Located northeast of the city of Modena, Camposanto is dominated by the presence of the river. Homes that date as far back as the 18th century were built on the river’s banks, and the wider Camposanto area extends to the vineyards that produce Sorbara lambrusco.
The town itself began to develop between the 14th and 15th centuries, following the creation of an inlet near Bomporto that forced the Panaro River to flow into the Naviglio Canal (likely completed in the early decades of the 1300s). This diversion project was intended to address the frequent flooding of the Panaro River and, at the same time, to increase the Naviglio Canal’s capacity so that it could be navigated even during periods of low water. During the 17th century, the town was elevated to the rank of county, a fiefdom of the Forni family, which held sway over the area until the end of the 18th century. Following a brief period of autonomy during the Napoleonic era, the town was absorbed into the nearby community of San Felice with the beginning of the reinstatement of ducal authority in Modena. In 1860, Camposanto once again acquired independence as a town in its own right.
Camposanto is a typical town of the northern part of Modena Province (called “Bassa” or “Lower” Modena because the area is largely below sea level). It was founded on the left bank of the Panaro River, where a long section of the river serves as a natural border with the Province of Bologna.
The town developed between the 14th and 15th century, after the River Panaro was forced into the Naviglio near Bomporto, probably at the start of the 14th century.
The purpose of this diversion was to stop the Panaro from overflowing while, at the same time, increase the Naviglio's capacity with the aim of improving navigation even when there was little water.
The rise in river traffic, customs tolls and fishing attracted the population from the nearby countryside. The town was elevated to the status of County in the 17th century. Lastly, in 1860 Camposanto became a Municipality.
Camposanto contains a number of features of artistic interest, such as the Parish Church, dedicated to the town's patron saint - St. Nicolas the Bishop - which dates back to 1629 and the complex known as La Corte - a small, square palazzo which is completed by the striking "Torre Ferraresi" on its left-hand side.
Camposanto’s artistic treasures include the parish church, dedicated to patron saint Bishop Nicolò Sandonnini, built in 1629, and the La Corte complex, a square-plan manor whose eastern side is graced by the beautiful Ferraresi Tower, today the site of the town’s vinegar production. In its current architecture and dimensions, the building dates to the 17th through the 18th centuries.
In addition to products representative of the Modena area, including Modena’s traditional PDO (protected designation of origin) balsamic vinegar, its PGI (protected geographical indication) balsamic vinegar, its PDO Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, varieties of sparkling red lambrusco wine, zampone and cotechino (dishes made from a mixture of ground pork flavored with herbs and spices and stuffed into the hollowed-out trotter or lower-leg of a hog), and such traditional offerings as fresh egg pasta, San Felice Salame also comes from this area.
This variety of cured meat is known for its delicious aroma and characteristic sweetness, both of which are the result of the use of selected cuts of pork obtained exclusively from local hog farms. Its intense ruby-red color and soft texture come from red wine—always a lambrusco—added during its preparation. San Felice Salame is produced and packaged exclusively in the towns and villages of Camposanto, Cavezzo, Concordia sulla Secchia, Finale Emilia, Medolla, Mirandola, San Felice sul Panaro, San Possidonio, and San Prospero in Modena Province.
A number of well-interconnected bike paths wind through the entire northern part of Modena Province. Travelers can reach Camposanto, for example, via a bike path that begins in Modena and passes through Bastiglia and Bomporto before ending in Camposanto.
The Saliceta Forest in Camposanto is an ancient wooded area that dates to 1149. Significant modifications that continued through the 1950s, however, drastically reduced the forest area, leaving today only small patches of growth which, in total, cover about eighty acres. Today, the Saliceta Forest is made up of segments of its original acreage and has become an area of ecological restoration organized by the Province of Modena for the development and protection of the natural environment and its biodiversity. Nearby, a number of agricultural outlets sell products that offer intriguing opportunities to sample local food and wine.