The Fortress

"Valiant fort" was the expression coined in 1520 by the pontifical governor Francesco Guicciardini to describe the powerful structure of the castle of Novellara
Piazzale Marconi

42017 Novellara

The fortress, situated in the centre of the town, houses the Town Hall offices, the Teatro della Rocca (Castle Theatre) and the Gonzaga Museum (under restoration).
Mention of Novellara first appears in a document dated 962 but the construction of a "castrum" is to be attributed to Gherardo Malapresa at the beginning of the 12th century. Malapresa built a tower surrounded by moats and embankments to substitute the pre-existing rudimentary enclosure, reinforced with paling. At his death the feudal land was inherited by his son and then sold in 1142. A contract of purchase dated 1270, leads us to suppose that before domination by the Gonzaga family, beginning in1358, it was the Sessi family which controlled Novellara. The building by Malapresa survived until Feltrino Gonzaga, invested with feudal power, decided to destroy the old building, conserving the "turris vetus" and designed a new structure which still stands today. Gonzaga created an efficient and organised building site; soon the foundation vaults were completed, and in 1386 the walls were raised as far as the first floor. The work, spanning more than seventy years led to the completion of the original building.
The castle in the form of a quadrangle had thick, crenellated, external walls with four large towers, one at each corner. It had two draw-bridges - one at the main entrance and the other on the opposite side of the castle, together with a wide moat At the entrance there was a ravelin to protect the main door onto which the trapdoors opened. The four projecting towers around the perimeter of the quadrangle plan have been heavily damaged in the past but conserve traces of
the Ghibbeline crenellations, especially on the west side. At the foot of the south-west tower, on the left when entering, there was a prison which can still be visited by going up a steep, brick stairway. The ground floor of the south-east tower has been incorporated into the Teatro Comunale (Municipal Theatre) built to replace the Gonzaga Theatre.
In 1492 Novellara suffered a terrible siege by Correggio troops, which finished after two months with the capitulation of the fort. The heavy damages suffered by the castle village and its still incomplete fortifications were repaired by Francesco I of Gonzaga, who having taken possession of the feudal land, finished the work on the defence structures and improved them by introducing artillery. In the years from1494 to1499 new fortifications were added to the castle which was threatened by the dispute over boundaries with Guastalla, governed by the Counts of Torelli, and with the States governed by their Mantovan cousins. When Costanza, wife of Alessandro Gonzaga, obtained rights over the fiefdom at the beginning of the 16th century, she started on a series of improvements beginning in 1541 for the reclaiming of marshlands, the building of the "Casino di Sopra" also known as "Bell'Aria" and for raising the level of one of the floors in the castle. The castle itself became the permanent site of the court of the lords at the end of the 1500s and was transformed into an official residence, thus losing its military connotations. The magnificence of the renaissance architecture and the efforts by the nobles to adapt to it, led Alfonso I Gonzaga and his brother Camillo to improve the building with a new floor and a loggia. From 1561 to 1566, under the direction of the painter Lelio Orsi, the castle rooms were decorated and given painted wooden ceilings, embellished with fine paintings, statues and great fireplaces carved from Verona marble. Having finished the residential apartments, attention was turned in 1670 to the servants quarters and to building a look-out tower, now known as the "Campanone" and which houses a clock and a bell. The keep, commissioned by Alfonso I, was partly adapted as a State prison and is entered by a door on the west side looking towards the castle.
When Filippo Alfonso, the heir of Alfonso II, died in 1728 ay the age of 28, all the feudal lands were given in dowry to the daughter of Ricciarda Gonzaga, Maria Teresa, the bride of Ercole d'Este , duke of Modena. The "salone dei Gonzaga" a room of great prestige, with beautiful carved wooden ceilings designed by Lelio Orsi, was created at this time in the tower at the northern extremity of the west side of the castle. When the Gonzaga dynasty died out, the Este family sold the castle to the community of Novellara in 1754. It was decided to demolish the Belvedere in 1850 because it was in dangerous condition. In 1884 an ice chamber was built underground in a north-easterly direction and pits containing human skeletons were found there in 1901; a macabre find preceded by a similar episode in 1885 in the chapel of San Carlo Borromeo.


How to get there:

From the Reggio Emilia exit on the A1 motor-way, take National Road SS 12 travelling north. Travelling on National Road SS 9, when you reach Reggio Emilia take National Road SS 12, which leads from the northern ring road to the A1 motor-way and on to Bagnolo and Novellara. Novellara is located immediately after Bagnolo. When coming from Mantua on the A22 motor-way, which runs between Modena and Brennero, exit at Reggiolo/Rolo. From the town of Reggiolo, which is only a few kilometres away, take National Road SS 12 travelling south. You can also take National Road SS 63 from Mantua to Guastalla, and turn left at Guastalla to travel southeast, arriving directly in Novellara. The muncipalities which border on Novellara are Bagnolo in Piano, Cadelbosco Sopra, Campagnola Emilia, Guastalla, and Reggiolo. Novellara Railway Station

Telephone
0039/0522/655426 - Municipality

Weekday Opening Times
guided tours upon reservation for groups only

Sunday and Bank Holiday Opening Times
10.00 a.m. - 12.30 p.m. and 3.00 - 6.30 p.m.; closed on April 23, 2008 and in August.

Group Charges
guided tours upon reservation for groups only (minimum 10 persons)
€ 4,00 each (free for - children under 12 years)
To reserve: 0039-0522-655426 (morning)