[Emilia-Romagna Art Cities] Cesena in 3 minutes
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Of every city of Romagna, Cesena is the most secret one.
(Sergio Zavoli, I giorni della meraviglia, 1994)
Cesena is right in the heart of Emilia Romagna and it develops on the historic Via Aemilia; it is a city halfway between the blue of the sea and the green of nature, behind a green line of hills rich of vineyards and fruit gardens. It is historically renowned as “the city of the three popes”, even if this nickname is a bit of a stretch. Today it is a very dynamic hub, marked by a cuisine that has its roots deep in the Romagna tradition and by a modern and dynamic University Campus.
Cesena might not be the first tourism destination of Romagna, but it has its own beauty and cultural appeal. The city is representative of historical artistic and environmental values that are not second to any other city of the region. Its characteristic scorpion-shaped city centre is one of the most intact ones of all Romagna and it is crowded by clubs and bars that, as soon as the sun sets, are animated by warm voices and joyous laughter, being proof of genuine amusement and wellbeing.
Cesena welcomes the river Savio from the Tuscan-Romagnol Apennines, which, flowing towards the Adriatic Sea, passes through the modern residential area. The ancient city centre is not far from there: it is rich of buildings that tell a century-old story. Even if the city is much older, it mainly praises the government of the city during the years of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
Under the Signoria of the Malastestas (1378 – 1465), Cesena enjoyed a period of splendour, which gave the city the present aspect and that, despite the passing of time, is unchanged still today. The Malatestas designed the residential area and its walls, which are still visible in their entirety, but, most of all, they worked to rebuild the fortress. The fortress dominates the city from the top of the Hill Garampo and it is one of the best preserved and biggest fortresses of Romagna.
All year round, live music, food and drink events, as well as cultural events invade the streets of this friendly city that is always invaded by whirling joy. Among these are the festival A cielo aperto, the international festival of street food®, the festival Piazze di Cinema dedicated to the Art Week and the dancing parties inside Teatro Verdi. Moreover, great amusing events are the country festivals and the traditional initiatives, such as the Fiera di San Giovanni (June 24th) linked to the patron saint of the city.
Last but not least, every visitor has absolutely to stop in one of the several restaurants of the city centre or at one of the many eateries spread throughout the city, where piadina and crescioni are served fresh-cooked and hot. You cannot miss them, as they are the universal symbol of the Romagna food tradition.
Every art lover knows the treasures that Cesena jealously preserves inside its walls. Walking through the streets of the city centre, a standard tour should start from the Malatestian Library, the only humanistic library in Italy to be still unmarried. It was built in 1454 during the Malastestas government and it entered the Unesco register Memoire du Monde in 2005. If you go there, you certainly will lose yourself among the collections of the Archaeological Museum or be amazed by the breathtaking view of the Palazzo del Ridotto and of the Franciscan Cloister.
Following the porticoes in Via Zefferino Re you reach Piazza del Popolo. This big piazza is all covered by river stones, while the spring Fontana Masini (1591) stands out right in its centre; maybe it is the most loved monument by people of Cesena. The 14th-century Albornoz Palace is used today as Town-Hall. It counterbalances the big Malatestian Fortress, which hosts the Agriculture History Museum. If you want to get there, you have to climb the Garampo hill, but once you are on the top, the beauty of the landscape pays back all your efforts.
Among elegant buildings, such as the Ghini Palace and the municipal Bonci Theatre, and wonderful piazzas, religious buildings have their importance too. First of all, the Cesena Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista), the main place of Catholic worship of the city deserves your visit. The Romanesque style of its façade is in opposition to the rich Baroque frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto decorating the inside. The 11th-century Benedictine Abbey Santa Maria del Monte is not far away from the centre and it has been lying there, on the top of the Hill Spaziano, since the 11th century.
BEYOND THE CITY
Cesena lies between the hills and the sea and is surrounded by many interesting places that you can easily reach with a brief excursion. If you go up the valley of the river Savio you see welcoming villages such as the historical village of Sarsina, which is home to one of the most important archaeological museums of Northern Italy and the village Bagno di Romagna, famous since Roman Age for its wholesome waters.
If you proceed on the Cesena hills, you reach characteristic small villages and fortresses of extraordinary beauty, which are famous for their good food and their excellent wine: Bertinoro, Montiano, Longiano, Roncofreddo, Monteleone, Sorrivoli, Montecodruzzo, Sogliano al Rubicone, Montetiffi and Borghi.
In the end, there is a road crossing the valley that leads to the seaside: you can easily reach Cesenatico and the other nearby seaside resorts, and you will be warmly welcomed: their beach resorts and accommodation facilities are right what all the tourists seeking for a relaxing and amusing stay want.
HOW TO GET TO CESENA
The International Airport of Bologna “Guglielmo Marconi” is about 95 km from Cesena. In the opposite direction is the International Airport “Federico Fellini”, at a 42-km distance.
Take A14 Bologna-Ancona: this motorway meets A1 Del Sole, A21 Torino-Piacenza, A22 del Brennero (www.autostrade.it) and E45. E45 crosses the Apennines and connects the Romagna region with Central Italy.
The railway station of Faenza to all major Italian cities: www.trenitalia.it.