Brief City’s History
The area where the City of Reggio Emilia is located seems to have been inhabited since the Prehistory.
The historical accounts talk of different Peoples who inhabited this area: the Ligurians, the Umbrians, the Gauls Boiand and the Etruscans.
These ethnic groups, coming from different areas of Europe, bringing their different languages and cultures, lived in the flat areas and in the nearby hills. Hard to say who was the founder of the City of Reggio Emilia; from the chronicle it seems to have originated from these ancient populations, but many argue that Marco Emilio Lepido was the one who founded it. In 187 BC, the legions of the Roman Empire, led by him, attacked the Ligurians in Reggio’s Apennines , defeating them. Later on, Marco Emilio Lepido, returned in the plain and, the majority think, founded the City of Reggio Emilia, starting to build a long, major road that linked the Cities of Piacenza and Rimini. On this road also the Cities of Parma, Modena and Bologna arose. Reggio was created as a Roman military garrison to ensure the safety of both civilians and soldiers within a dangerous, wooded plain, which was, at those times, really insidious. In the present Romanic Old Town, the Via Emilia was the Cardo, while Via Roma, with Via Calderini and Via San Carlo, were the Decumanus. In the Republican Era, under the Roman Empire, the City flourished and was elevated to the rank of City Hall. Subsequently, during the fall of the Roman Empire, the City became depopulated and therefore declined.
During the subsequent Barbarian Invasions Reggio Emilia was conquered by various populations (Heruli, Goths, Exarchs and finally Lombards). The Lombards were the ones who put it to the role of the Duchy. Subsequently the Franks with Charlemagne conquered it, giving to the Bishop a total authority over the City. All this constant instability brought the City to erect a wall to protect its population. After the year 1000 AD the area of Reggio with those of Parma, Brescia, Modena, Mantua and Ferrara passed under the control of the Marquess Tedaldo of Canossa . In 1076 Dc it became a feud of the famous Countess Matilde. During the Matildic government the Emperor Henry IV humbled himself in the presence of Pope Gregory VII at Canossa Castle, during the conflict between the Church and the Empire about the question of investitures. In the subsequent years communal freedoms grew compared to the imperial hegemony. In 1183 DC the City signed the Treaty of Constance, with which the consul Rolando della Carità received the imperial investiture and a period of peace began, with positive effects on the development of the City: new schools opened, new statutes were written and coins minted; with businesses that increased prosperity. Shortly after, however, some serious conflicts have began with neighboring municipalities. A war with the City of Parma (1152), later with the City of Modena, then a war with the city of Mantua, and even some wars between powerful families Reggiane as those between the Ruggeri and Malaguzzi and those between the Sessi and Fogliani. In this century it was also created the Mint of Reggio through a special imperial concession of 1219. After the wars with the neighboring Cities, the free town of Reggio expanded its borders, also towards the Apennines. To contain the growing power of the powerful families of the Sessi, Fogliani and Canossa, the Senate entrusted the government of Reggio, for three years, to the Marquis Obizzo II d’Este, lord of Ferrara. This decision marked the beginning of the domain, repeatedly interrupted, of the Este Lordship over Reggio and created the foundation for the future transformation of the free commune in a lordship. The Este Family in fact tried to remain in the government even after the expiry of their mandate and for this they were driven out in 1306 DC.Subsequently, before the Emperor Henry VII, then the Pope John XXII, removed the City ambitions from its Republican dream. After several changes of power Reggio passed to Luigi Gonzaga who faced and beat the Visconti in a war for supremacy over the City. In 1370 AD the Visconti besieged the City, plundered the surrounding countryside and, helped by the Este, regained Reggio, annexing it to the Lordship of Milan. At the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the City passed to Nicholas III d’Este, who in 1409 became Lord of the City. Reggio handed its sovereignty to the Este Family, in exchange of a large measure of independence in the minting of the coin, in law-making, and in the administration of justice. From 1409 to 1512 Dc Dc Reggio was governed by different members of Este Lordship, until it was handed over to the Duke of Urbino and Pope Julius II. Subsequently, after the domain of several Popes, with the death of Adrian VI, the City returned to the Este Family with Alfonso I, who paid a large sum to the Pope for receiving by Emperor Charles V his investiture, which took place in 1531 AD. Hercules II succeeded to Alfonso. Alfonso II succeeded to Hercules II, to whom his cousin Caesar succeded. Alfonso III succeeded to Caesar, but he gave up the throne to become a Franciscan friar. The duchy then passed to his son Francis I, who faced some aggressions by foreign armies and even an epidemic peste.The Este dominion continued until the year 1702 AD, when the City was occupied by the French and Spanish and later by the imperial troups. With the Treaty of Aachen (1748) Reggio returned to the Este Lordship; to Francesco III, to whom Hercules III followed, as the last one of the Este Family. With the outbreak of the French Revolution the duke fled away, negotiating then his surrender with Napoleon Bonaparte. On the night of 21 August 1796 the ducal garrison of 600 men was driven out by the French, who conquered Reggio, proclaimed the Reggio Republic. In Montechiarugolo the French clashed with the Austrians, beating them. In the conference held in Reggio from December 27th 1796 to January 9th 1797, organized just by Napoleon, the delegates of the Cities of Bologna, Ferrara, Modena and Reggio proclaimed the birth of the Cispadane Republic and created the first tricolor flag with green, white and red. Simultaneously in Lombardy the Cisalpine Republic was born. The two Republics were merged into an ephemeral Italian Republic; indeed, shortly after, Napoleon proclaimed himself king of Italy in Milan, thwarting the hopes of a free republic Italian. In 1815 AD, with the Treaty of Vienna, Reggio was returned to Francis IV, which reactivated the old Este Code, eliminating the press freedom and calling back the Jesuits as teachers. Francesco V, who succeeded to his father in 1846 AD, was the last Duke of Reggio. Francesco V, frightened by the riots exploded in Milan and the revolution in Vienna, left the state fleeing to Austria. In Reggio a provisional government was born, which joined that of Modena, and then the whole Piedmont. A defeat at Novara brought back the City to the Este Family, but in 1859 they were finally defeated and Reggio decreed, on March 10th 1860, its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.
Reggio Emilia is considered, in Italy, a medium size City, counting about 175,000 inhabitants and approximately 530,000 inhabitants in its Province, usually among the first in Italy for quality of life. An ancient City, founded by the Romans in 183 BC, with a historic center of hexagonal shape, as its ancient walls ( now almost entirely disappeared,), that contains many buildings, mostly built between the sixteenth and eighteenth century. To stroll in the streets of Reggio Emilia is definitely an enjoyable experience and allows visitors to experience the Emilian history and culture, a region where industriousness and creativity have marked the true Emilian style. Here you do not perceive the splendor of Cities like Rome, Florence or Venice, nor the excitement and vibrancy of Milan; here you live more slowly, savoring a different style, made of concreteness, walks, activities in the green ( just outside the city ), some quiet chatters in the streets and in the cafes. The activities in this kind of City are different… quieter. Reggio Emilia is in fact a perfect City to raise a family. Although in recent years, becoming larger and increasingly multiracial, it has changed a lot becoming a little more chaotic, Reggio still remains on a human scale, definetly. His quite new university is considered among the best in Italy for an high level quality, the friendliness of its inhabitants is known everywhere, the excellence of its restaurants is clearly established, the beauty of its hills is increasingly known. Along with the next-door Cities of Parma and Modena it creates an interrelated system, where in a few kilometers there are many offers for recreation and culture. In the center of Reggio Emilia you can find: some fascinating theaters for a performance of opera, poetry or dance; the museums for a leap in the past, many ancient Churches, some typical bakeries where to enjoy local and unique products as the Reggio’s erbazzone and fried dumpling, many cafés where to sit for reading a newspaper in front of a tasty cappuccino and a succulent pastry, many restaurants where dining and appreciating traditional and original foods known everywhere ( in 2015 the famous Forbes Magazine crowned Emilia as the best place to eat in the whole World ), then the libraries where to find books and magazines. the shops where to buy the preferred items and clothes and the university. While in the suburbs you can find: the residential neighborhoods, many cycle paths, some shopping centers, the parks where enjoy the nature by walking, running or cycling, the university campus and the industrial zones. Leaving the City you will find a dense network of small hamlets between Reggio Emilia, Parma and Modena, the beautiful nearby hills, or the famous ” bassa ” of Reggio Emilia, a large agricultural area, full of wide plains and canals, which will lead you, by passing through many small and picturesque villages, to the historic and beautiful city of Mantua and to the Po, the largest river in Italy.
To be seen
. The Basilica of San Prospero with its charming tower, located in the Square of the historical center of Reggio Emilia that brings the same name, originates from a another most ancient Church dedicated to Prospero, Bishop of Reggio Emilia, who became Saint of the city, after the Church consecration in 997 AD. Inside the Basilica, under the high altar, there are the remains of Saint Prospero, protector of the City, to whom the Basilica was dedicated. Prospero was the Bishop of the City in the fifth century, whose miracle that brought him to become the Patron Saint of Reggio Emilia, has been the creation of a thick fog upraised all of a sudden around Reggio Emilia, for concealing the city from Attila’s eyesight ( Attila was the feared King of the Unni ), thus avoiding its distruction. The Basilica was completely renovated and rebuilt around the sixteenth century, between 1514 AD and 1570 AD, while the façade dates back to the mid-eighteenth ( 1748 AD -1753 AD ) century and it’s a work of architect G.B. Cattani. The facade hosts eleven statues of Patron Saints and Doctors of the Church. On the edge of the churchyard there are six lions ( probably of Roman Age ), made in red Verona marble, that were originally intended to support six columns of three porches in front of the three doors of the Basilica. These works, begun in 1503 by the Reggiano sculptor Gaspare Bigi, were never completed. The octagonal bell tower, also incomplete, rises on the right side of the façade, built and designed by Cristoforo Ricci, and then partially revised by Giulio Romano. As a testimony of the Baroque Era, this Latin cross floor plan Basilica with three naves has a dome that overlooks it. Its aisles have beautiful works of authors of the sixteenth century, as Ludovico Carracci, , Denis Calvaert, Giovanni Giarola, Thomas Laureti and Michelangelo Anselmi. In front it is possible to admire the great seventeenth-century altarpieces made by Alessandro Tiarini and Francesco Stringa and the valuably crafted sculptures by Bartolomeo Spani and Prospero Sogari. The presbytery ( the apse ) is decorated with a cycle of frescoes of the sixteenth century of Camillo Procaccini, Bernardino Campi and Giovan Battista Tinti, depicting the “Last Judgement”. A precious wooden choir from 1546, carved and inlaid by De Venetiis, is located at the base of the presbytery .The Square is often a lively place and full of people, expecially on Tuesdays and Fridays when it hosts the market.
. The Church of Saint Peter is one of the most important Church of the City. The Church is located in the center of Reggio Emilia. Given in 1513 AD by the Duke Alfonso d’Este Lord of Ferrara to the Benedictine Monks, whose convent, near the walls of the City, had been knocked down for military purposes by him, it was built around the sixteenth century, on the site where, since 1140 AD, there was already another Church dedicated to San Pietro. The project was entrusted to Bolognese architect Giulio Della Torre togheter with the Reggiano architect Prospero Pacchioni, with later modifications made by Sebastiano Sorina. Its magnificent dome, made between 1625 AD and 1629 AD, was planned by the Reggiano architect Paolo Massoni. Subsequently, in 1765 AD, the Church was enriched by the construction of a bell tower, by the facade by Pietro Armani. The internal structure is in the shape of a Latin cross with a nave and keeps a valuable carved choir in Baroque style, designed in marble and wood. Of valuable manufacture the seventeenth century paintings of Peter Desani, Tiarini, Paolo Emilio Besenzi, Mastelletta, Camillo Gavassetti, all located within the Church.
. The Mauriziano is along the Via Emilia towards Modena, 3 km away from the City center. There you will find a fifteenth-century villa where Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533). a very famous Italian poet and playwright, author of ” The Orlando Furioso “, lived when young. The villa belonged to Daria Malaguzzi, his mother. On the first floor there are two large rooms, renovated in 1721 AD, with frescoes attributed to the famous painter Nicolo dell’Abate. A small staircase leads to three bedrooms upstairs, kept almost unchanged, as they were at the era of the poet. In one of the rooms there are frescoes depicting great poets, in another there is an old stone fireplace and some frescoes, while the third room is called the Room of Horatij Coclidi, because on the walls are painted Horatii and the Curiatii, and Horace Coc ( mythological heroes of ancient Rome).
.The Museums’ Palace, located in the centre of Reggio Emilia, in Piazza della Vittoria, beside the Municipale Theater, dates back to the Early Middle Ages, when it was the Imperial Palace. In 1195 AD it became a bishopric, and later on, in 1256 AD, the Franciscan monks settled there, turning it into their convent a few decades later. The building was enlarged in 1270 AD, then restored and expanded again in 1400 and, more radically, in 1730 AD by architect Giovan Maria Ferraroni (1662 AD -1775 AD), reaching the current size and configuration. The main building is on three floors around a central cloister, with four wings downstairs, which are split by a series of arches on pillars, which support the cross voults. In 1782 AD, the convent was sopresso and the Palace was used for different purposes: first as barracks, then as the site for schools, and finally, from 1830 AD, as a museum. Within this sumptuous and fascinating Palace you find, through the three main routes (Time / Nature / arts) and inside a one and only spatial context, many collections related to different specialized fields (from natural sciences to art, from archeology to history, but also to the technique, to the minor arts, etc.) across all time (from pre-history to the present day) and through the most different civilizations.
. The Parmeggiani Gallery, named after Anna and Luigi Parmeggiani, is a museum of Reggio Emilia containing a valuable collection of furniture, paintings and textiles, collected by Luigi Parmeggiani at the turn of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Luigi Parmeggiani was an anarchist, an antique dealer and maybe a counterfeiter, who lived a life full of adventures and vices by travelling in many european capitals and by knowing all kind of people: from high-society women to whores, from thieves to critics, until becoming a wealthy art dealer thanks to a famous friend of him and art collector: Oviedo Ignacio Leon Y Escosura. Returned to Reggio in 1924 AD he built his Gallery and in 1933 AD he sold it to the City Administration. The building, a museum house containg the Escosura’s collection and many counterfeit nineteenth-century objects, is in Gothic-Renaissance style, built in 1924 on purpose by the owner to expose his collections. Outside you there are spiers and gothic decorations on the medieval facade and a Spanish-Moorish main door dating back to the fifteenth century, directly sent from Valencia and relocated here. In its drawing, façade and entrance hall, the building is similar to the jewelery Marcy Paris. Today the Parmeggiani Gallery is part of the Civic Museums of the town of Reggio Emilia, since is, in effect, a Museum of the nineteenth century.
.The Madonna della Ghiara Basilica, located in the heart of the center, in Garibaldi street, is one of the most important place of whorship of Reggio Emilia. It was built thanks to the donations of the faithful, as a result of a miracle that took place April 29, 1596 and tied to an image of the Virgin that stood in the area. It is said that the young Marchino, deaf-mute from birth, miraculously got word and hearing back while praying in front of the Bertone’s painting depicting an image of the Madonna.
Designed by Ferrara’s architect Alessandro Balbi, the “Madonna della Ghiara” Basilica was built between 1597 and 1619 AD. The brick facade, in Doric style in its lower part and Ionic in its upper part, has three doors: the central one has a carved bas-relief of Salvatore da Verona depicting the Ghiara Virgin and was donated by Reggio’s Administration in 1642 AD; the lateral ones instead were made in 1631 AD. The brick facade has inserts in white marble from Verona in its base, in the cornices and in its pilasters’ capitals. The Greek cross plan of the Basilica has a dome with lantern. In its four corners, the cross has four square areas topped by hemispherical domes. Internally the style is late-Renaissance; vaults and domes are decorated with precious frescoes by the school of the Carracci depicting stories from the Old Testament and there are also different kind of marble. In the vaults there are squares where the women of the Old Testament are painted. Then there is an extraordinary pictorial cycle and the altarpieces painted by the best artists of the seventeenth century of this area: Gianfrancesco Barbieri (il Guercino), Luca Ferrari, Tiarini, Ludovico Carracci, Bonomi, Lionello Spada. Guercino did a painting that is inside the Church and that is considered a masterpiece by critics: the “Crucifixion of Christ, with Holy Mary and the Saints Mary Magdalene, St. John and St. Prospero at his feet.
.The Synagogue of Reggio Emilia is located in Via dell’Aquila, in the historical centre. It is a religious building belonging to the Jewish worship, designed in 1856 AD by architect Marchelli, on the same site of a former synagogue built in 1672 AD. The building has a clean style, with, inside, columns and frescoes. Seriously damaged during World War II, with the vault collapsed, it has no longer been used for a long while till becoming, subsequently, a typography. Its antique furnishings were transferred to Israe due to the small number of hebrews in Reggio Emilia and therefore a scarce usage. Thereafter it remained closed for several years. In September 2008, in conjunction with the ninth edition of the European Day of Jewish Culture, it was restored and reopened..Santiago Calatrava’s cable-stayed bridges, also called ” The Sails “, were designed by this star of the modern architecture, as part of the restructuring project and redevelopment of the northern industrial area of Reggio Emilia, close to the railway station of the high-speed train Milan-Bologna and the motorway entry (A1). They are a new, modern gate of the City with three big bridges visible from several kilometers afar off. The central and biggest cable-stayed steel bridge is totally painted in white and is 220 meters long and 50 meters tall.
.The neo-classical Theatre Valli, named after the famous Reggiano actor Romolo Valli in 1980, stands on the biggest City square of Reggio Emilia, along with the Ariosto Theatre, the San Rocco Gallery and the Public Gardens. It was built between 1852 and 1857 AD, based on the design of Modena’s architect Cesare Costa. Thanks to its large surface area of about 3,890 square meters is perfect for being an opera house and concerts. Internally the Theatre has an horseshoe shape, five tiers of boxes and a gallery that can accomodate till 1,150 people seated. Externally the Theatre has a neo-classical facade of two orders, in brick and marble, with twelve Tuscan columns in granite on the ground floor and Ionic pilasters on the first floor. On the cornice there are some allegorical statues. The Theater has then a large upper room once used as a school of scenography. On April 29, 1961 the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti made his debut in this Theater, playing the role of Rodolfo in “La Bohème” by Giacomo Puccini.
. The Church of Christ, located in Piazza del Cristo, is an eighteenth-century Baroque style building. Closed by Napoleon, then reopened in 1814 AD, it was restored twice in 1800. On the facade there are three statues representing the three virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). Internally it has a single compartment and behind the altar is preserved a painting in oil on plaster painted by an anonymous reggiano artist during the plague of 1630 – ’31 and depicting the sacred crucifix with the sorrowful Virgin Mary on her knees at his feet. Currently the Church of Christ has become the Orthodox Church of Reggio Emilia.
. The naturalistic walk of the Crostolo torrent, also called ” small goats’ park ” is a beautiful natural oasis of 600 hectares at the edge of the City of Reggio Emilia, located in the southern outskirts. Perfect for a run, a mountain bike ride or a walk. The walk is walkable on both banks of the stream. The right bank is more “wild”, while the left bank has a pedestrian and cycle track. If you start from San Pellegrino bridge, using the pedestrian and cycle track that runs along the left bank of the torrent, extending for 6 kilometers, you can reach Villa d’Este (Corbelli’s tank). During the path. especially in the early morning or towards the late afternoon, you can easily meet pheasants, roe deers, squirrels, herons and other birds.