Castles, towers, bell towers

The Castle of Spezzano

Via del Castello, 12 - Spezzano - Fiorano Modenese - MO

Phone: Culture Office + 39 0536/833412 or + 39 0536/833418

Fax: + 39 0536/832728



From March to October: Saturday and Sunday 3pm to 7pm.; November: Saturday and Sunday 3 pm – 6 pm. Guided tours can be booked also on the days when the castle is closed to the public. Free guided tour on the last Sunday of the month from April to November at 5 pm, from March to October; last Sunday November at 4 pm.

The castle, probably dating back to before the 11th century, formed part of a vast fortified system made up of the forts of Rocca S. Maria, Fogliano, Nirano, Torre delle Oche and Fiorano.
In the late Middle Ages, under the rule of the Da Spezzano and Da Castello
Signoria, or Lordship, the castle was made up of simple, functional forms: first, a boundary wall, initially in perishable material, the keep, one or two towers, a few houses, the well and particularly the granaries and storage houses for the harvests from the introduction of the moat in the 14th century, the castle was accessed by way of a drawbridge to the north.

Until the 15
th century, the castle acted as a place of defence and refuge for the people, having watchtowers and pentagonal towers for visual communication, and succeeding, particularly during the wars of the 14th century, in resisting against attacks and sieges, like the one in 1355, during which the Este troops failed to storm the castle and take it by force from the ruling Visconti family. In 1395, marquis Alberto d’Este granted the castle in fief to Marco Pio, earl of Carpi. In the early years of the 16th century, Alessandro Pio of Savoia reorganised the State of Sassuolo, establishing Spezzano Castle as one of the five seats of the Podesta’. With the Signoria of the Pio di Savoia, the castle began to act as a residence of the lord, or ‘signore’ as well as a political, administrative and legal centre, leaving behind its function as a medieval fort.

In the last room on the ground floor of the west wing, restoration work brought to light a wooden ceiling decorated with polychrome panels bearing heraldic coat-of-arms (Pio and Bentivoglio), the initials of Enea Pio and the date 1531, which can be considered the end of the first phase of construction of the palazzo, which also includes, on the first floor of the castle, the Gallery of Battles e and its pictorial cycle and, in the Old apartment, known as Clelia and Marco’s, the bedroom with the marital coat-of-arms. The second phase, destined to complete the western and northern façades and mainly focused on decorative work, began in 1587, when Marco III Pio acquired the state of Sassuolo. Surviving of these works are painted architraves on the main floor, or piano nobile and the extraordinary Hall of Views on the ground floor.

At the end of the sixteenth century, presumably between 1595 and 1596, Marco III Pio (1567-1599) had painted, in the main room of Spezzano castle, the principal sites of his dominion: a sequence of no fewer than 56 views which featured even the smallest corners of his fief, made up of property in Modena and more in Sabina, received, in 1595, as a dowry from his wife Clelia Farnese, whom he married in Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola (Viterbo) on 2 August 1587.

The main room was thus decorated by Cesare Baglione with a cycle of paintings aiming to celebrate the power of the Pio di Savoia through the depiction of castles, towns and villages, from the plains to the mountains, belonging to the State of the Pio family, divided into five districts of the podesta’: Sassuolo, Spezzano, Formigine, Brandola and Soliera.

The fresco cycle, geo-iconographic and landscape in nature, finished in the vault of the room with the depiction of a crowned woman, the personification of Pietas, bearing the quartered Pio shield and the motto "Pia Soboles", the Pio dynasty.

The substantial restoration work, carried out in the mid nineteenth century, led to the cancellation of the paintings on the vault, as well as of the Pio shield, which can still be made out beneath the depiction of Spezzano dating back to that time. Painted in the Gallery of Battles, on the piano nobile of the castle, are epic feats that featured (from 1509 to 1512) Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio as the protagonist.

Meanwhile, around 1735, the Marquis Luigi Coccapani saw to the first restoration of the frescoes in the Hall of Views, while the cycle of paintings in the gallery were (or perhaps already in the previous period) completely cancelled.

Their rediscovery occurred following the disclosure and restoration work concluded in 1992.

The lower floors of the pentagonal tower at the south/east corner, inside the castle boundary wall, are home to suggestive dungeons bearing prisoner’s etchings and graffiti, while the second and third floor hosts the Municipal Vinegar Factory made up of three vats of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, complete with information panels and original furnishings. Marco Pio di Savoia died in 1599 and after a brief period of government led by the Este family, in 1629 the fief and Spezzano castle was transferred to the Marquis Guido Coccapani, whose family ruled until 1796.

During this period, besides its fundamental role as a residence and centre of the Signoria, the castle was also used for meetings of the Municipal council. In the Chamber called “della Ragione”, the Council met in the presence of the Podestà to elect the regents and officials of the Municipality and to deal with local affairs. Inside the castle was a court, known as the Pretorio, where the Podestà sat to serve justice and, next to it, rooms used as the judge’s residence. There were also four prison cells, located at the base of the two towers, on the south side and inside the home of the Podestà.

In the years that followed, the abolition of the court, the final dissolution in 1809 of the Municipality of Spezzano and the change in the castle’s judicial status definitively sealed the transformation of the building into a sumptuous manor house. In fact, in 1810, the Spezzano castle went back to being a private residence, for the Coccapani Imperiali family, which carried out various extension and restoration work, particularly in the years between 1862 and 1890; the castle was also given a new façade on the south side, by building a castle-style boundary wall with rectangular or Guelph battlements and large servants quarters, today used as a restaurant and caretaker’s house. Spezzano castle belonged to the Coccapani Imperiali family until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was inherited by Counts Pignatti Morano.
The Municipality of Fiorano then purchased the building in 1982, launching at that time both its restoration as well as historical–cognitive research into the castle.