First of all it is crucial to take a trip around the squares in order to find your way in the city and understand sizes, distances and lifestyles.
Starting from Piazza della Vittoria you can see the historical Teatro Municipale dedicated to Romolo Valli. The theater was inaugurated in 1856 and it is one of the most complete expression of Emilian neoclassical style. In the same square there are also Teatro Ariosto (not far from Cavallerizza) and Galleria Parmeggiani, recognizable by its neo-Gothic tower. On the right of Teatro Valli there is the complex of the monastery of San Francesco, which now houses the large collection of Musei Civici (Civic Museum).
Continuing towards Piazza del Monte you can find on the left the seventeenth-century Palazzo Bussetti, recognizable by the big lantern on the corner. Also Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (Hotel Posta) – a medieval building revisited in historicist style in the early twentieth century – is overlooking the square. On the other side, Palazzo del Monte di Pietà – now bank offices – which was the first Reggio Emilia City Hall. The Via Emilia, ancient Roman road dating back to 187 BC, runs just in front of it.
Further on there is Piazza Prampolini, dedicated to the first Socialist mayor of Italy. Right in front of Palazzo del Monte di Pietà there is the ancient statue representing river Crostolo (which until 1300 flowed into the city) and dating from the seventeenth century. On the right you can find Palazzo delle Notarie, with its high and famous “porch of the hangman”. Going shortly along Via dell’Angelo you can see Casa Malaguzzi – recognizable by the little bas-relief of an angel on the corner of the building – which is the birthplace of Ludovico Ariosto’s mother. Continuing in the square, you will find the City Hall, in which there is the Sala del Tricolore and its museum. Torre del Bordello stands just behind it. The place for leisure hint by the tower’s name doesn’t seem to dwell exactly inside the tower, but in the street below. On the left side of the square there is Palazzo del Vescovado (Bishop’s palace), where the pedestrian subway of “Broletto” is embedded (the old “orchards” or gardens of canons), the Cattedrale della Santissima Annunziata (Cathedral of the Annunciation) and finally the Battistero (Baptistery).
Crossing the Broletto, you get to Piazza San Prospero. Behind us, the well-structured body of the Cathedral’s apses. Just in front there is the church dedicated to the city patron San Prospero, bishop of Reggio Emilia in the fifth century AD. Do not miss to gaze at the decoration of the apses, made by Camillo Procaccini, representing the Last Judgement. Of great interest it’s the octagonal sandstone bell-tower, which seems to be designed with the participation of Giulio Romano, who lived for a while in Mantua.
Going behind the bell-tower you reach Via San Carlo. Along the road, on the right, the severe facade of the seventeenth-century deconsecrated church of San Carlo. On the left you can see the high arc of the house of cloth merchants. In ancient times the tanneries of the city were located along this street. The house is characterized by the figure of a goat in the capital. At the end of the street there’s Piazza Fontanesi, suggestively surrounded by palaces built between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.
From Via Farini it is possible to go back to Piazza Prampolini (on the right of the City Hall). On this street there are the church and Palazzo San Giorgio. The church has been restored and re-consecrated during the Jubilee of 2000. The building is now home of the “A. Panizzi” City Library. Contemporary art lovers should not miss Sol Lewit’s painting “Whirls and Twirls” inside the library. Down the street you can reach Piazza del Cristo. On the left, the interesting form of Palazzo Rangone and the eighteenth-century Chiesa del Cristo.
Corso Garibaldi, ancient bed of the Crostolo stream, starts on the right. Along the street, on the left, you should not miss Palazzo Magnani, the important provincial museum; on the left there’s the great Basilica della Ghiara, which also Federcio Zeri calleddefined as “the biggest art gallery in the Emilia of the seventeenth century”.
Once arrived at the obelisk which marks the end of the street, you can turn right along Via Emilia. After a few hundred meters, on the left, you can adventure onto Via dell’Aquila. This narrow road is the main artery of the old Jewish Ghetto (the eagle mentioned in the road’s name was Este’s symbol that characterized the ghetto gate that was locked every night). On the right there’s the synagogue, rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II. The Torah of Reggio Emilia was taken in Haifa (Israel) after the war. Today the building is open to visitors, but religious celebrations are not held.
Continuing until the end of the street and then turning on the right, you arrive on Corso Cairoli, exactly on the side of Galleria Parmeggiani. If any guides is there, let them tell you the story of this Reggio Emilia counterfeiter, who seems to have passed off his false copyrights to the greatest museums around the world. By saying that, we got back to our starting point.
Once you’ve visited the historic core of the city, you can choose different routes and insights. Particularly interesting, after so many ancient monuments, could be to visit some of the places who witnessed modern events, and that in some way represent the future.
Leaving the city, a memorable view comes from Mediopadana Station and the bridges on the highway, close to the exit for Reggio Emilia, that were designed by Santiago Calatrava. Both are the elements of a new and modern urban landscape that is now becoming the new aspect of the city.
Another area of great interest is that of the International Malaguzzi Center which occupies the buildings of the former Locatelli factory, in a project of restoration of buildings and industrial spaces, to bring back to city life.
The Technopole project – another recovery of industrial areas of Reggiane Workshops and destined to become an industrial and university research laboratory – is situated next door and it’s definitely worth a visit. The wall surrounding the building was later enriched with a series of murals that trace the history of Reggiane from the foundation, in 1904, to its closing. An important piece of local history which is told to return to life.
“Recovery” has been the watchword for the construction of the new headquarters of the National Dance Foundation “Aterballetto”, in a former foundry of Lombardini Engines company, built in 1938. The original design, enhanced in the new structure, interacts with rehearsal rooms and tools workout for dancers: 65 meters long, 16 meters wide and 13 meters high. The outside has also been set up with the work of Eliseo Mattiacci “Dance of Orbs and Stars”, created in 2006.