This itinerary starts in Faenza, ancient city of ceramics, moves to Brisighella, picturesque village surrounded by beautiful fortresses and medieval towers, then onto Casola Valsenio, protecting a heritage of officinal herbs, Riolo Terme where thermal waters spring from gypsum rocks, Castel Bolognese with its open-air museum, and Solarolo and its history.
These are the lands of Faenza, where the past is still alive today and where natural and artistical beauties will fascinate every visitor.
The first day, dedicated to Arts and Ceramics, starts in Faenza with a visit to the International Museum of Ceramics. Founded in 1908, MIC is one of the most important museums in the world completely dedicated to ceramics: in its rooms, it hosts some of the finest Italian and European ceramic productions from the Middle Ages to the XIV Century, as well as other sections dedicated to pre-Columbial America, classical Greece, the Roman age, Far East and Islamic productions. Special rooms are dedicated to major XX Century and contemporary artists, both Italian and foreign.
A few steps away, is Milzetti Palace, the richest and best-preserved example of the elegant Neoclassical civilization of Faenza. Every room shows abundant decorations, often following the theme of classical mythology: an important testimony of the tastes of the time, charmed by Homeric poems, Ancient Roman history, Greek-Roman paganism, and Pompei and Herculaneum archaeological findings.
Next is a visit to the Carlo Zauli Museum, opened in 2002 in Carlo Zauli’s former workshop. Zauli was one of the major ceramic sculptors of the XX Century and inspiration for many contemporary artists. The museum contains collections and cultural activities, exploring the many languages of contemporary art involving the whole territory.
There is still time for a visit to the Municipal Art Gallery: the oldest museum in Romagna opened its doors for the first time in 1789 to tell the story of an art capital city. History told by 200 art pieces, from Donatello to Reinassance masterpieces, up to Italian XX Century artists.
Now it is the moment to reach Piazza del Popolo and Piazza della Libertà. The two nearby squares create a wide and elegant space, where you can enjoy the true living of this Romagna city: cafès, nice shops but mostly the back and forth of the bicycles. In Romagna, you know, the bike is the best way of moving around!
On the second day of the itinerary, we move to the hills. Let’s start from Brisighella, Medieval village rich in traditions, architectural and natural beauties: Brisighella is one of the most beautiful Villages of Italy, “Orange Flag” of Italian Touring Club.
The village is surrounded by three hills where the Clock Tower, Manfredian Fortress and Monticino Sanctuary are located. Hidden in the historical center is the “Via degli Asini” (the Donkey Way): an elevated road, integrated in the buildings, which is a unique example of fortified street of this kind.
First is the Clock Tower, a small fort built in 1290 that together with the Fortress made up the defensive system of the residential area. After being damaged and rebuilt many times, the tower was completely restored in 1850. In the same year, the six-hour clock was put in place. The top of this hill is a panoramic spot for a look over the village, the gypsum formations and the badlands surrounding Brisighella.
The Manfredian Fortress is a lovely example of medieval military architecture. The building is made up of the “Venetian Tower” and the ancient “Torricino”, build by the Manfredi family of Faenza.
Since May 2016, it has been home to the “Man and Gypsum Museum”, a visitors path retracing the long relationship between mankind, the territory and the typical mineral.
On the third hill, surrounded by cypress trees, is Monticino Sanctuary. Enriched by a great façade in 1926, donated by Cardinal Michele Lega and designed by Edoardo Collamarini, the Sanctuary is the starting point for a visit to the Open Air Geological Museum, in the area used for gypsum caving.
Our itinerary moves to Casola Valsenio, a small village on the Romagna Appenines, known as The Town of Herbs and Forgotten Fruits.
Right before entering the town, we find Valsenio Abbey, founded by Benedectine Monks around the year 1000. The Abbey features a cloister with access on the right side of the church, where there is also a well from the year 1500. The true surprise was found under the apse: the remains of an older church with three apses, dating back to the VII or VIII Century A.D.
Valsenio Abbey is truly a special place, where visitors can breathe the mystical yet simple atmosphere of medieval countryside churches.
From here, it only takes a couple of minutes to reach Cardello, the house where writer Alfredo Oriani from Faenza lived most of his life and wrote all of his books. The building is supposed to date back to the XI Century and used to be the guest house for Valsenio Abbey. The rooms, left intact after the passing of the last member of the family, are a rare and beautiful example of noble Romagna family living, from the late XIX century.
The last stop of this second day is the Herbal Garden, a must for those interested in gardening and officinal plants, known for their virtues since the Middle Ages. On its many terraces, with a lovely view over Gypsum Vein Park, over 450 species of officinal plants are cultivated, used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics.
On the third day, we head to Riolo Terme, to start the day in the name of relaxation! The city of waters of Faentine Romagna is a well-known vacation destination, appreciated since ancient times thanks to the therapeutical characteristics of the hot springs.
Riolo Thermal Baths, surrounded by lovely hills and a magical centuries-old park, offers traditional mud and water treatments but also wellness activities, to relieve the stress in the warmth of the spa.
After relaxing, move to Riolo Terme historical center, where the Sforza Fortress stands, hosting the Museum of Faenza Apennine landscape. The visit to the Fortress develops into different levels, allowing a true immersion into the Middle Ages and history.
In the Well Room, the permanent setup “Caterina’s Mysteries”, dedicated to Caterina Sforza’s deeds and loves, transports the visitor to an interactive reality, guided by the Lioness of Romagna in person!
Inside the Main Tower is the archaeological section, hosting many finds and objects dating from the Iron Age to Ancient Roman times. The section dedicated to the Museum of Faenza Apennine landscape offers a wide view over the surrounding hills, badlands and gypsum formations, thanks to a few binoculars.
The Fortress is an important centre of studies, discoveries and activities, being also the Documentation Centre of the Regional Park of Gypsum Vein of Romagna.
Once the visit to the Fortress concludes, let’s move a few kilometers away to reach Castel Bolognese.
This town stands out for being the hometown of an important sculptor, Angelo Biancini, whose bronze sculptures decorates an urban path named “Open Air Museum”. The pieces that make Castel Bolognese prized represent an ideal journey through Biancini’s art, following his evolution from the 1930s to his last days.
About 2km away from the town center, we find Mulino Scodellino, the last existing example of the many water mills built in the 1400s along the canal. Built in the late 14th century or early 15th century, it takes its name from “scudella”, a tool used by a miller during the milling process.
This rural building still shows the original floorplan: even though the mill was not used anymore, it was inhabited until 25 years ago and in 2016, after years of renovations, it was opened to the public again. Mulino Scodellino can be visited during Spring FAI Days and during town events.
Last stop of this tour de force across the lands of Faenza is Solarolo, where we find the Archaeological Site of via Ordiere, a Bronze Age village keeping one of the widest and richest archaeological heritages in Romagna. Thanks to the collaboration with the University of Bologna, the site can be visited by citizens thanks to the experimental archaeological activities, and by school classes who can have the experience of living a day in a village from 3500 years ago.