[Emilia Romagna Villages] Bertinoro, wine town extraordinaire
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
The next beautiful little town from Emilia-Romagna that we have for you is in Romagna, in Forlì province to be exact, a place of rolling hills, verdant slopes and fine wines – Bertinoro! This medieval town has a magnificent panorama stretching out below it, from the Apennines to the Adriatic, which has earned it the nickname “the Balcony of Romagna”. Bertinoro also belongs to the Borghi Autentici d’Italia (Authentic villages of Italy) association.
There are two competing stories about where the name came from. On tasting a local wine from a plain cup, Emperor Theodosius’ daughter, Galla Placidia, said “Oh wine, this crude goblet is not worthy; I would drink you from a cup of gold” (berti in oro, in Italian). According to the other theory, Bertinoro derives from the Latin britannorum, for the British monks who lived here in the distant past. The town has rejoiced in its splendid castle, the defensive fortification that looms over the entire valley, since the Middle Ages, when Bertinoro deferred to the city of Ravenna. The Holy Roman Emperor controlled it from 1177 until Italian unification in 1861.
What to see
Bertinoro has several appealing features, starting with its beautiful fortress built around the start of the second millennium. In 1302, it hosted Dante Alighieri, as Carducci recalls in his ode The Church of Polenta. The town’s medieval hub is Palazzo Ordelaffi, a municipal building with two halls, the Sala del Popolo and the Sala della Fama, dating from 1306. The cathedral church of St Catherine of Alexandria, the town’s patron saint, has three aisles and is in bramantesque style. One of the main monuments is the Colonna delle Anella (the ringed column or the Column of Hospitality), next to the town hall. It was built at the behest of Guido del Duca and Arrigo Mainardi, in a bid to end the constant clashes between the warring noble families. The column had 12 rings, one for each family: when a pilgrim came to Bertinoro and tied his stick or horse to a ring, the family concerned would be their host.
What to do
Summer – Escape the heat by exploring the cool rooms in Bertinoro castle. It has been the University Residential Centre since 1994, hosting advanced courses and seminars, conferences and cultural events each year; it also houses the Museum of Religions, which explores, studies and collects artworks from the three great monotheistic faiths.
Autumn – At the foot of Bertinoro hill in the great Fratta Terme Park, the spa centre with its hot spring waters is the ideal place to go with the flow and rediscover your inner equilibrium. Stressed out? Relaxing weekends start here!
Winter – 3 miles from Bertinoro stands the famous Pieve di San Donato in Polenta, a 10th-century Romanesque church celebrated by Giosuè Carducci in his poem “The Church of Polenta”. The author recalls how Dante was hosted by Guido da Polenta, whose daughter Francesca da Polenta Malatesta would feature in Canto 5 of the Inferno.
Spring – A beautiful walk through the lanes in the spring air will help you work up an appetite for a break at Ca’ de Be, the regional wine bar, where you will discover why Bertinoro’s wine is so highly regarded.
In summer you’re spoilt for choice. Try Berti’n Jazz, the roving jam sessions in the old-town streets, and Berti’n Love on San Lorenzo’s night in the historic centre lit up specially by candles, lamps and lanterns.
The first Sunday in September is synonymous with the Festa dell’Ospitalità (the feast of hospitality), recalling a 13th-century tradition that began when the noble families of Bertinoro erected the Colonna delle Anella in the town square (see above).
In winter the Pomeriggi del Bicchiere (afternoons with a glass) is a series of events that leave the agreeable taste of good hospitality in the mouth. Ward off the winter chills with more than a few mouthfuls of moreish local food and wine in a convivial atmosphere punctuated by encounters with poets, authors and good music.
Every May, make a date with the most characteristic of all Romagnan white wine, at Albana Dèi. It’s an event for tasters of all levels of experience to taste wines galore and to help choose the best white of the year, in a festival of conviviality and traditional local foods.
Food and Wine
Like every other Romagna village, Bertinoro has a whole host of rather special wines and food products. But the pièce de résistance is surely Albana, “Bertinoro gold”, a white DOCG wine made from the fruit of native Romagna vines. Not forgetting the Sangiovese, of course, the powerhouse behind the king of wines – the Romagna Sangiovese DOC Riserva – or Pagadebit and Cagnina di Romagna, two very special local wines that have survived thanks to winegrowers’ determination to keep them alive. Other Bertinoro specialities include Saba, a grape syrup used to flavour drinks and foods, and Savor, a home-made jam made at harvest time.
– Guido Novello da Polenta (c.1275–1333), the governor who sheltered Dante during his exile in Romagna
– Ermete Novelli (1851–1919), theatre actor
– Aldo Spallicci (1886–1973), politician and dialect poet
– Alessandro Cervellati (1892–1974), painter, graphic artist, illustrator and writer
– Francesco Babini (1914–44), church minster, resistance fighter, and winner of the gold medal for civilian valour
– Dante Arfelli (1921–95), writer