The lower Reggio Emilia Plain was historically dominated by the Gonzaga dynasty, who left important testimonies of their presence, such as aristocratic residences, fortresses, but also land reclamation works which enabled agriculture and the local economy to flourish.
The route starts in Novellara, the most enduring of the Gonzaga dominions. Piazza Unità d'Italia, bordered by Renaissance porticoes, is the heart of the town’s life: facing the square are the Collegiate Church of Santo Stefano and the magnificent Fortress, Novellara's most important building. It is home to the Gonzaga Museum, consisting of thirteen exhibition rooms - five of which are dedicated to Lelio Orsi (artist at the Gonzaga court for forty years) - and the Jesuits' Apothecary, one of the most important collections of apothecary jars in Europe.
In the attic of the Fortress is the Municipal Vinegar Cellar, where the precious Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia is aged, which can be visited on the first Sunday of each month.
Outside the Novellara town centre, on the border between the territories of Reggiolo and Guastalla, lies the area of the so-called ‘Novellara Valleys’, vast areas of ecological rebalancing and protection of biodiversity. The territory is characterized by a sequence of canals, ditches, drains, basins and cultivated fields, ideal for group walks or solo bike rides.
Once in the centre of Reggiolo, you can admire the medieval Fortress, built around the 13th century and reinforced in the 14th century during interventions ordered by Ludovico I Gonzaga. For a gastronomic break, a taste of the pumpkin tortelli (typical speciality of the territory) is a must.
Under the Gonzaga dynasty, the town of Guastalla reached the height of its splendour: celebrated architects such as Giunti and Volterra were called upon, it hosted artists such as Guercino and Campi and poets such as Tasso and Guarini. Thanks to the care of its dukes, it became one of the most important fortified cities in Northern Italy. The 16th-century urban layout is still widely visible: the ancient Via Gonzaga is a grid-plan layout of streets leading to Piazza Mazzini, the heart of the town, dominated by the beautiful statue of Ferrante Gonzaga by Leone Leoni. Facing the square are the 16th-century Cathedral, with its late 19th-century façade, and the Ducal Palace, the town's most representative building.
From the historical centre of Guastalla, following via Lido Po, it is possible to reach the banks of the ‘Great River’ (Po River), rent a bike and leisurely discover the landscape of the lower Reggio Emilia Plain: Guastalla - Boretto by bike | Lands of the Po River and Gonzaga.