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Today I take you to one of my favorite Lombardy hidden gems, the lovely Castle of Chignolo Po, a quaint village that you can easily visit as a half-day trip from Milan.

The Castle of Chignolo Po, one of Lombardy's hidden gemsThe range of tourist attractions in Lombardy is truly endless, from historic landmarks to charming towns and picturesque lakes. And then there are those precious hidden gems that are rarely mentioned among the must-see sights but offer a fabulous, crowd-free experience.

One of these is the Castle of Chignolo Po, one of Lombardy’s most magnificent residential castles. It’s a grandiose estate immersed in the countryside around Pavia, just south of Milan, with a long history that spans centuries.

This castle makes for a pleasant trip from Milan and Pavia, but it’s also regarded as a top wedding destination in Lombardy.

The history of the castle

The history of the Castle of Chignolo Po started in 740 when Pavia was the capital of the Lombards. At that time, King Liutprand erected a defensive tower to control a long stretch of land around the Po River and the ancient Via Francigena, connecting Northern Europe with Rome. This tower can still be seen today and constitutes the oldest core of the castle.

The ancient tower of the Castle of Chignolo PoThe fortress was later donated to the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint Cristina and became one of the most important shelters along the Via Francigena route. Actually, it was designated as the 40th station along the Via Francigena route by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, who visited the complex in 990 on his way back to Canterbury from the Vatican, where he had been officially ordained.

During the 13th century, the fortress became one of the most important Lombard fiefdoms under the Pusterla family, who was then followed by the Federici and the Cusani. These noble families gradually transformed the fortress into an elegant castle. Most of the merit goes to Cardinal Agostino Cusani, the Pope’s Ambassador to the Republic of Venice and to the Court of Louis XIV in Paris, who hired the roman baroque architect Giovanni Ruggeri along with Venetian artists of the Tiepolesque school. They build gardens, statues, fountains, as well as elaborate stuccos and frescoes.

A statue in the gardens of the Castle of Chignolo Po in LombardyThe cardinal also commissioned the construction of a hunting lodge in the heart of the park, as a place of leisure and entertainment for guests. Fun fact: he got the idea from King Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy, who was building the Stupinigi Royal Hunting Residence precisely in those years.

The result was a grandiose, refined castle that someone dubbed “the Versailles of Lombardy”. Ok, maybe the comparison is a bit exaggerated, but it’s undoubtedly a fabulous complex to visit. Also, numerous popes, king, and emperors visited the castle throughout the years, including the Austrian Emperor Francesco I and Napoleon.

The splendid exterior of the Castle of Chignolo Po in LombardyIn 1936, the last descendant of the Cusani family left the castle to the Sovereign Order of Malta, who used it as their representative office until 1987, when they sold it to the Procaccini family. Today the complex, known also as Procaccini Castle, is a private residence. The Procaccini’s restored the estate with great respect for its historic heritage and opened it to the public.

What to see at the Castle of Chignolo Po

You can visit the Castle of Chignolo Po with a guided tour that you can easily book on the official website. Our guide, Roberto, was extremely knowledgable and shared tones of interesting details about the history of the castle. The tour lasted about one hour and a half and there was never a dull moment.

Bear in mind that it’s not possible to see all the rooms inside the castle, as this is a private residence. For the same reason, taking pictures of the interiors is not allowed, so you’ll have to go and see for yourself most of what I’m about to describe!

The splendid Castle of Chignolo Po, one of Lombardy's hidden gemsFirst, the guide took us on a tour of the expansive park to admire the lovely statues and the magnificent exteriors of the castle. The main gated entrance visible from the village is absolutely gorgeous, while the curved staircase oozes elegance and charm. We also saw what remains of the hunting lodge I mentioned earlier, which certainly saw better times and would require some renovation works. 

Then we slowly made our way inside the ancient wine cellar and the historic kitchen with the original utensils that document what daily life was like at the castle. I could almost see the cooks busy preparing the banquet to celebrate the arrival of Emperor Francesco I at the castle back in 1825!

The charming baroque courtyard inside the Castle of Chignolo Po in LombardyOverall, the castle interiors are really well preserved. We passed through a scenic Baroque courtyard with porticoes and a delightful balcony to reach the rooms located on the upper floors. Each salon we visited is uniquely decorated with statues and paintings, while ceilings boast splendid frescoes with curious three-dimensional elements.

The ballroom, for example, features a series of frescoes representing the four seasons, as well as false windows with reference to the colonies in the form a caged parrot. Particularly beautiful is the room of Pope Clemente XI, who was often a guest at the castle, which boasts a beautiful 15th-century flooring and remarkably beautiful stuccos.

Architectural details in the park of the Castle of Chignolo Po in LombardyThe castle still preserves the room where Napoleon Bonaparte used to sleep during a battle that took place near Chignolo Po. Unfortunately, though, it was not possible to see it during the tour.

The final part of the tour took us to the beautiful library stuffed with many of the 10,000 books scattered around the castle, and a tiny chapel on the ground floor.

A well in the gardens of the Castle of Chignolo Po in LombardyHow to visit the Castle of Chignolo Po

The Castle of Chignolo Po can be easily reached by car from Milan (1 hour) and Pavia (30 minutes) and can be visited only with a guided tour. Tours are available on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. Tickets cost €10 per person and €5 for children between 6 and 13 years old. Tours in English are generally available if requested in advance.

If you wish to visit the castle during the week, you should contact the organisers in advance, but bear in mind that they usually accept only groups of at least 20 people on weekdays.

Information may vary over time, so take a look at the website of the Chignolo Po Castle before planning your visit.

 

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A big hug from Italy,

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19 Comments

Linda (LD Holland) 30 July 2020 at 02:40

The Lombardy region of Italy is one we have the least experience with. It would be fun to visit a grandiose castle like the Castle of Chignolo Po. It is great to see the castle is in great shape. Love all the detail in the architecture!

    Val 8 August 2020 at 17:01

    Lombardy is full of beautiful towns and hidden gems like this castle, planning a trip of this region alone is totally worth it!

Roving Jay 30 July 2020 at 07:27

It’s mind boggling to think about the amount of work and level of craftsmanship involved in decorating all of those salons each with their own distinctive look and feel – and just when you thought a room couldn’t get any better, you look up to the celling and you’re treated to
frescoes. I love the idea of bringing the outside in – by representing the four seasons.

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:59

    It’s a shame that I couldn’t take pictures of the interiors, but it’s a good reason to visit the castle yourself 😉

Nish 30 July 2020 at 08:17

Wow! Such a pretty place! This castle is a private residence? I wonder who lives there? I can’t imagine sleeping in a place where Napoleon Bonaparte slept once!

Ami Bhat 30 July 2020 at 13:55

Totally enjoyed this virtual tour of the castle. Pity that the pics inside are not allowed, I would have loved to see the rooms that you’ve described. And Napolean resided in this? Now that is uber interesting to note.

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:58

    Yessss, so much interesting facts around this castle! You’re right, it’s a shame that pictures are not allowed inside, but that’s because it’s a private residence now.

Chloé Arnold 30 July 2020 at 23:44

This looks so beautiful!! The Lombardy region is on my bucket list! We were actually supposed to be there in May, but our trip was cancelled and rescheduled for next year. Luckily, I can now update our plans to reflect this gorgeous castle!

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:56

    I’m sorry about that Chloé, but hopefully it’s just a matter of months and you’ll soon be in Italy!!

Arnav Mathur 31 July 2020 at 09:30

Truth be told, I would have never imagined there would be such picturesque castles that too in Italy. I only visited Italy once, but I think I barely explored anything. There’s so much to do and explore in Italy, and I feel the best ones are hidden in such quaint less heard of towns and cities!

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:55

    Yeah, Italy is sprinkled with amazing castles and you’re right, some of the best are truly hidden gems 🙂

Paula 31 July 2020 at 17:40

Such a beautiful place, wow! I can see that in Lombardy there is something beautiful and interesting in every corner. My husband is huge on visiting castles, so this would definitely be on our list. If only I could stay away from the restaurants for us to explore more places, I absolutely love love love the food in Italy. Thanks for showing us this place!

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:53

    Aaaw no Paula, visiting restaurants is as important as exploring landmarks 😉

Debjani lahiri 1 August 2020 at 10:02

The Castle looks amazing and the well was something that caught my attention. Italy is definitely full of wonders. It seems that the Lombardy region of Italy is really scenic and picturesque.

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:51

    Yep, there are lots of beauties to explore in Lombardy 🙂

Alessia 1 August 2020 at 15:20

I have to explore Lombardy more in deep. Hope we will be able to do it soon! Really great guide 🙂

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:49

    Thanks a lot Alessia! There’s so much to see in Lombardy alone!

Raksha 4 August 2020 at 00:31

Wow, I have never explored Italy much. The only place I have been to is Rome and I would love to visit this Castle of Chignolo Po. Its history sounds really interesting and I would love to explore the interiors! Thank you for this virtual tour of the castle.

    Val 8 August 2020 at 16:49

    It’s one of those beautiful gems that not many people know about 😉

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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