Piacenza, city, Emilia-Romagna regione of northern Italy, on the south bank of the Po River just below the mouth of the Trebbia, southeast of Milan. It was founded as the Roman colony of Placentia in 218 bc. After being besieged unsuccessfully by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 207 bc and sacked by the Gauls in 200, it was restored and reinforced. In 187 bc it became the terminus of the Via Aemilia, the great arterial road to Ariminum (Rimini), and was later the focus of other major Roman roads. After the barbarian invasions, Piacenza was governed by its bishops from 997 to 1035. It became a free commune in the 12th century and a leading member of the Lombard League of towns in opposition to the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Despite political vicissitudes, it prospered from its control of river and road traffic. A long period of struggle between the Visconti and Sforza families, alternating with papal and French rule, was ended in 1545 by the creation by Pope Paul III of the hereditary duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his son Pier Luigi Farnese. For the subsequent history of Piacenza, see Parma and Piacenza, duchy of.
No Roman monuments survive, but the rectangular street plan in the centre of the city is Roman. The brick cathedral (1122–1253) is a fine example of Lombard Romanesque style. Other noteworthy medieval churches are the former Cathedral of San Antonino, incorporating an 11th-century facade and elements of the 13th- and 14th-century construction; the restored San Savino (consecrated 1107), with unusual 12th-century floor mosaics; San Francesco (begun 1278); San Sisto (1499–1511), the original home of Raphael’s painting “Sistine Madonna”; and Santa Maria di Campagna (1522–28), with frescoes by Pordenone. Notable palaces include the Palazzo Comunale (begun 1281) and the grandiose Palazzo Farnese, begun in 1558 for Margaret of Austria and never completed.
Piacenza is a rail and road centre on the main routes from Milan to Bologna. It is a long-established centre for cereal growing and viticulture and has a number of rapidly developing light industries, including the manufacture of chemicals, office furniture, and buttons. Pop. (2006 est.) mun., 99,340.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen.