[Emilia Romagna Villages] Longiano: all the character of Romagna
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Looking onto the Rubicone Valley amid vineyards, orchards and olive groves stands the historic little burg of Longiano. This fortified medieval gem dominates the lush landscapes of Cesena and Rimini from its perch in the foothills of Romagna.
This is one of those places where you can still find Romagna at its most authentic, with its cuisine, its jovial personality and its bubbling social and cultural life. Five museums, a beautiful castle, the Petrella Theatre and a host of events make Longiano an ideal place for artistic, cultural and even spiritual pursuits.
To trace Longiano’s origins, we have to go back to when the Lombards arrived in Italy, in the 7th and 8th centuries, while fleeing the barbarian invasions. It assumed greater military and strategic importance during the wars between the cities of Cesena and Rimini, an era that saw Longiano at the sharp end of a protracted struggle.
In about 1290, the House of Malatesta took control of Rimini, and Longiano with it, but despite the family’s power, the conflicts with Romagna’s other cities (Cesena, Imola, Faenza and Forlì) rumbled on until the Romagna region was subsumed into the Papal States.
It was in this period of bloody local skirmishes that Longiano acquired the appearance we can still admire today, surrounded by imposing ramparts and dominated by the mighty Malatesta castle.
History also records the affair when the people of Longiano took on the might of Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentino. When Borgia decided to proclaim himself Duke of Romagna, with the approval of his father, Pope Alexander VI, Longiano refused to toe the line. The duke’s army promptly paid Longiano a visit – and flattened it.
After a few years under the Venetians, traces of whom remain, with the bath in the Castle Court, Longiano came back under the pope’s control in 1581, where it remained until Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in 1790.
After the victories at Solferino and San Martino, Longiano finally became part of the nascent Kingdom of Italy in 1859. The Petrella Theatre was built around that time, and it still remains Longiano’s cultural hub.
No account of Longiano’s history would be complete without mentioning how the town suffered during the final stages of World War II. 1944 will remain one of Longiano’s lowest ebbs, as it was bombed repeatedly because of its proximity to the German defences on the Gothic Line.
Today, Longiano is a community of about 7000 people and has flourished economically since the war while preserving its small-town character and quality of life, like many of Romagna’s hill towns.
What to see
The town’s historic centre has a strong medieval flavour, with five museums offering visitors a wealth of historical and artistic treasures to discover. The obvious place to start is the Malatesta castle, a characteristic medieval Italian fortification that is also home to the Tito Balestra Foundation, a collection of about 5000 works by 20th-century artists like De Pisis, Morandi, Guttuso, Maccari, Mafai, Sironi and many others.
The town’s roster of museums also includes the Museum of Sacred Art in the Baroque Oratory of San Giuseppe, the original Italian Museum of Cast Iron with street furniture produced in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Museo del Territorio (rural life museum) with tools of the ancient trades and exhibits about farming life, the Art Gallery and the Petrella Theater, a 19th-century gem and still one of Italy’s many small playhouses that welcome artists of international standing every year.
You should also go and see the Second World War Refuge, a shelter under the old town centre that bore witness to a terrible time for Longiano and all of Romagna.
What to do
This is probably the best season to experience the almost unreal atmosphere created by the mist creeping up the hills from the plain around Longiano. Some days, when you gaze out from the castle terrace, it’s as if you were on an island floating on the fog, while on a clear day you can glimpse the Adriatic on the horizon. Autumn is a special time to visit Longiano; even if it rains, you can always beat a retreat to one of the fabulous local restaurants.
The easy pace of life in the Italian hills combined with the mild climate courtesy of the nearby Adriatic Sea make Longiano a great place to explore in winter. Every Christmas, the Nativity Fair fills the town with hundreds of cribs by artists from near and far, which remain on display until the end of January.
Good living, good food, biking and hiking in the hilly wilds: that’s spring in Longiano in a nutshell. And with all the colours of the fruit trees in full bloom and the views across Romagna to the sea, this is one corner of paradise you’d be mad to miss.
All the flavour of Romagna, without the heat or seaside traffic. Summer in Longiano can be your haven from the roar of the city or your starting point for some exhilarating hikes across country and trips to the famous beaches. And did we mention how deliciously cool it is up here in the evening?
Food and wine
Longiano is part of a generous land that offers many fine local products, from honey and fragrant extra virgin olive oil to wines such as Sangiovese and Trebbiano. The many orchards give the fields a splash of spring colour, with cherries, plums, apricots and PDO nectarines. The local cuisine reflects the simple, tasty flavours of Romagna. Popular pasta dishes include cappelletti, pastatelli, tagliatelle with ragù, lasagne, strozzapreti and maltagliati. And favourite second courses range from game, grilled chicken, and rabbit with roast potatoes to the fresh meat and salami of the prized Mora romagnola pig.
How to get to Longiano
St. Porta del Girone 2, open troughout the year
Tel. +39 0547-665484 | Mail: email@example.com