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The presence of man at Fontanellato has very ancient origins, in fact various important archaeological finds have been found which can be traced back to the existence of whole Bronze-Age villages. And, with the XIth century, the history of the town commences. Its symbol and pulsating Fontanellato is its castle: originating from an initial, fortified tower, the present Rocca fortress was property of the Sanvitale family, which it had been since the XIVth century, along with the birth of a small feud, thanks in 1404 to the brothers Giberto and Gianmartino being promoted to the rank of count by the Duke Gianmaria Visconti.
In the castle, a gallery of portraits of the Sanvitale dynasty gives you the chance to run through the history of the family right up to 1948, when the castle was sold by the last count Giovanni to the town council. The name of Fontanellato refers to the "fontana lata", an area rich in water and freshwater springs. The Rocca, at the centre of the town, is still encircled by a large moat. Inside, it preserves the fine apartment of the Sanvitale counts, with furnishings from the 1500's, 1600's and 1700's. The keep, the angular towers and the square-shaped internal court are elements of defensive architecture which have been preserved and well inserted into the subsequent adaptations which transformed the castle into the court of nobility.
In its interiors can be found one of the most splendid works of Italian mannerism, the small hall painted in 1524 by Francesco Mazzola, alias the Parmigianino (Parma, 1503-Casalmaggiore, 1540), with the myth of Diana and Actaeon taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The tale and the more critical events are illustrated on special panels lined up with a particular didactic purpose. The castle also holds the curious optical room, which is a play on the use of lenses permitting the viewing of the piazza and the streets of the village outside, without being seen oneself. There is also a small picture gallery containing important works of the Parmense and Lombard Schools of the 1600's and 1700's.
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