The name derives from an old branch of the River Panaro.
It was a domain of Matilde di Canossa and the scene of continual struggles due to its strategic military position on the border of the Provinces of Modena and Ferrara.
San Felice is proud of its Este Fortress which now houses the Giuseppe Venturini Archaeological Museum where, for the past few decades, the renowned Aldo Roncaglia Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art has been held in the month of September.
The earthquake of May 2012 has detroyed almost completly part of the historic town center. The Este fortress was seriously damaged, as well as many ancient churches.