A royal outing, visiting medieval castles and towers

A royal outing, visiting medieval castles and towers

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Guardians of legends and theatres of centuries-old disputes

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess in a fairy castle, or perhaps it was a king, a wizard or even a dragon. How many times when listening to a fairy tale as children were we transported to enchanted landscapes inhabited by fascinating characters? Crossing drawbridges in the shadow of medieval towers and, with a pinch of imagination, wearing period clothing, we can visit some of the most beautiful strongholds that rise in Emilia Romagna in the province of Ravenna. Treasure chests of priceless artistic heritage and legends of the past or theatres of centuries-old disputes, within their walls they preserve pages of history of universal value.

While the Rocca di Riolo Terme recounts the life and loves of Caterina Sforza through an interactive display, in Casola Valsenio the Rocca di Monte Battaglia, gateway to the Po Valley even during the Second World War, bears witness to the long struggles for control of the territory between Imola, Faenza and the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines. A valuable example of Middle Age warfare is the Rocca dei Veneziani built on one of the three rocky pinnacles that dominate Brisighella; the Oriolo Tower located in the hills near Faenza also has military exhibits. Located in the plain, the perimeter of the ancient fortress of Castel Bolognese today provides a majestic frame for part of the town while in Solarolo the town walls built by the Manfredi family, and the mighty Castle gate testify to the village’s strategic position.

Memories and stories of Lower Romagna and its formidable figures are preserved in the wonderful Rocca Sforzesca in Bagnara, the only example of a medieval castrum in the Emilia-Romagna plains that is still complete. The Rocca Estense in Lugo is particularly evocative thanks to its large hanging garden, connected to the castle courtyard, that overlooks the historic centre. It is also worth visiting the Civic Tower of Conselice and that of Bagnacavallo, where Romagna’s most famous brigand, Stefano Pelloni known as “il Passatore” was once imprisoned, as well as the Torre d’Acuto in Cotignola, built by the English mercenary leader, Sir John Hawkwood.

Massa Lombarda has a striking eighteenth-century Clock Tower designed by Cosimo Morelli while in Sant’Agata sul Santerno, you can admire the “gate” known as the Tower of the Bell of Reason in what remains of the medieval city walls:  it apparently brings good luck to those who pass through it when the bell chimes.  

Photo credits

1. Tourists at the Clock Tower in Brisighella, arch. Strada del Sangiovese
2. The Squacquerone di Romagna PDO, arch. APT Servizi Emilia-Romagna
3. The Oriolo Tower, Fabio Liverani, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina
4. The Rocca Sforzesca in Bagnara, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina
5. The Rocca di Riolo Terme, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina

Food – The cheeses of Romagna

Squacquerone di Romagna PDO is the most famous dairy product in the area. This is a rapidly maturing soft cheese obtained from whole cow’s milk with the addition of probiotics. The flavour is pleasant, with a slightly sour touch and a delicate milky aroma with a herbaceous note; the consistency is soft and creamy. It is typically spread on piadina and goes well with honey, jams, and caramelized figs. It is also used as a filling or sauce for pasta.

The province of Ravenna is also part of the production area of Grana Padano PDO, a semi-fat, cooked and slow-maturing cheese made from cow’s milk. Pecorino del Pastore, on the other hand, is made from sheep’s milk and natural rennet and appears in many recipes. When semi-fresh, it is used as a table cheese and often served together with pears, while the mature version is a valid alternative to Grana Padano.

Wine – Romagna Pagadebit DOC

This wine’s name derives from the productivity and resistance of the Bombino Bianco grape variety, which in the past enabled sharecroppers to pay their debts even in the worst years. Although this grape almost disappeared in the mid-1960s, it made a huge recovery in the following decade, obtaining DOC certification in 1988. In the province of Ravenna, it is present in the hills around the municipalities of Brisighella, Casola Valsenio, Castel Bolognese, Faenza and Riolo Terme.

Today Pagadebit, vinified dry in both the still and sparkling versions, is a wine with pleasant floral aromas, delicate herbaceous notes, and a predominantly dry flavour. It pairs well with lighter dishes, especially recipes with fish from the Adriatic Sea, but it also goes well with soups, plain pasta with seasonal sauces, herb omelettes and piadina with cured meats.

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