[Emilia Romagna Villages] Monteleone, the medieval village
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Monteleone is a historic hamlet of the town of Roncofreddo, a few miles from Cesena. The settlement is first documented in 1233, when Monleonis (as it was in Latin) and its castle towered over the whole Cesena area.
It is still in fine fettle today, as the Italian Touring Club acknowledged in awarding it Orange Flag status as a well-preserved, flourishing, attractive little old village.
The village of Monteleone grew organically around the castle in the era of the great noble families. Its exact origins are uncertain, although we do know that around the year 1000, the castle was owned by the church of Ravenna, which was vying for supremacy with Rimini.
The Malatesta family of Rimini built a proper castle in the 14th century; Francesco degli Ordelaffi, Lord of Forlì, took it off them in 1335 before losing it to the Duke of Montefeltro, only for it to come back under the church’s control and boomerang back to the Malatesta in 1433. The merry-go-round resumed in 1485, when it returned to the control of the archbishop of Ravenna before then being taken over by the Roverella family of Cesena. They held it until 1745, extending the castle and turning it into a summer residence, while encouraging house building around the old walls, demolishing the existing dwellings by the main house and establishing the hanging garden.
The castle was sold to its current owners, the Counts of Volpe, and is no longer open to the public.
What to see
Summer: Take a break from the beating sun by diving into the local churches to explore Romagna’s history. Don’t miss the Malatesta temple or San Biagio’s church in Roncofreddo.
Autumn: Ah, autumn! Wine, falling leaves, shades of amber and gold …. Discover the flavours of Romagna on the local wine trail, the Strada dei Vini e dei Sapori; there are plenty of lovely old taverns to drop into.
Winter: Revel in the charm of a snow-dusted Byron Square over some roast chestnuts and a glass of Sangiovese. The famous English poet stayed here in the early 1800s while romantically involved with the Countess Gamba.
Spring: A trip to the lake is just the ticket! Monteleone’s lake offers beautiful views and sunsets, so why not admire them over a spot of angling?
Autumn in Monteleone means the oldest folklore event in the area: the feast of Our Lady of Monteleone. For the last few years, the event has coincided with the fig festival, which celebrates a famous and delicious local product.
The Borgo Sonoro concert series comes to Roncofreddo every summer, when Monteleone’s Byron Square echoes to some sublime sounds. What finer way to spend a summer evening?
Food and Wine
On a gourmet pilgrimage through the little towns of Emilia-Romagna, the imaginative recipes always put a tingle in your taste buds. Today, it’s time to discover Sapa, the local grape syrup obtained from freshly cooked must. Whether red or white, it’s a great way to add sweetness to a variety of traditional recipes: it can be used in water ices, sorbets or drinks, it goes well with beans, chickpeas and chestnuts, and a good dollop is just the ticket on a tart or doughnut!
If you’re more of a savoury person, you’ll love the Ravenna stewed beef with milk. You can vary the recipe in lots of ways with a few simple ingredients; I like to put a couple of onions in the pan: simply delicious.