Castello di Tabiano

The medieval castle with the adjacent fortified village are now both an exclusive hotel and the seat of the Corazza family who has owned it for some 200 years.


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The Corazza family on the steps of their Castello di Tabiano
Artiom Ganin of Castles_and_Palaces talks to the owners of Castello di Tabiano in Parma, Italy's north. The medieval castle together with the adjacent fortified village are now an exclusive hotel and the seat of the Corazza family who has owned it for some 200 years. Transforming the ancient structures into rooms, suits, apartments for guests, SPAs and a restaurant was a great undertaking which brought some great findings dating back to the very first days of the castle which opened up its secrets like passages, tunnels, ballista cannons and much more. The castle hotel now offers a unique mix of ancient and modern ingredients spiced up with green and sustainable flavors. Be it a wedding ceremony, a weekend getaway or a team-building event the castello can surely meet your every expectation. The family is proud of its magnificent castle which is by the way quite hard to maintain due to its size and wishes you every success of you would like to follow suit.


Castles_and_Palaces (CnP): Could you please introduce your family?
Corazza Family (CF): The Corazza family is originally from the Blenio Valley, in the Canton Ticino in Switzerland. At the end of 18th century the family settled in Italy, in Parma, and bought a property in the Po Valley. Tabiano Castle is the fruit of a romantic love story between Giacomo Corazza and his wife Rosa Gatti. They explored the hills surrounding Parma in a gig to look for a home to grow their children and when they saw the Castle they chose it at first sight! They decided this would be their home, even if, due to its very poor conditions, they had to invest a considerable amount of time and money to restore it. Luckily, this was not a major obstacle, since Rosa had inherited a large fortune from her father Carlo, also known in London as the 'King of Ice'. The man owned a fleet of vessels to import ice from Norway and had many other businesses in the capital, including restaurants and cafés concerts. Now we are a large family, with a fantastic 92 years old Papa, three sisters and a brother, six nephews and Daria, the great granddaughter, the sixth generation of the family.
CnP: What a large family indeed - do you feel your roots are here?
CF: Definitely. For us it is a magical place, where we feel at home. We cherish our childhood memories.
CnP: I bet you have certain legends about the castle which you keep passing down the generations, don't you?
CF: In its long history the Castle has suffered sieges, destructions, conspiracies, betrayals, but also love and poetic stories and legends. The most beautiful is about Isabella, the Angel of Tabiano, the daughter of Hubertus the Great, one of the wealthiest noblemen in this area in the middle of the 13thcentury. Isabella was famous for her goodness, her beauty and the unhappy love story – just like Romeo and Juliet – with a French knight Richard of Orange. Other famous characters who lived in the Castle are Rolando the Magnificent, the cruel Nicolò who was poisoned with his wife and the chronicles we hand down are also the memory of Delfino Pallavicino, who killed his brother Tancredi in 1242 in front of a portal of the Castle still called the 'Red Door' for the color of bloodshed.
CnP: Now I know who your castle ghost is - Delfino Pallavicino's brother!
CF: No, you are wrong! We do not have any ghosts. But at the same time, we feel the beautiful presence of Isabella, the Angel of Tabiano.
CnP: Okay. You conducted large-scale reconstruction and renovation works in the 2000s and opened the castle to the public in 2016 – how did the works go?
CF: Well, it was hard but it was a great success. The castle was not in a very bad shape in the beginning of the 21st century. We also remodeled the whole of the village into a hotel. I must admit it was a very challenging but also a very exciting enterprise in many ways.


CnP: Have you found anything surprising during the works?
CF: Oh yes! We discovered ancient walls, catapult balls and very beautiful ancient pottery with elegant decorations. The castle was built in the 11th century – previously there stood a Roman outpost. We are now looking out for some artifacts from those ancient times but have so far found nothing. But imagine this – we have a very old kitchen in the castle and the old ovens are still used!
CnP: This is quite rare! What was the biggest challenge during the restoration?
CF: In the Castle the biggest challenge was to restore the old frescoes and repair the very vast roofs and terraces; in the Relais the Charme the main challenges were to preserve the original structure of the ancient village, recreate an exclusive atmosphere of the past times and, at the same time, to offer modern comforts such as Wi-Fi and air conditioning and care for sustainability.
CnP: You know I talked to a castle owner from Spain and she told me that ancient buildings need to adapt to modern times in order to survive – she said they had to install solar panels and geothermal heating – I've noticed you have solar panels installed too - so it looks like you're switching to green technologies, aren't you?
CF: In the Relais the Charme, in the Ancient village and in our Country Villas sustainability is the key – we focus on being green in the use of water, in the heating and lighting system with solar panels. We also have a "zero km" concept for our fresh vegetables and fruit, which we bring to the restaurant right from our own gardens. We are proud to have created a green village, pioneering in clean energy such as solar panels and wood from our own forest. We recycle water and in our restaurant we are keen on reducing food waste.
CnP: It is great when castle owners manage to mix the ancient elements with the modern trends. I know that the castle was under siege several times – with the last one in the 17thcentury by the Spaniards during the The Thirty Years' War. What is the oldest part of the castle which managed to survive from the 11th century till now more or less unharmed?
CF: The oldest part is the one which dominates the Po Valley: the walls and the decorations are the original ones and really show how the Castle was the important defensive monument of the feudal era in High Emilia, a true fortress of which it still retains its impressive external appearance.
CnP: What about the turbulent times when Guelfs fought Ghibellines? Could you share an interesting fact from that period?
CF: Here you go – here's the story of Hubertus Pallavicino the Great, who lived in Tabiano, it is fascinating. He was the leader of the Ghibelline Party, a close friend of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Svevia. He probably was visited by the Emperor during the long siege of Parma and it is said they were hunting together with the falcons here. Hubertus was extremely wealthy but at the end of his life, when he was defeated by the Guelf party, the Pope allies he had to retire, almost alone, in the small Castle of Gusaliggio.
CnP: Do you live in the castle?
CF: We do, we live in the Castle from May to October, in the aisle where the family lives since the 19th century and where our father was born.
CnP: The main residential building of the castle, the tower and the battlements look just fantastic – what's your most favorite part of the castle?
CF: We love the 'Red Sitting Room', a very cozy room, where we spend lots of time. It is thus called by the dark bricks color of sofas, and is a place of particular charm with a fireplace and a balcony with a spectacular view of the surrounding hills. On the walls there is a wallpaper with original gold leaves of late '800 and the ceiling is painted with the monograms of Giacomo and Rosa surrounded by flower festoons. And then there are photographs almost of all our ancestors. We also love very much the old kitchen with the copper pots and the Dining Room decorated with a fresco resembling what Leonardo da Vinci did for the Castello Sforzesco in Milan: a large tree decorated with the coat of arms of the families who owned Tabiano. The dishes on the walls come from England and are part of a set that was used in the family since the mid 19th century.
CnP: Can anyone take a tour around the castle?
CF: The Castle is open to guided tours during the times and days indicated on the website. On request it is possible to organize private and special visits, night visits, aperitifs and dinners. When it is possible a family member leads the guided tours. For our guests we want to offer the experience of a place of great beauty and elegance that preserves the atmosphere of the past but where one feels welcomed and part of a lifestyle.
CnP: Which parts are open for visits?
CF: Today it is possible to visit the great frescoed 'Mirror Ballroom', the Sitting Rooms, the Great Terraces, the Ceremony Dining Lounges with grand fireplaces, the Music Room and the Library where there are books from the 16thcentury which come from the family of Martini Counts - scholars and bibliophile enthusiasts. The ancient Cellars were our family produced wine for 100 years are also open for visitors.
CnP: Oh, you make wine!
CF: Yes, we do! According to our family's long-standing tradition we produce wine from the Castle vineyard. The red is named 'Hubertus the Great' and the white is called 'Solestella', Hubertus' Lady Mother. We also have a large and high-quality wine card. Our wine and food tasting are also very popular.

CnP: How does the castle help the local community thrive?
CF: The possibility of visiting the Castle, to stay in the Relais de Charme and in our surrounding country villas has brought many people from foreign countries and from Italy to this area, which is already known for excellencies like food valley, and motor valley. People go shopping in the towns around, in the Fidenza outlet, buy typical products of this area, go to supermarkets and other shops. We give work to many local people. This means prosperity, and the local community is happy and proud that we preserved the Castle that is the Italian historical and cultural heritage.
CnP: You buy products from local farmers and grow food/vegetables around the castle to be later cooked at your restaurant – what's your best or extraordinary dish?
CF: We have many amazing home & handmade dishes by our great Executive Chef Maurizio Morini. The one our guests prefer is homemade pasta 'maltagliati with truffles'. The black truffles are actually from our own forest! We also run cooking courses where you can learn to cook typical Italian dishes, from pasta to pesto.
CnP: Are the salt mines the castello used to defend still there?
CF: The ancient salt mines are not used any more to get salt but for thermal treatments and as a modern spa, both in Tabiano Bagni and Salsomaggiore. There is a very beautiful thermal building in liberty style, with decorations, marbles and frescoes.


CnP: This sounds like a very extraordinary exclusive hotel, doesn't it? You offer accommodation to tourists dreaming about spending a night with a great view of the surroundings – how many guests can you receive at a time?
CF: First of all, we offer Authenticity and Charme! Then you can choose different kinds of accommodation, Castle, Relais de Charme and the Country villas are fully equipped with different kind of rooms, junior suite and suite and apartments. They are all different in design and with mainly old furniture. The ancient village has now 43 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a swimming pool, 2 spas, several meeting rooms for events for up to 400 people.
CF: In the estate there are also five old farmhouses completely renewed in 'Country Villas' with private gardens, orchards and their own swimming pools. The Villas have between 10 and 18 sleeps each.

We are renovating an old house in a boutique hotel. We will have 13 more rooms and exclusive Suites with their own spa. We are also building an all year covered swimming pool and an outstanding new spa curved among medieval walls and caves.
CF: The entire fortified village with its huge park and garden hosts many lovely places: the swimming pool, the spa, the secret garden, the courtyard in front of our restaurant 'Il Caseificio' with the old bread oven, or the sunny terraces on the surrounding hills. Visitors can take a bike and go around or just have nice walks, read in our library or play ping pong in the play room.
CnP: Is it possible to stay inside the castle proper or only in the village?
CF: In the Castle it is possible to enjoy a very exclusive stay in the room over the Chapel, which is called the 'Room of the Spouses' or the 'Blue Room'. But we are planning to restore some other rooms on the second floor which have a spectacular panorama.
CnP: What's your best room?
CF: It is difficult to say…we have suites, rooms with balcony in the guards tower, rooms with their own cozy fireplace…In any case, I would mention the suite prestige dedicated to Fredrik the Second, the great emperor who lived a part of his life in this area because he was a great friend of the Marquis Oberto Pallavicino, the owner of the Tabiano Castle. The suite has two large rooms, a fire place and a jacuzzi in the guard tower and has a small balcony with a spectacular view.
CnP: What is the most difficult thing in running a castle?
CF: It is finding people who would help us with cleaning and its maintenance. The task to keep the Castle and the village well-functioning is daunting. It is a constant work in progress.
CnP: My traditional question – what would you tell those who are dreaming about buying an old castle to restore and remodel it into a residence or a hotel?
CF: Congratulations for your courage, your passion and love for History and beautiful things: you are doing a great thing to open up for public now to enjoy and bringing our common cultural treasury to the next generations to enjoy!! And… good luck!
We very much hope that you loved the story told by the Corazza family who own Castello di Tabiano in Italy's Parma!

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