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Battle of Fornovo Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Fornovo summary

The Battle of Fornovo took place 30 km (19 miles) southwest of the city of Parma on 6 July 1495 betwwen the League of Venice and the French led by king Charles VIII

  1. Charles decided to offer battle because the French were short on provisions. The League armies, mostly Venetians, were at the right side of the river Taro, and the French decided to keep the left side of the river. The French position was deemed to be good for defence because the Venetians had not cleared the field, and the rain had made the river banks slippery and impassable for the cavalry.
  2. The light cavalry attack on the French front was impeded by the terrain conditions, as the French anticipated, and its result indecisive.
  3. Melchiorre Trevisan promised the League soldiers the spoils of battle if they were victorious, igniting their combat ardor. Francesco Gonzaga divided his forces. His battle plan was to distract the French with part of his troops.
  4. While the battle raged, the Stradioti mercenaries saw that the French guarding the baggage train were very few and they immediately left their positions to fell upon the rich baggage to plunder it.
  5. Once the French groups were disorganized, more Italian troops attacked. However some believed the battle was lost and retreated.
  6. The Italian leaders turned back the retreating soldiers by convincing them that the battle was being won.
  7. After over an hour of fighting, the French were forced back to a hilltop.
  8. Both sides took to camp.
  9. The French had lost about a thousand men, while the Venetians lost twice that many. The French also lost the booty of the Italian expedition. Eventually they withdrew.