La Rocca di Vignola – A Living Fortress

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A short drive away from Modena is the historic town of Vignola.  Sometimes, on the weekend we take the car and drive to Vignola for a walk, a piece of “Barozzi” cake and to hangout in the immense Medieval Fortress known as  “La Rocca di Vignola”.

 

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Italy has so much history, and I will admit, it is often a little too much for me to understand and take in.  I get confused between time periods, historic families, locations and dates.  Whereas a local probably has a better grip of historical importance and “what happened when”, I often find that I merge everything into a few points and then just enjoy the view!

 

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Historically this Fortress has always been a part of the city of Vignola.  It  grew, changed and developed simultaneously with the city and its people.

 

One of the things that you really notice about it is how it is still a part of daily life in this town.  I would not call this in any way a “museum”.  The people and city of Vignola use this incredible space to host cultural events, lectures, festivals and historical recreations.

 

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In fact, you may remember the post I wrote about Vignola’s festival dedicated to kids, where the whole city transforms into a massive playground.  Even then, the Castle was another location for kids to explore, with many activities held in and around its immense walls.

 

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On this particular day, we happened to be lucky enough to participate in a special event called “Arti e Mestieri”, meaning “Arts and Trades”.

 

Arti e Mestieri

 

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Every weekend of October the Fortress returned to its Medieval history, its empty rooms coming to life with people working, battling, eating and even writing manuscripts.  This brought a whole new dimension and appreciation to the exploration of the Castle.

 

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As we wandered through the corridors we encountered characters dressed in historically accurate costumes.  These knowledgeable people would narrate the history of the Rocca as they passed. From the first document describing the structure in 1178 to when it was burned down in 1247 after a battle with King Enzo!

 

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It is one thing to read a panel explaining the history of a Castle, it is another to have a soldier point to where the brickwork changes explaining that the larger stones are pre-1247 and the others were from its Renaissance transformation!

 

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The Fortress’ greatest artistic period was during the Renaissance, when it was used as a Castle and entertained artists and musicians, becoming a central cultural hub for the area.

 

 

La Rocca Dei Bambini

 

These special October weekends dedicated to the trades were part of a larger initiative called “La Rocca Dei Bambini” – The Children’s Fortress.  A series of special events, encounters, workshops and performances for children, hosted in the Fortress from the beginning of October leading right up to Christmas!

 

What a great way to involve kids in their own history.  Almost all of the events ARE FREE, and I should note that entrance into the Rocca is also free. As a North American this is one of the strangest things to experience. There are absolutely no barriers to any family from participating in the cultural activities.  All kids and families are welcome!

In Toronto you would be hard pressed to find such an important place free of charge, year round.

 

If my son was older I would bring him to the workshop on December 6th! – The Castle’s Architects – Building our Fortress Together

Children are lead on a guided tour of the castle so they understand its evolution, then they create their own model using recycled materials!  So simple and yet awesome.

 

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Visiting with Very Young Kids

I’ve been to La Rocca many times, including when my son was only two months old.  This is not the most stroller friendly environment, however, the ground floor and basement are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs.  On the Rocca’s website you will find a site map and the areas that are accessible here.

 

If you plan on exploring the towers with a very young child or toddler I recommend having a baby carrier, or someone in conditions to carry them up the many stairs!

 

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Visiting La Rocca di Vignola

For more information on the programming of La Rocca Dei Bambini, visit this site with their full programming.  This is a yearly event!

 For info describing the Fortress’ history in English, you can find their brochure online here.

General info, how to get there and hours can all be found on the official website here.

 

Visiting Hours

from April to the end of October

Tuesday to Friday

9am – 12 pm  **Note they are CLOSED for lunch and do not have a Cafè or Restaurant

They re-open at 3:30 pm to 7 pm

 

Saturday and Sunday

10:30am – 1 pm **Note they are CLOSED for lunch and do not have a Cafè or Restaurant

they re-open at 3:30pm – 7pm

 

From November to March

Tuesday to Friday

9am – 12 pm **Note they are CLOSED for lunch and do not have a Cafè or Restaurant

They re-open at 2:30 pm to 6 pm

Saturday and Sunday

10:30am – 12:30 pm **Note they are CLOSED for lunch and do not have a Cafè or Restaurant

they re-open at 2:30pm – 6pm

 

Last entrance allowed 30 minutes prior to closing time

 

 

 

 


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