The allure of the Castles of the Modena Apennines

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The allure of the castles of the Modena Apennines stems largely from their being set in peculiar locations, frequently off the beaten track and in the midst of nature.

From the rocky spurs on which they stand, it is easy to understand how, in the past, these fortresses played a fundamental role in surveying the valleys below, and, standing there today, with just a little imagination, you can picture in your mind the historical anecdotes and legends linked to these places.

Here is a one-day itinerary to discover the castles situated in the municipalities of Sestola, Pievepelago and Pavullo nel Frignano.

  • Length
    24 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - Sestola Castle Sestola

    The fortress has long been the symbol of Sestola; perched high on a rocky spur, its majesty can be seen from every corner of the village. It affords panoramic views over the mountains and the surrounding hills, and can be reached by two roads: the oldest one, Via dei Governatori, which is cobbled and starts from the church bell tower, and the less steep Via della Rocca, which in the summertime is accessed by a little tourist train.

    The fortress is set in sweeping grounds, ideal for a walk in a green, open space without even having to leave the village. Of particular note is the Parco della Covetta, a small, natural amphitheatre which in the summer is the perfect setting for concerts, shows and literary performances, with splendid views over the valley and the entire Apennine ridge.

    The castle is also a multipurpose cultural centre and houses the rooms of the Museum of Mountain Civilisation, the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments and several permanent Exhibitions.

  • Second stop - Montecuccolo Castle Pavullo nel Frignano

    Let’s continue with our tour and follow the signs to Pavullo nel Frignano, taking the B road “SP31” (for Acquaria). After around half an hour’s drive, we reach the second stop: Montecuccolo Castle
    The medieval fortress stands on a rocky spur overlooking the Scoltenna-Panaro river, just three kilometres from the centre of Pavullo.  
    In the heart of the former province of Frignano, guarding the roads to Tuscany, this castle was both home and military base to the Montecuccolo family, who possessed dozens of fortified towers and fortresses.

    A wonderful gothic-style portal invites visitors inside the hamlet standing at the foot of the castle, comprising the Palazzo del Podestà (Governor’s Palace) and the fifteenth-century Church of San Lorenzo; a fortified hamlet, with an evocative, medieval atmosphere, which brings to mind the fortresses built under Matilda of Canossa.

    The manor house itself, which now belongs to the Municipality of Pavullo, is today home to the Montecuccolo Museum Centre (CEM) where you can see the exhibits of the Raffaele Biolchini Donation, the Frignano Natural History Museum and an important collection of paintings by the Pavullo artist Gino Covili.

  • Third stop: Roccapelago Castle Pievepelago

    Leaving Montecuccolo Castle behind, we take the B road “SP31” towards Vaglio, followed by the B road “SP324” towards Pievepelago. 4 km from Pievepelago we come to the small hamlet of Roccapelago, home to the mighty castle which, from a rocky spur over 1,000 metres high, overlooks the Pelago basin, on the ancient roads that linked the Po Valley to Tuscany and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

    The view from the spur takes in Mount Cimone, Mount Libro Aperto, the ridge towards San Pellegrino in Alpe, Mount Rondinaio, and, to the west, the majestic rock, Sasso Tignoso.
    The castle came into the hands of the Longobards, Matilda of Canossa and, from 1240, was home to the medieval warlord Obizzo da Montegarullo.

    In 2011, 300 bodies buried between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries were discovered in the crypt of the church; almost 100 of them were mummified, and are now the subject of important historical and anthropological studies. The mummies and funerary objects are on display in the castle museums, “The mummies of Roccapelago”, and “In the footsteps of Obizzo da Montegarullo”.

Last update 31/10/2022

Information offices

IAT del Cimone
Corso Umberto I, 3 - Sestola (MO)
+ 39 0536 62324 + 39 0536 61621 Opening: all year round
Ufficio Informazione Turistica di Pavullo nel Frignano
Via Giardini, 3 - Pavullo nel Frignano (MO)
+ 39 0536 29964 + 39 0536 29025
Pro Loco Pievepelago
Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 17 - Pievepelago (MO)
+ 39 0536 71304

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