Modena - MO
A fascinating tour of Renaissance buildings may be had by visiting the many localities around Modena.
The outstanding jewel of sixteenth-century art is the small town of Carpi (25 Km from Modena): the last of the Pio noblemen in Carpi, Alberto III (1475-1531), a humanist prince and an extraordinary intellectual, wanted to transform the hamlet into a princely seat of the Renaissance.
The town's "places of representation" (the square, the palace and the collegiate church) were either built from scratch or refurbished, and numerous works were carried out to improve the urban layout.
Palazzo dei Pio (Pio Palace), containing numerous rooms frescoed at the beginning of the sixteenth century, took on the appearance of a real court, with the construction of the reception courtyard, the facade and the internal decorations.
The Renaissance-era Piazza Martiri (276 metres by 60), with great impact in terms of perspective and flamboyance, was designed as the political, religious and administrative heart of the town.
The construction of the new Collegiate church, dedicated to Madonna Assunta (Our Lady of the Assumption), was begun in 1515, and it seems that a wooden model was brought from Rome for its construction.
The model may have been by Peruzzi, based on the mock-classical example that Raffaello had planned for Saint Peter's.
The route is completed with the Church of San Nicolò and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Castello, known as "La Sagra".
A branch of the Pio family of Carpi became the lords of Sassuolo (17 Km from Modena) and in 1499 they ordered the reconstruction of their already sumptuous residence.
Inside the Palace there are frescoes that can be dated to between the end of the 15th and the end of the 16th centuries.
On the orders of Francesco I d'Este the Pio castle in Sassuolo was transformed in 1634 into the summer residence of the Estense family.
The renewed Ducal Palace was embellished with frescoes by excellent artists such as Boulanger and works in exquisite Baroque taste such as the Peschiera or the Theatre of Fountains.
A few kilometres from Sassuolo there is also the (Castel of Spezzano), in the Municipality of Fiorano Modenese (20 Km from Modena), a fortified centre and residence of the Da Spezzano family in the 12th century and of the Da Castello family in the 14th.
It became a manor of the Pio family in 1535, and from then on was one of the most important seats of their domain until the end of the 1500s.
Frescoes attributable to the second half of the sixteenth century may be seen there, especially in the Sale delle Vedute (Rooms of Panoramic Views) and the Galleria delle Battaglie (Gallery of Battles).
Driving from Fiorano Modenese along the road returning to Modena you come to Baggiovara la Torre (private property), a typical tower house of the Modenese countryside.
Inside there is a series of frescoes by an anonymous artist of the second half of the sixteenth century, inspired by Ariosto and especially by the series painted by Nicolò dell'Abate in Bologna for Palazzo Torfanini.