A windy and sunny sunday afternoon in the hills with a couple of friends, discovering a new place, near but never visited before.
After some occasional neolitic settlements, the hills between the valleys of the river Enza and Secchia, were colonized by romans who developed there famous centres like Luceria, not far from what is today called Ciano. On the same cliff of Canossa, some findings suggest the hypothesis of an ancient roman blockhouse for this important residential centre. After the dark period of the Late Middle Ages, when the Lombard and Byzantine invaded the land devasting it, Atto Adalberto, a Lord from a Lucca family, decided to build here a fortified system that had its most significant dimensions between the XI and the XII centuries. Meanwhile a net of villages was developing all around saving pastures and cultivations from the savage woods. But it is just under Matilde, the Great Countess, that these lands got a continental reputation, playing an important role in the quarrel between the Pope and the Emperor. Matilde’s feud was extremely powerful, covering from Mantova to Lucca, to Florence, to the Po’s mouth. She was an european woman, from an important family operating internationally, from Italy to Lorraine. She gave a fundamental impulse to the origin of the University of Bologna; she was also one of the main responsible of the reformation of the church engaged by Gregorio VII. After the matildic renaissance, the local history witnesses first the predomination of the commons, then the power of local noble families. Between the 1425 and the 1427 the largest part of the matildic territories suffered the invasion of the Estensi family, who hold them for centuries.
A powerful fortified system protecting the feudal state: this is what the countess Matilde governed between the XI and XII centuries. The origin of these castles dates back to the family of the Attonidi, the lineage of Matilde, who had reinforced, between the Taro and the Reno, the northern frontier of her land. The defensive structures represented a safety assurance but developed, at the same time, a symbolic authoritative function. These castles have often been built through reinforcing preexistent structures. The fortified lines (as it is evident in the Apennines near Reggio) continued each other from West to East at different altimetric heights. Canossa, for example, lies on an intermediate line , while Bianello faces directly the plain ready to contrast the enemies coming from north. The matildic castles suffered the conflictual attitude of the municipalities first and of the lords then; most of them have been transformed into residential villas, but the peculiar matildic structure is still evident under the restauration works.
In the suburb of Rossena a mighty castle was built, certainly among the most beautiful and better preserved of the whole Matilde area .
It rises on a volcanic cliff with a particular reddish color from which it dominates an unique and amazing landscape, that embraces an ample line of the lowland and the Apennine dorsal between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. In the XI century it belonged to Bonifacio of Canossa, and in the XIII century was confiscated by the Da Correggio that held it up to 1612, when it passed to the dukedom of Parma and in the first half of the XIX century it accomodated the duchess Maria Luigia of Austria, back then the mistress of these lands.
Part of the construction goes back to the X century: it’s the mastio, very similar to the near tower of Rossenella and with it probably destined to the defense of the castle of Canossa set far in upper hills. It maintains unchanged its own military role up to the second half of the century XVIII, when it was turned into a residence; this passage is proved by numerous inscriptions and the decorative apparatus recovered in some rooms on the occasion of the recent restauration. The austere image of the fortificated complex is due most of all to the solid surrounding walls: the first part from which still rises the remaining part of the mastio, delimited by the Army Square; the secon part, taller, realized for swooping down on defence, and the third one with the bastions, memory of the advent of the artilleries.The castle develops mostly on three levels: at the first with the Army Square there are jails, the armory, the refectory and the cistern, connected with irregular stairs in stone and tiles, then the army headquarters, and the captain private rooms.
In recent times a little church was built inside the first line of walls. Too bad now the castle is managed by the local clergy and open only by appointment…..
The old village (but mostly renovated) still hold its enchanted atmosphere….
In this little garden we met the owner of the house, who kindly invited us to enter in his “memories room” as he called it…..86 years of a very interesting life, from the bycicle race from Rome to Poland (three times), to his old ski from where he was a soldiers during the war, to the pectoral numbers he wore twice for the snow marathon in Finland……we spent more than an hour listening to his stories….and he made us promise to come back soon for more. I guess what else he has to tell…..
Just in front od the castle there’s anothe tower, called Rossenella, that with the mastio of the castle built up the defense system of the valley
As amazing the castle was, it’s nice also to spend time with friends around a table. Especially if the occasion arises to mix up old friends with new ones (in this case a collegue and her husband) at a place where to enjoy a specialty, the “bistecca fiorentina” (a barbecued steak cooked rare)…………a little foggy while the meat was cooking, but a nice evening nevertheless…………….
We had another nice evening out, a Beer Festival organized by a local bikers’ club……..good food, better music (old hits cover) and even better beer….but the company of good friends was the icing of the cake….
Hubby is a sports fan, no matter the sport, on tv he watches all kind of events, bikes (his and mine favourite), F1 cars race, cycling, football….even darts! He used to play tennis and football when he was younger, now he’s just a biker, and has a season ticket to follow our football team. Lately he has developed a true passion for golf, and when he learned that my collegue P. and her husband A. were golfers, his smile widened….so one hot saturday afternoon we met at their golf club just outside town, to give it a try. The place is really beautiful………the practice green has about 40 places, 18 of them furnished with mats for the winter practice, covered and heated. 9 holes Pitch&Putt built in conformity with the Italian Federation, so idoneus for all types of events linked to this discipline. The club house has also a swwimming pool, bar and social halls indoor and outdoor and a restaurant
Hubby tried really hard to follow A. advices, but you can see he was a little bit stiff and not at all dressed for the occasion……
We had a great time anyway, he liked it so very much and he promised to follow some lessons next fall…..with me of course….we’ll see….for now we enjoyed a great time with new friends, and a good dinner with a nice view…