Castles and fortress to discover aruond Modena

La Rocca Estense di San Felice sul Panaro era nel circuito dei castelli modenesi dal Blog Travel Emilia Romagna


Castles and fortress to discover for free

Sara Mantovani May 10, 2013

Today we would like to present you the castles and fortress lying around Modena and among them the ones you can visit with no admission fee.

san felice sul panaro fortressSan Felice sul Panaro Fortress

The origins of the town of San Felice can be traced back to the mid or late Bronze Age when the entire lowland plain and the area
surrounding the Po River were populated by “terramara” villages.
The Castle as we know it today took on its current look during the reign of the Este family. It was first built in 1340 by Marquis
Obizzo III d’Este and in 1406, Nicolò had it renovated by the famous military architect Bartolino Ploti. San Felice also suffered damage at the hands of Gastone di Foix; during the Spanish war, the French set the castle on fire. When you visit the castle, be sure not to miss the dungeon, Julius II’S room, the G. Venturini Archeological exhibit, and the Environmental Education Wing.

The fortress is open on Sundays from 10.00 to 12.30 and in the afternoon from 15.00 to 18.30. It will be closed in July and August. Free entrance. Ph. +39.0535.86320


spilamberto fortressSpilamberto Fortress

The fortress, Spilamberto’s most important historical and artistic structure, rises from an ancient complex around a large 13th century tower, built as the main nucleus of defence by Modena’s town council to oppose the Bolognese. The fortress
comprised a typical fortified quadrilateral with towers, battlements, and merlons in 1353, when the castle was given to the Rangoni family, who from 1454 were feudal landlords. Originally the side facing the river housed the main entrance, where there are traces of a drawbridge and surrounding walls. Between the 15th and 16th centuries its residents were the ruler of Spilamberto, Niccolò Rangoni, and his wife Bianca Bentivoglio. The Rangoni family inhabited it during the 1650s and 1660s, and transformed it from a fortress into an elegant residence. This was the period of greatest splendour, when it was known as the “enchanting palace” for its rich furnishings, and paintings inside, outside, and in the courtyard. Its proximity to the hills and the Panaro river rendered the fortress a place of pleasure and sumptuous celebrations. It hosted many illustrious guests, attracted by its pleasant climate and pleasures on offer. The balcony overlooking the square is of the 18th century.  The side of the building opposite the Panaro river still retains features from the 1400s. There are visible traces of the castle walls with its guard tower (castrum).
The fortress has belonged to the town council since 2005, and the park is now open to the public.

Timetable: Mon-Fri, 8.30am -1.30pm. Visiting hours for the park and courtyard: March, April and October from 8.30 am to 18.00 pm; from May to September from 8.00am to 7.30 pm. Closed Monday. Entrance free.


vignola fortressVignola Fortress

The name Vignola comes from the Latin vineola, meaning “tiny vineyard”. The town banner still includes this symbol. The place was first mentioned in a Nonantola Abbey document dating back to 826 A.D. The exact year of the Fortress foundation is, instead, unknown, but we can reasonably assume that it was built in the years following the end of the Carolingian dynasty to withstand the Hungarian invasions. During that time towers and fortified walls were built to defend towns and villages.
Tradition attributes to the Nonantola Abbey the building of the first fortress. In the two following decades, the Fortress deeply changed its function and became a sumptuous richly frescoed residence of the Contrary family, used to the comfort and magnificence of the Ferrara Court.
After the Contrari dynasty’s extinction caused by the violent death of Ercole Contrari, the Young, in 1577, the Fortress was handed over to the Boncompagni family. In the 19th century the building became the premises of the political and social town institutions: the City Hall, the library and the bank Cassa di Risparmio di Vignola, which purchased it in 1965 to hand it over to Fondazione di Vignola in 1998. A constant and careful restoring work in the last decades has given the architectural structure and the paintings back to the original splendour. The Fortress ground floor and the first floor halls are decorated with 15th century frescoes passing
on the story of the Contrari family highlighted by the close alliance with the Estes. A unique sight is offered by the recently restored, precious series of late Gothic frescoes adorning the Fortress Chapel commissioned by Uguccione Contrari. The paintings portraying Christ’s stories are attributed to the “Master of Vignola”, a leading artistic personality in the first decades of the 15th century,
whose identity is still unknown. The building includes also the Armiger/Armour rooms, the walkways and the three towers called: Torre di Nonantola (Nonantola Tower), Torre delle Donne (Women’s Tower) and Torre del Pennello (Paintbrush Tower). Underground, two congress halls were obtained out of the old cellars: the Contrari Room and the Grassoni Room.

Summer opening times: Week days: 09.00 -12.00 and 15.30 – 19.00
Holidays: 10.30 -13.00 and 15.30 – 19.00
Closed on Mondays. Free admission INFO:

spezzano castle

Spezzano Castle

The Spezzano Castle’s origins trace back to medieval times: the moat, drawbridge and embattled walls testify to the 14th and 15th centuries; a pentagonal tower (today the seat of the Municipality’s vinegar producing consortium), attests to its calling as a defensive stronghold. In 1529 Lord Pio of Carpi started transforming the medieval structure into the present-day noble palace with its fulcrum in the sensational medieval courtyard with an arched portico in the Sala delle Vedute and the Galleria delle Battaglie (Hall of Views, Gallery of battles). The widest hall of the Spezzano castle exhibits a unique pictorial series commissioned by Marco Pio III to  celebrate the economic power of his family through an exhibition of a real estate cadastre with 57 reproduced views of the landscape with towers, castles and villages. Frescoes, pictorial series and 16th Century lacunar ceilings with polychromatic panels decorate the other rooms of the ground floor and piano nobile. The FioranoTown Council bought and renovated the castle in 1982. Surrounded by an attractive historical park, it became the permanent seat of the Ceramics Museum, a venue for meetings and temporary archeology and contemporary ceramics exhibitions. The Ceramics Museum documents the techniques and methods of ceramic production from the Neolithic to contemporary ages. It synthesizes three types of museums, the technological, archeological and historical-artistic types spread out in a Historical Section, a Contemporary Section and a Modern collection completed with a Clay Laboratory.

The Castle is open from May to November from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with free entrance.
Ph.+39 0536.833418