Estense Fortress

The Castle, after being destroyed by Federico Barbarossa in 1167, was rebuilt with mighty towers and was passed to the Roberto family of Reggio Emilia.
corso Umberto I, 22

42018 San Martino in Rio

Around 1420 it passed under the dominion of the Estense family, from 1501 to a marquis branch of the Este family , and from the second half of the 18th century to the Rango of Aragon family.
The building which is on a rectangular plan, conserves intact one of the square, corner towers with ghibelline crenellations. Inside the building, the most important rooms are the chapel of San Giovanni (15th century) and some rooms with painted, wooden ceilings, frescoes and stucco work dating from the 15th to 18th centuries.
The public library is housed on the first floor, the piano nobile, and the Museum of Agriculture and the Rural World on the ground floor.

Telephone 0039/0522/636709-636726 - Municipality

Weekday Opening Times
upon reservation
Sunday Opening Times

from 10.00 to 12.30 a.m. and from 3.00 to 6.30 p.m. (summer afternoon opening 3.30÷7:00 pm.m) - visits are scheduled and  accompanied with a guided tour , every hour

Visit Charge

Euro 5.00 (adults); Euro 2.50 (for children aged 12-18 ,over 65 years, university students).< br />The entrance to the Museum of Agriculture and Rural World is included in the fee. For information , booking and groups , please contact Municipality (Culture Office) or the Museum itself

Free Chargefor children under 12 , disabled people

The Estense castle is built on the site of a terramara of the Bronze Age, in the vicinity of the ancient Trixinaria river. There is evidence of human settlement in the area down the ages until the first archive documents which date from the beginning of the millennium, when the castle with the chapel of San Martino was given in fiefdom to Bonifacio di Canossa. Later Matilda countess of Canossa ceded San Martino to the powerful Roberto family of Reggio Emilia.

After the destruction of the castle by the Gonzaga family, in 1353 the Roberto family rebuilt it on the plan of a walled stronghold of rectangular shape with four bastions at the corners and a wide moat around the perimeter. Of this wall there remains today only the north-east corner, whilst the rest of the area is occupied by the "castle lawns". From 1430 onwards, the castle and its feudal lands became the dominion of the Estense family .Thanks to Borso d'Este radical restoration work was begun with ducal engineers and painters who decorated various parts of the building, internally and externally. In 1497 the estate went to Sigimondo, the brother of Borso and the first of the line of the Este San Martino family. The marriage of Filippo I d'Este with Maria, the daughter of Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, made it necessary to transform the building into a sumptuous residence. It is thought that the architect Giovan Battista Aleotti, known as L'Argenta, may have been responsible for the project. The building was
extended with a new west wing, with a wide stairway and reception rooms.
The rooms, decorated with ceilings painted with grotesque figures by Emilian masters, can still be admired today thanks to the restoration work of the last twenty years.
In 1752 , with the extinction of the Este San Martino line, the terrain was ceded to Don Paolo d'Aragona who undertook radical restoration work following the style and tastes of the time with lowered ceilings, stucco work and fireplaces in plaster and marble.
The eastern facade onto the piazza was rebuilt with a row of shuttered windows at the level of the first floor and decoration by the painter Borsellino, from Modena. Other transformations continued to take place up until the end of the
last century, at which time municipal offices were housed on the first floor.
The castle was last restored in 1997 to a project by the architect Mauro Severi. The castle now also houses the Municipal Library and the Museum of Agriculture and of the Rural World.

The Estense Castle Ground Floor
1. The court of honour has, on the east side, an antique portico now housing one of the museum rooms, with columns and capitals with leaf motifs, dating from the beginning of the 15th century. The portico was re-opened during the recent works of restoration. Under the plaster are the traces of painted decoration applied directly onto the brick work. On the west side another portico with re-used antique columns in granite, leads to the stairs of honour (end of the 16th century), part of the work carried out by Filippo d'Este
2. The eastern part of the ground floor houses the museum rooms. The wooden ceilings are of the 15th and 16th centuries.
3. The room conserves traces of decoration on the ceiling (15th C) showing scenes of Estense history, and re-decorations on the wooden ceiling and frieze with grotesque figures from the second half of the 16th century. The cherubs and female figures of the frieze are worthy of note.
4. The Green Room conserves interesting decoration from the 15th century with cherubs bearing coats of arms and painted projecting brackets, the work of painters of the Erri family, commissioned by Borso d'Este who was Lord of San Martino and also Lord of Ferrara.
5. This room also conserves remains of friezes painted by the Erri family with cherubs and garlands of fruit.
6 & 7. In these two rooms the original wooden painted ceilings are from the beginning of the 17th century. The walls, under restoration at the present time, are completely decorated.

8. The San Giovanni chapel, built in 1395, still conserves the Verona marble friezes around the portal, the apse and the altar, a sandstone coat of arms of the Roberti da Tripoli family, and an interesting St. Martin also in sandstone.


The Estense Castle - The First Floor, (Piano Nobile)

9. The spacious entrance to the first floor has part of an original wooden ceiling painted in the 16th century. The entrance leads into the large rooms of the west wing which were re-painted at the beginning of the 17th century during the transformation of the ancient stronghold into noble residence.

10. The Theatre was used for its original purpose from the 1850s until the 1930s. The ceiling was decorated in the1600s and the surrounding frieze is painted with heraldic scenes paying tribute to the virtues of the d'Este San Martino family and painted in the 17th century. The decoration from the 1800s which transformed the room into a theatre, is on the lower parts of the walls, the wall paintings and the east wall where a stage-door was positioned. The stage was in the a large entrance.

11. This room also contains decorations on the ceiling and in friezes singing the praises of the Este family's virtues. Glorious moments of family history with mottoes in Latin, French and Spanish are interspersed with white and black eagles belonging to the family heraldry.
12. This large, 18th-century room, repainted at the beginning of the last century by the painter Bizocchi from San Martino, following the original decorative scheme, conserves on the eastern wall the arms of the last Marquis of San Martino, Paolo Rango d'Aragona.
13. This is the first room of the apartments belonging to the Marquises of San Martino. The walls and the vaulted ceiling were re-decorated at the request of the last marquis, Don Paolo d'Aragona, with marsh scenes and landscapes. The fireplace in stucco and plaster in the Carpi style, the external shutters and the lacquered and gilded doors all date from the 18th century.
14. This is the first ante-camera to the Marquis' study. The ceiling and the frieze immediately below were painted at the end of the 16th century with landscapes and grotesque figures attributed to Filippo di Ferrara. The walls were painted with fake, damask wall-paper at the end of the 18th century.
15. It is probable that the Marquis d'Aragona used this room for administering justice, whose figure is depicted on the chimney piece. The ceiling and the friezes beneath it were decorated with grotesques dating from the second half of the16th century like the preceding room. The walls, decorated with chinoiserie - small ovals with scenes of oriental life - also date from the 18th century. In the study the vaulted ceiling conserves the original 18th century decoration with naturalistic motifs and domestic animals.
16. This small room, used until 1945 as a waiting room for the office of the 'podesta', has a vaulted ceiling and walls painted by a local painter. On the ceiling are depicted the famous exploits of Italo Balbo.

17. The Unicorn room is at the centre of the Torazzo or Great Tower. It was Borso d'Este who commissioned decorations in tempera half-way through the15th century for the building which dates from the preceding century. Painters of the Erri family worked in the castle during this period on scenes illustrating episodes from Este family history and the mythical unicorn.
18. The Emperor's room is on an 18th-century plan which re-traces the original 15th-century plan. The wooden ceiling dates from the 15th century. Beneath it remain traces of a painted frieze with vegetal motifs from the second half of the 16th century. On the north side of the room is a large chimney piece in Carpi plaster.
19. This room was originally divided into two separate rooms. The southern part has three original walls with 18th-century decoration and a plaster chimney-piece in the Carpi style. The wooden ceiling dates from the 15th century. Beneath it runs a decorated frieze with female figures and fantastic animals of particularly fine execution datable to the second half of the 16th century.