In last weeks post, Finding Peace in Bertinoro, I mentioned a recent trip to the Province of Forli/Cesena in the region of Emilia Romagna, Italy.
Next, let’s head to Cesena, a city between the Apennines and the Adriatic sea. My first glimpse of Cesena confirmed what I had read – it is a prosperous city that loves art and culture, and is proud of its heritage.
Cesena is a treasure of architectural and historical interest, and the monuments and buildings are well preserved. You will not see peeling paint or a lot of graffiti decorating the doorways and walls.
When visiting Cesena a name you will hear over and over is Malatesta. Why? Because the history of Cesena is the history of the Malatesta family who developed the city (1400 – 1500s) and built two of the most important monuments there today, the Biblioteca Malatestiana and La Rocca.
Let’s take a walk through Cesena – the perfect way to absorb this absolute jewel in Romagna.
Beginning in Piazza del Popolo you will find the Palazzo Vecchio, which adjoins the walls of La Rocca, the old Malatestiana fortress. Every other Saturday there is a large outdoor market and like most markets in Italy, it is quite crowded and lively. Market days are a great way to discover the local culture and meet new people. You will also find the tourist information office under the loggia of the Palazzo Vecchio. You can’t miss it as it’s painted a wonderful ocher color with a huge clock face in
Directly in front of Palazzo Vechhio, you will see an intricately carved fountain, Fontana Masini, built of white marble imported from Istria. It is a popular meeting spot for both the locals and the local pigeons!
From Piazza del Popolo, window shop as you walk down Via del Zeffrino Re to Via Mazzini, then turn right to go to Teatro Alessandro Bonci in Piazza Giudazzi.
The theater facade is a neoclassical design in the style of La Scala in Milan. The people of Cesena take their arts and culture seriously. They were such enthusiastic theater goers that the original theater
was replaced by Teatro Bonci, as it was too small for the size of the audiences.
Be sure to check the website for hours of operation, so you can get a glimpse of the stunning interior. It has undergone a recent renovation and it’s really quite grand.
Walk back towards Piazza Almerici and stop to admire the facade of Palazzo Ridotto. Once the meeting place of the aristocracy of Cesena, the facade, renovated in the late 1700s by Cosimo Morelli, is said to be one of the best examples of Italian architecture of the 1800s. That’s Pope Pius VI in the center waving at everyone. He is one of three pope who were born in Cesena.
Behind Piazza Almerici, you will find the Biblioteca Malatestiana. If you don’t do anything else in Cesena be sure to visit this library! Biblioteca Malatesiana was the first public library in Europe and
it remains perfectly intact as it was when it was built in the fifteenth century in spite of wars, fires and the occupation of Napoleon!
It is a living monument to the period before printing presses and the craftsmanship of the era.
You will want to be sure and arrange this in advance as only a particular number of people are allowed at one time in the library in order to control the humidity and protect the precious contents. It is worth the effort!
It looks more like a small church, with a central nave outlined by tall white columns on each side, and flanked by stained glass windows. The windows were specifically placed to provide good reading light.
The reading benches are the original wood and have the Malatesta crest on the side. They look like church pews, but notice the chains which bind the books to the benches. This was not a lending library, but a place where anyone could come to read and study.
From the UNESCO World Heritage Memory of the World register, I found this description:
“Besides amassing the great works of medieval culture, Malatesta Novello collected the fruits of the classical Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arab traditions so that he could realize his project of a universal culture along humanist lines. The precious 343 codices are still in the place where they have lain for the past five centuries.”
Honestly, it’s worth the visit to Cesena all on its own.
Now walk back to Piazza del Popolo and up a rather steep hill to visit La Rocca Malatestiana.
Built around the 11th century near the remains of previous fortresses – it was the perfect place to see out over the valley and protect the town from invaders – or at least see them coming for miles.
Today the two interior towers how the museum of agriculture and a ceramics museum.
Agriculture is the most important business in Emilia Romagna, so a visit here is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.
La Rocca is surrounded by a lovely park and makes a great place to spend several hours enjoying a picnic and views all the way to the Adriatic Sea. You can also walk around the exterior walls, much like the walls in Lucca, Italy.
In upcoming posts I will write more about the food and wine of Forli/Cesena. Have you been to this region of Italy?
Thanks to my friend and co-blogger Catherine Sweeney for the lovely exterior shot of La Rocca.
“This post was a part of Buonvivere Blog Tour, organized by Settimana del Buonvivere in collaboration with 21grammy.