Already inhabited in Roman times, its land and the wonderful second century fortress in its position dominating the upper Scoltenna valley, on the Bologna regional border, were contested at length by the people of Modena and Bologna and the Montecuccoli and Tanari families, until they came under domination by the Este family, who in the eighteenth century handed the feud over to the Selvatico Marquises and then to the Malaspina Counts.
In more recent times, during World War Two, its history was linked to the Gothic Line, not far from here, which for about two years divided Italy between the Nazifascists in the North and the Allies in the South. Today the area is scattered with restored buildings and posts that date back to this period.
Why it’s worth a visit
Montese is an affable, relaxing little mountain town where you can enjoy natural surroundings and explore interesting historic sites from both the Middle Ages and the more recent mid-twentieth century.
Sites you won't want to miss
Rocca di Montese
The Rocca di Montese is a fortress from 1200. Its imposing tower with Ghibelline crenellation and surrounding walls are both remarkable. Heavily damaged during World War Two, it was then renovated by the local council and turned into an exhibition venue. Today, it houses the History Museum, which documents the evolution of human settlements in the local area from the early archaeological finds to after World War Two, and the Forum Artis Museum, a permanent exhibition of contemporary sculpture with a hundred or so pieces by artists from 16 countries around the world.
A Collection of Things from Montese
The Raccolta di Cose Montesine is in Iola, next door to the church of Santa Maria Maddalena. This is, literally, a collection of things, thousands of them, that illustrate the ancient customs and traditions of the Modena mountains.
A protected marking, the Patata di Montese is a typical potato variety grown here. Extremely good quality and very well-known, it gets its characteristic flavour from the soil it is grown in and stores well, doing away with the need for chemical treatments.
The Montese Potato Festival (late August - September)
The town’s traditional potato festival in celebration of this typical product.
The Oratories of Monteforte and Riva di Biscia
One in Monteforte, the other in Riva di Biscia and both these interesting oratories have wonderful fourteenth-century frescoes.
The Belvedere Trail
This trail can be followed on foot, on horseback or by bike. About 48 km long, it goes from Casona di Marano to Montese, to Mount Belvedere.
When to come
Late spring and summer are the best seasons for enjoying the peace and quiet here.