Traveling in Italy over the last several years, I’ve visited my share of Roman ruins but perhaps one of the most interesting and remote sites are the Roman ruins in Veleia (Veleja Romana) not far from the town of Castell’Arquato near Parma.
Described as a landscape out of time, Veleia is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in northern Italy. The forum at Veleia is one of the best preserved in Italy, with its pavement of sandstone almost wholly intact and its drainage system still complete. A site where the splendor attained by a city in Imperial Roman times is still evidenced in its ruins. The ancient ruins of Veleia were discovered by chance in 1747 and I don’t think many visitors have been by since. This place is off the radar. Without a GPS you won’t have a chance of finding it but if you do it will be worth your while.
The city dates to 158 BC and must have been impressive for its time with a forum, Roman basilica, a monumental columned entrance, a thermal spa and ampitheater. There is a well-curated museum with artifacts of public monuments, furniture from private houses (domus) and objects of everyday life that give insight into what life must have been like during that time in the hinterlands of Rome. A Roman census of Veleia is notable for an astonishing fact on the age of its citizens. Six were stated to have reached the age of 110 years, four 120 years and one an impressive 140 years of age.
The thermal waters and a healthy diet may have contributed to the above average longevity in Italy’s valley of Shangri-la. Is it coincidental that restaurants in the region all seem to rate 4-5 star reviews? I don’t think so. This area is near the epicenter of Italian gastronomy, 35 miles from Piacenza in the locality of Parma, well-known for its culinary history.