Artifacts recovered around the middle of the 19th century date the town’s ancient origins to the Etruscan period (those finds are now housed in Modena’s Archaeological Museum).
The Etruscans were followed by the Gauls and, subsequently, by the Romans who spread their villas, farms, forges, and necropolises throughout the area they called “Castrum Vetus.”
Scholars believe that, beginning in the 8th century, Castelvetro was already a castle, which, by the following century, had become a large and important court.
Castelvetro’s medieval appearance is enhanced by its towers, which include the Tower dell’Orologio and the Tower delle Prigioni (the “clock” and “prison” towers, respectively). The towers face Piazza Roma, also known as Piazza della Dama (“Checkerboard Piazza”) for its alternating white and black paving stones. Beginning in 1330, Castelvetro was a fiefdom of the powerful Rangoni family, who increased the town’s prestige, and was occupied by the French in 1796. The Este Dynasty assumed control in 1815, and the Lords of Modena and Reggio maintained their hold on Castelvetro until independence and annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.
Why it's worth a visit
Castelvetro di Modena is a center of winemaking and is synonymous with the Lambrusco Grasparossa varietal, which is grown here along with the Trebbiano grapes used in the production of balsamic vinegar. This strong tie to a winemaking tradition makes Castelvetro an ideal place to spend pleasant days discovering local food and wine.
Castelvetro has been awarded the Italian Touring Club’s “Orange Flag” as one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy, and it is a magical place where visitors can lose themselves in history and tradition. Programs of many kinds are organized during the year and offer a variety of ways to enjoy your time.
Sites you won't want to miss
The Old Town
Surrounded in its ancient past by a city wall, this splendid and compact village offers unique treasures. Before anything else, we recommend a stroll through its narrow streets to admire the beauty. Once you arrive at Piazza della Dama (Piazza Roma), you’ll be surprised to find a charming piazza that offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding hills and is bordered by such notable buildings as the Palazzo Comunale del Secondogenito and Palazzo Rinaldi. The small church dedicated to Sts. Senesio and Teopompo is also in the old town, and Palazzo Rangoni is located across from it. The Palazzo features a large entrance with a decorated atrium, an internal courtyard, a grand staircase, and a gallery that connects the two wings of the palace where, in 1564, the famed 16th-century Italian poet Torquato Tasso was a guest.
The Fili d’Oro Exposition in Palazzo Rangoni (28 Via T. Tasso, Old Town)
Fili d’Oro a Palazzo is the permanent exhibition of the 16th-century style clothing worn in Castelvetro during the Renaissance era and recreates the ambience that surrounded the young poet, Torquato Tasso, during his stay at the Rangoni court.
The Municipal Vinegar Cellar (Via B. Cavedoni)
Two “batteries” of seven barrels each, all of them of different dimensions as the tradition of balsamic vinegar-making demands, are housed in the Municipal Vinegar Cellar. The wood used for the barrels is oak, chestnut, ash, acacia, and cherry. As soon as you walk through the entrance, the aroma of fermenting and maturing vinegar will greet you.
Good things to eat
In the rich tradition of local food and other products, Castelvetro offers opportunities to taste the Province of Modena’s best-known specialties: PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) balsamic vinegar, PDO Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco wine, zampone and cotechino (dishes made from a mixture of ground pork flavored with herbs and spices and stuffed into the hollowed-out lower-leg of a hog), and fresh filled pastas (tortellini in broth or the larger “tortelloni”), as well as gnocco fritto (pastries something like a deep-fried dumpling), crescentine (a round, flat bread, flavored with spices and generally eaten with cold cuts, cheese, or spreads), borlengo (a thin flatbread), and calzagatti (pan-fried polenta), accompanied naturally by a fine glass of Lambrusco Grasparossa.
A local specialty, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro di Modena has developed a rich and complex story during its thousand-year history. The local climate, soil, wild herbs, water, the exposure of fields to the sun, the wind, the slope of the vineyards, and annual rainfall all confer special characteristics to Lambrusco grapes and to the fine wine that comes from them.
The Gusto Natura Cultura (Taste Nature Culture) Fair—March to November
The Gusto Natura Cultura (Taste Nature Culture) Fair is an opportunity to discover what the entire area has to offer. Its colors, traditions, food, and wine come alive in excursions designed to make the most of local specialties, of the area’s natural environment, of its cultural heritage, and of its impressive cultural attributes.
The Graspalonga Gourmet Weekend—May
The Graspalonga Gourmet Weekend is an excursion designed to combine nature, sport, food, and wine on a bicycle trip through the local hills.
This easy trail is great for adults who are non-experts and includes stops for tastings at local wineries and farms.
The Mercurdo “Market of the Absurd” (June in odd-numbered years)
The Mercurdo “Market of the Absurd,” held in alternating years near Castelvetro’s historic center, features performances and exhibitions organized around the theme of the Absurd. Numerous booths and stalls offer carefully selected objects both strange and unusual.
The Calici di Stelle—August
The Calici di Stelle event brings star-gazing together with tastings of local culinary specialties. Local vineyards showcase the best of their wines, and restaurants offer gourmet specialties from their menus. The event is promoted by the Italian “Wine Cities” Association and the Wine Tourism Movement group.
Historical Procession and Living Checkers—(September: even-numbered years)
This evocative historical event reenacts the celebrations of the Rangoni Marquises in honor of the 16th-century poet, Torquato Tasso, who stayed in Castelvetro. The event is held in the charming “Checkboard Piazza” (Piazza della Dama) in the historic town center.
Festival in Castello (September—odd-numbered years)
Festival in Castello is a sumptuous Renaissance banquet that requires guests to don their most stylish clothes. Musicians, fire eaters, gypsies, and period dances are all part of the fun.
The Festival of the Grape and Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro—September
The Festival of the Grape and Lambrusco Grasparossa is a series of many programs and events: tastings in the old town and at nearby farms, discussions of wine-growing and –making by experts in the field, music, performances, activities for children, a market-exhibition of traditional local products, food stands, and the Carri di Bacco parade. The festival is designed to honor and celebrate the importance of agricultural to the area’s history and culture and focuses on its most important wine: Lambrusco Grasparossa.
Poetry Festival—Last Weekend of September
The Poetry Festival takes place over four days in the towns that make up the Terre dei Castelli area between Modena and Vignola. Performances and talks by internationally known guests, including poets, actors, musicians, and artists, are intended to involve the public in the enchantment of verse.
“Orange Flag” Towns Celebration—October
The “Orange Flag” Day is organized to allow visitors to discover the most beautiful small towns in Italy—those that have been awarded the Italian Touring Club’s “Orange Flag” for high-quality tourist experiences.
Long Live Christmas! The Viva Christmas Celebration—December
During the weekends before Christmas, the shops of Castelvetro’s old town come alive with festive lights and Nativity scenes. There’s plenty to entertain adults and children alike.
Levizzano Rangone Castle (Via C. Cavedoni in Levizzano Rangone)
The Levizzano Rangone Castle, in the tiny village of Levizzano Rangone, is surrounded by a wall, in the center of which the Matildica Tower guards the entrance. The “Bishops’ Rooms” (Stanze dei Vescovi), with their wood ceilings and Renaissance frescoes, are from the 16th century, and the open gallery on the second floor provides magnificent views of the nearby hills covered in grape vines.
The Rosso Graspa Museum of Wine and Rural Life (ground floor of the Levizzano Rangone Castle)
The Rosso Graspa Museum of Wine and Rural Life is dedicated to local history and culture and to the area’s most special product: Lambrusco Grasparossa wine. Extraordinary photographs, drawings, and farm equipment help the past come alive as visitors follow the steps of the wine-making cycle (the “Grape Road,” the “Soil Road,” the “Wood Road,” etc.). Special Learning Areas provide more in-depth information, and exciting sound tapestries bring back the voices and sounds of the past.
The Oratorio of St. Michael the Archangel (San Michele Arcangelo) (Via Tiberia, Levizzano Rangone)
The architecture of this oratory, a Romanesque-style gem that dates to the second half of the 12th century, is austere and simple with remains of the original ornamentation on the façade and main door. The interior is quite bare: six frescoed figures representing the saints are the only décor.
Puianello Sanctuary (Via del Santuario 9, Puianello)
The Puianello Sanctuary was built in 1716 by the Marchioness Teresa Rangoni and dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health (Madonna della Salute). The Baroque-style church, constructed on a Latin-cross floor plan, houses such invaluable works of art as a painting of Our Lady of Health attributed to the 16th-17th-century Italian Baroque painter, Giacomo Cavedoni.
Campo San Rocco, former Napoleonic Cemetery
In the small underlying suburb of the castle of Levizzano, there’s an ex Napoleonic Cemeteryworthy of mention. In compliance with the introduction of the Napoleonic “Edict of Saint-Cloud” law in Italy in the early 19th century, the burial ground was built just outside the town walls, in the field of San Rocco at the foot of the Castle. It is one of the few remaining examples of its kind in Italy today.
The best time for a visit
As is true for the entire Province, the mild temperatures of Spring and Fall make those seasons the most pleasant time to visit. Given Castelvetro’s considerable charm, however, as well as its many events and activities, it is lovely to visit at almost any time of year.