In the footsteps of the Este family

The places of the Este Duchy in Reggio Emilia

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The House of Este, whose members are also known as Estensi, was an ancient Italian dynasty that ruled, among others, the territories of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia.

The history of the town of Reggio Emilia is strictly linked to the history of the Este family: a complex and often conflictual relationship, which ended in 1797 with the birth of the First Tricolour Flag, symbol of emancipation from the despotic ducal dominion. 

In order to discover the places of Este in the Reggio Emilia area we invite you to follow the stages of this tour: starting from the ancient citadel, symbol of the ducal power, we will get to know the characters linked to the town of Reggio Emilia and, following the historical events linked to the ancient branch of the Este family, we will visit ancient parks and paths that will lead us to the province.

  • Length
    48 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - Public Gardens Reggio nell'Emilia

    In the area of ​​the current Public Gardens, which date back to the mid-XIX century, was the ancient Citadel, a fortified castle leaning against the town walls, which the Gonzaga family had built starting in 1339 as the seat of noble power. Its structure remained unchanged in the following centuries, during which the government of the town was definitively taken by the Este family. In 1472 Nicolò Ariosto came to Reggio Emilia as Citadel Captain and two years later the town was the birthplace of the famous poet Ludovico Ariosto.

    Unfortunately, nothing remains of the citadel: in 1848, following a popular rebellion against the Este family, demolition work on the walls and embankments began. In memory of the probable birthplace of the famous poet, the Ariosto statue, created by the sculptor Riccardo Secchi in 1916, was placed in a small square in the gardens.

  • Second stop - Museums Palace Reggio nell'Emilia

    A two-minute walk from the Gardens we find the Museums Palace, recently inaugurated in its new layout curated by Italo Rota. The museum hosts a permanent section dedicated to the Este family: the story opens with a copy of Correggio's famous Night (The Adoration of the Shepherds), first taken from the San Prospero Basilica by Francesco I d'Este for his court collection, then ending up in Dresden in the unfortunate Sale of Francesco III d'Este. From the heritage of the Basilica della Ghiara, some works are exhibited, in memory of the influence of the Dukes of Este on the construction of the Basilica. 

    In the Renaissance room, a large display case tells the story of the famous Cantino Map commissioned in 1502 by Ercole I d'Este from a Portuguese cartographer. The map depicts the world known at the time and above all represents the curiosity of the Este court for new discoveries and the opening of Reggio Emilia to the world, which accompanies its history up to the present day. Here is Africa with the head of a rhinoceros, the Amazon with parrots whose feathers return in the hammocks and decorated tunics, in the background photographic interpretations of the same landscapes.

  • Third stop - Piazza del Monte Reggio nell'Emilia

    We move to the nearby Piazza del Monte to tell you some tales that link Reggio Emilia to one of the most controversial female figures of the Italian Renaissance: Lucrezia Borgia, illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, married thirdly to Alfonso I d'Este, firstborn of Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. In the early XVI century Lucrezia had personally sponsored the introduction of the art of silk to Reggio Emilia, which was destined, over the course of the century, to become a strong opportunity for enrichment for the town. But both the art of wool and silk could not have existed without the Canale Maestro: the water set the spinning wheels in motion, was used in dyeing and was also necessary for bathing and washing. 

    Traces of these ancient and very important corporations remain in two palaces of the town: Palazzo dei Mercanti del Panno, characterized by the beautiful capital in the shape of a ram, and Palazzo Busetti, inspired by the designs of contemporary Roman buildings and built in the mid-XVII century by the Busetti family, wealthy and influential silk producers and merchants. The Palace now houses several commercial buildings, and it is possible to admire a singular view of the square from the second floor of the building.

  • Fourth stop - Piazza Prampolini Reggio nell'Emilia

    The current Tricolour Flag Hall was designed by the architect Ludovico Bolognini in 1772 at the behest of Duke Francesco III d'Este who wanted to provide the town with a new archive. The architect added a wonderful wooden model created by the carpenter Giovanni Benassi (now exhibited at the Reggio Emilia State Archives). 

    The works were completed in 1787, but the room remained unused until November 7, 1796, when it was decided that the historic Congress of the Cispadane Republic would take place there.

  • Fifth stop - Ducal Palace Reggio nell'Emilia

    The elegant palace was built in 1783 as the seat of the Reggio Emilia Governor. In 1814 it was donated by the town to Duke Francesco IV, who made it his local headquarters. Inside are tempera decorations by Vincenzo Carnevali and Prospero Minghetti. It is located in front of the monumental Madonna della Ghiara Church, built by the Reggio Emilia community, with the approval of the Este family, following a miraculous event.

    Not far from the obelisk in Piazza Gioberti you can still glimpse the narrow streets of the Jewish Ghetto. The construction dates back to the year 1669, when Duchess Laura Martinozzi decided to transfer all the Jews along the current Via dell'Aquila (whose name derives from the Este eagle then placed on the door in memory of the establishment of the ghetto), Via Monzermone, Via Caggiati, Via della Volta (so called because of the vault overlooking the Via Emilia in which one of the seven gates of the neighborhood was located), Via Gennari and Via San Rocco. The doors were demolished only a hundred years later, with the arrival of Napoleon's troops.

  • Sixth stop - XVIII-century walk Reggio nell'Emilia

    The XVIII-century, or Ducal, Walk is the route of approximately two kilometers which still today winds from the town centre of Reggio Emilia - Piazza Gioberti - to the San Pellegrino bridge, from where it continues to the Reggia di Rivalta, through the river park of Crostolo.
    Viale Umberto I, already a promenade in the second half of the XVIII century, and Corso Garibaldi, built on the old bed of the Crostolo stream after its diversion, are the main historical-monumental avenues connecting the city and the Royal Palace of Rivalta. The continuity between the two avenues, punctuated by the open spaces and squares that they cross, is an important urban and landscape sign between the plain and the mountains.

    The element of water accompanies the journey, from the sinusoid of Corso Garibaldi with the new pools of water in the redeveloped Gioberti and Roversi squares, up to the two monumental fountains of Viale Umberto I and the tanks of the Royal Palace of Rivalta.
    Designed by the ducal architect Ludovico Bolognini, the boulevard has a monumental soul and great historical and symbolic value. With the recent redevelopment intervention, the avenue has returned to a new beauty thanks to the restoration of the historic fountains and obelisks, and the relocation of the statues of the four seasons to their original location.

    More or less at the junction of the Crostolo river park, after passing the San Pellegrino bridge, the new cycle-pedestrian access portal to the Este Duchy tourist and cultural system will be inaugurated in summer 2024. The new space will be a "service station" for bicycles, to provide refreshment and assistance to visitors and cyclists in transit and an info point for the area.

  • Seventh stop - Rivalta Royal Palace. Park and residences Reggio nell'Emilia

    The Rivalta Royal Palace was built starting from 1724 by will of Francesco Maria d'Este and his wife Carlotta Aglae d'Orléans. The design of the palace is attributed to Giovan Maria Ferraroni, who directed the works until 1730, when he was replaced by the architects Francesco and Giovan Battista Bolognini. The design of the garden is instead attributed to Jean de Baillou, already author of the gardens of the Colorno Royal Palace. Thanks to the recent redevelopment, its wonderful park, which extends over an area of ​​26 hectares, includes the belvedere, the potager (orchard garden), the surrounding wall, the tanks and caves, pedestrian paths and the water system. The park is barrier-free, accessible to all, illuminated, equipped with seats, benches, furnishings and services.

    The Palace was part of a larger system which also included the Rivaltella Villa, the Este Villa and the public promenade Stradone, known as the XVIII-century Walk. In 1796, following the entry and advance of the French army in Italy, the ducal palace was confiscated by the republican state property, then purchased by the Corbelli family. In these passages the ruin of the monumental complex began and continued: two of the three sides of the building, including the main façade towards the gardens, were demolished, and the entire ducal garden was almost obliterated, to make room for grazing fields. The remaining wing (now known as the Ducal Palace), smaller than the other two wings that were destroyed, was probably mainly intended for servitude. The Court Chapel also remains, also in ruins and incorporated in subsequent agricultural buildings.

  • Eighth stop - Mauriziano Reggio nell'Emilia

    Along the Via Emilia, in the San Maurizio area, a large XVI-century terracotta arch leads to the tree-lined avenue leading to Mauriziano, Malaguzzi's country villa (Ludovico Ariosto's maternal family) where the poet, worn out by his commitments, spent periods of pleasant holidays. Inside it is possible to admire the decorative apparatus of the so-called dressing rooms (of Ariosto, of the Poets and of the Orazi) with XVI-century frescoes depicting hunting scenes, landscapes, love scenes, episodes of history and figures of men of letters, in full harmony with the courteous and literary tastes of the time. The internal rooms of the villa, thanks to the Furious Interactions project, can also be visited by people with reduced mobility. 

    At the Mauriziano Palazzo Vecchio, next to the Villa and managed by a group of local associations, it is possible to have various educational experiences: a guided tour of the educational vinegar factory “Ludovico Ariosto's vinegar” and the visit to the educational donkey farm “Reggio Emilia Donkeys”.

  • Ninth stop - Scandiano Fortress Scandiano

    We now move to Scandiano to admire one of the most impressive buildings in the province. The fortress now appears as the result of successive medieval (the original construction dates back to the XIII century), Renaissance and Baroque architectural interventions. Francesco Petrarca stayed there, Matteo Maria Boiardo was born there, in 1500 it was transformed into a sumptuous palace by Count Giulio Boiardo and hosted Pope Paul III Farnese and the great reformer Giovanni Calvino. Experiments were conducted in the basement by the Scandiano scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani.

    Until the XVIII century the Fortress kept an important cycle of frescoes by the painter Nicolò dell'Abate, now preserved in the Modena-based Este Gallery. The visit itinerary starts from the Este apartment, which sees a succession of rooms of XVI-century origin, modified as we see them in their current state, at the beginning of the XVIII century by the Marquises of Este: the "Sala dei Gigli", also rich in frescoes with views of Scandiano, by an unknown author, the "Sala del Camino" in rococo style and the "Sala del Drappo" with the precious drape that surrounds the vault of the sky on the ceiling, the "Sala dell'Alcova", which presents frescoes dating back to the 18th century with scenes of an Este military campaign, and finally the "Sala delle Aquile", located in the body of the tower, where the busts of Luigi, Borso, Foresto and Rinaldo d'Este are depicted. The decorations of these rooms are the work of Castellino, a well-known Modena sculptor.

    The Ministry of Culture recently financed a restoration project of the Este places, which involves some stages of this tour.

Last update 27/06/2024

Information offices

IAT Reggio Emilia
Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 1/A - Reggio nell'Emilia (RE)
+ 39 0522 451152 Opening: all year round
UIT Scandiano
Piazza della Libertà, 6 - Scandiano (RE)
+ 39 0522 764302 Opening: seasonal

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