[Emilia Romagna Villages] Gualtieri: the town of the Bentivoglio family
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Small capital on the shores of the Po River, Gualtieri is a town rich in historical testimonies and is recognized as a masterpiece of late sixteenth-century urbanism.
Historians say that the name “Gualtieri” appeared for the first time during the Longobard domination as “Castrum Vultureno” which then became “Castrum Walterii“, due to residence of longobardo Gualtiero, lived in the 7th century.
But it is from the second half of the 1400 that begins the story of Gualtieri as we can still see it today; Belonged to the Sforza family, in fact, in 1476, the feud goes under the domains of the Este family of Ferrara, to which it will continue to belong until 1860.
From 1560 to 1635 he was offered to the rich family of Bentivoglio, who realized the “new city” according to patterns of a refined Late-Mannerism and under strict control of perspective laws, thus creating a huge stage in order to magnify the power of the Marchese. In 1635 Enzo Bentivoglio, at the request of Duke Francesco I d’Este, exchanged Gualtieri with the town of Scandiano. From then on to unification of Italy, Gualtieri was directly owned by the Estes. Gualtieri is also sadly known for two major floods that happened here, one in 1765, which in the square exceeded 3.50 meters, while the other in 1951 reached 3.80 meters.
The first stop of an ideal visit to the village of Gualtieri is the sixteenth century Piazza Bentivoglio, the heart of the small plain village which overlooks the main monuments of the city: Palazzo Bentivoglio, the Civic Tower and the Church of Santa Maria della Neve. The square, a perfect square of 96 meters on the side, was constructed with a background ambiguity, it had to serve both as a public place for the community and as a courtyard of honor of the Bentivoglio Palace. At the eastern backdrop of the square stands Palazzo Bentivoglio (of which today remains only the main front), which was erected by Ippolito Bentivoglio between 1594 and 1608 on the project of Gian Battista Aleotti, also known as Argenta. For all those who want to go inside the Palace of the Bentivoglio we suggest: the Cappella dei Signori, the Hall of Eneides, the Hall of Jupiter, the Hall of Icaro, the Giant’s Salon and the Hall of the Carpenters who still retain works and frescoes of extreme value.
The second place we recommend to see in Gualtieri is its particular Social Theater. Built in the northern wing of Palazzo Bentivoglio, the “Teatro Principe” was built in 1775 in baroque style and demolished and rebuilt between 1905 and 1912.
Located at the end of a orthogonal avenue stands the beautiful Villa Torello – Malaspina – Guarienti, a building that brings the signs of neo-classical architecture. Here we recommend a visit to the garden, designed according to the romantic canons, and which still represents one of the most interesting examples of a English picturesque garden in the Reggio Emilia area.
A curious story also concerns the works to drain the lands that were carried out in the countryside around the village of Gualtieri. The first project of the area’s reclamation was presented by the Gonzaga family, but implemented by Cornelio Bentivoglio, who managed to involve all the adjacent houses in the works and with the aim of regulating the precarious water situation in the surrounding marshes. These works were the cause by whom Cornelio Bentivoglio become a Marchese. Today, works and landscapes of the Gualtieri Reclamation can be conveniently visited by bicycle through the various cycling routes that run along the province of the small hamlet and neighboring countries.
Spring: Plain territory and spring blooms are the ideal setting for a bike ride along the Po cycling routes.
Summer: Visit the museums dedicated to the painter Antonio Ligabue: the Antonio Ligabue Painter Museum and the Antonio Ligabue Museum located in one of the houses belonging to the painter and the Antonio Ligabue Foundation that contains most of the painter’s works.
Autumn: The traditional Festival of October offers to all visitors a taste of typical local products, an event for food lovers, good wine and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Winter: Gualtieri is a classic example of the little capital of the Renaissance. The winter route we suggest is therefore a visit to the historic palaces and squares, an itinerary inside the large salons and the environments of Marchesi Bentivoglio.
– From Sunday March 19th and for all Sundays and Holidays in 2017, guided tours of the historical center of Gualtieri have been organized with the extraordinary opening of Palazzo Bentivoglio and its salons.
– On the initiative of the Municipality was born in March 1988 the Gualtieri Antiques Market which takes place in the beautiful Piazza Bentivoglio, the wonder of Renaissance architecture, every second Sunday of the month, excluding August.
Food and wine
In the Reggiano plain the gastronomic tradition to enjoy is all of great value: you can start from the fish of river, pork, or the pumpkin that grown in these campaigns; you can then go to the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, Lambrusco and Parmigiano Reggiano, the “King of Cheese” which is also cooked here. But if you want an advice on a truly local and particular specialty we recommend “fried dumplings“, authentic delicacy of these areas which can be enjoyed with local cold cuts and cheeses.
Antonio Ligabue, among the most important figures of Italian painting.
The Hundred Violins of Santa Vittoria, from which popular story says it derive the traditional “Liscio” dance.
Umberto Tirelli, stylist and owner of omonimous shop, which became famous for been the creator of many of the dresses of film and entertainment industry.
Paths and pilgrimage routes
To all those who are interested in the natural paths and the spiritual routes we point out that the hamlet of Santa Vittoria is crossed by the second stage of the Matilda’s Route.