collecchio. Since 1852 he had published a calendar called “Battstèin Panada” which told of the doings of his family in satirical rhymes.
To mark the centenary of his death, the Municipal Administration of Collecchio decided to officially recognise Battistèin Panada as the representative puppet ‘mask’ of Collecchio, whose Coat of Arms was drawn up by Galaverna.
Towards the end of the XIX century the first agro-alimentary food industries were set up: industries which still today constitute the driving force of the economy of the area. The inhabitants of Collecchio from farmers or small shop-keepers became involved in the industrial production of tomato preserves, cured meats and cheese or became producers of onions (which would be processed elsewhere), beetroot and grapes perfect for making fine wine particularly in the hill area of Gaiano and Ozzano Taro.
In Ozzano at the Bella Foglia farm can be found the “Bosco delle Cose
”, the extraordinary Museum of Agricultural Life
which houses the amazing collection gathered over an entire life by Ettore Guatelli (1921-200) which is an evocative picture of a culture and agricultural way of life which has disappeared. Today the collection is owned by a public foundation.