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The Modena territory, from the plains to the mountains, is rich in castles, fortresses, watchtowers and parish churches, traces of a centuries-old history that excites.
Just a few kilometres away from one another, the castles of Formigine and Spezzano, in an entirely Renaissance atmosphere, tell the story of the noble Pio di Savoia family which, in the sixteenth century, made them the seats of the Podesterie (Residences of the Chief Magistrates) of the State of Sassuolo.
The Formigine Castle, located in the centre of the town, takes you almost 1000 years back in time, with its walls, towers, keep, marquis’s palace and remains of the medieval church of San Bartolomeo.
Not far from Formigine stands the parish church of Colombaro dedicated to St. James, an important Romanesque site dating back to the time of Matilda of Tuscany.
Now we move on to Spezzano, where the Renaissance porticoed courtyard of the castle, surrounded by the greenery of the foothills, welcomes us with its extraordinary 16th-century painting cycle in the Sala delle Vedute (Hall of Views) and the Galleria delle Battaglie (Gallery of Battles). The balsamic vinegar in the casks of the pentagonal tower conveys heady scents.
Travelling along the Valle di Nirano, of the namesake castle only the square tower and part of the fortress remain today. These are privately owned and visible only from the road.
5 km from Nirano is the Romanesque parish church of Rocca Santa Maria, which offers a breathtaking view of the plain and contains carved capitals of particular beauty and originality.
On the hill further downstream, in Fogliano di Maranello, a nature trail leads to the Torre della Strega (Witch’s Tower), a watchtower dating back to the 10th century, part of a larger fortified system which also included the castles of Spezzano, Montegibbio and Maranello.
Maranello Castle, strategically located on the hill of the modern town and beautifully preserved, is privately owned and cannot be visited. It was built around the year 1000 by a noble Marano family (hence the name of the town of Maranello).