Many splendid signorie flourished in the plain between Reggio Emilia and Modena during the Renaissance, at a time when culture was synonymous with prestige and power; some were under the sphere of influence of the Gonzaga or the Este family, while others were proudly independent.
Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, a wealth of small capitals dotted the plain between the Po river and the Crostolo and Secchia tributaries, set in beautiful urban surroundings and with palaces and churches that visitors can still admire today as they travel along an itinerary that concentrates in few kilometres a heritage that is unique in Italy.
While many great painters attended these courts, some were even born or lived here, such as Correggio and Lelio Orsi, alongside poets such as Boiardo and Ariosto. There were sculptors such as Leone Leoni that worked here and literati like Aretino, Tasso and Bembo were guests. Sometimes the governors were also intellectuals, as in the case of Veronica Gambara, the ruler of Correggio who was also a talented poetess and patron of the arts. This fascinating slice of Italian history is little known but merits attention. Some of these capitals (whose debated succession triggered European wars – we were not on the fringe of history!) are located in the province of Modena: the splendid town of Carpi, with its sumptuous square, and Mirandola unfortunately now scarred by the earthquake. But the greatest concentration is in the province of Reggio Emilia.
Six can still be recognised, although in the past there were many smaller and short-lived signorie.