The region of Emilia-Romagna is full of fascinating art cities, hilltop villages, and beautiful beaches along the Adriatic. While Bologna, Ravenna, Parma, Modena, Rimini, and others earn most of the attention, the lovely city of Faenza shouldn’t be overlooked! We’re taking you on a whirlwind trip to Faenza to give you an introduction to its history, art, culture and cuisine, nature, and even some insider tips. So…andiamo a Faenza!
In this article, you’ll find information about Faenza’s:
- History in brief
- Culture and Cuisine
- Outdoor Activities
It’s of no surprise that Faenza’s history likely dates back to the Etruscan civilization. It was a Roman city of great importance known for its agriculture and ceramic pottery. In fact, the city’s Latin name was Faventia which became synonymous with majolica pottery in many languages. More on that later.
This city of 60,000 people has seen great battles and many powerful rulers over the centuries from the Romans to the Ostrogoths to the Manfredis. Faenza’s glory period began in the 14th century under Carlo II Manfredi. Most of the architecture and monuments in the historic center can be attributed to this period, but there is also Roman influence, Baroque, and art nouveau.
Any decent tour of an Italian city should begin with its cathedral and Faenza is no exception to the rule. The Duomo of St. Peter the Apostle is a magnificent building in the Tuscan Renaissance style that was built between the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Its facade is brick rather than marble like many of its counterparts and it has been compared to Florence’s San Lorenzo Church designed by Brunelleschi.
Along with the Duomo, Piazza della Libertà also boasts the monumental fountain dating to 1621 and the civic tower which was rebuilt after WWII. The characteristic loggia known as the Loggia degli Orefici (Goldsmiths’ Portico) is also considered Baroque.
Piazza del Popolo is “separated” from Piazza della Libertà by vias Saffi and Mazzini but the locals rarely refer to the piazzas by name and tend to just refer to both as one “piazza”. Having said that, Piazza del Popolo is where you’ll find the Palazzo del Podestà and the Town Hall, both symbols of the city.
As mentioned earlier, Faenza has been known for its fine pottery and ceramics for centuries. Faenza’s International Ceramics Museum (acronym MIC in Italian) is the largest of its kind in the world boasting collections from 4,000 BC to the present day.
Don’t skip Palazzo Milzetti, the superb Neo-classical former residence of Nicola Milzetti. From its lavish ballroom to its silk-adorned walls, the entire tour is a rare glimpse into this era in Romagna.
Culture and Cuisine
Like Siena and others, Faenza’s most well-known annual event is its palio or horserace known as Niballo di Faenza. Since 1959, the fourth Sunday of June has been dedicated to this historic reenactment and horserace. The flag wavers (sbandieratori) represented Faenza’s amazing talent at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
You can also catch a performance at the fantastic, Neoclassical theater Masini inaugurated in 1788. It also underwent a major renovation in the 1990s and has been restored to its original state.
It’s no secret that the entire region is widely considered to have the very best cuisine in all of Italy (and that’s stiff competition!). The absolute must-try dishes while you’re in Faenza include a piadina romagnola (a flatbread stuffed with any number of toppings similar to a tortilla); cappelletti or passatelli pasta; and for your sweet tooth, tortelli di San Lazzaro and zuppa Inglese (English trifle). Make sure to enjoy a bottle (or two) of the area’s wine including its Albana di Romagna Dolce DOCG and Sangiovese di Romagna DOC.
Just outside the city center, visitors can find Parco Bucci with its eight hectares of greenery, lakes, creeks, and animal life. So grab a delicious piadina and head for a picnic in the park on a sunny day.
If you want to explore the surrounding area, then head to the tiny village of Oriolo dei Fichi in the foothills just 10 km outside the historic center. Along with visiting the majestic tower (Torre di Oriolo) dating to the 15th century, you can enjoy walking trails and even dine at one of the agriturismo farmhouses. Note that according to the official website, the tower is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons but remains closed during the months of December, January, and February.
One possibility for getting here is via the Treno di Dante, a historic train that travels between Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station and Ravenna. The ride takes you on a scenic route through the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and Lamone River Valley. In addition to Faenza, it also stops in the lovely village of Brisighella as well as many others.
As you can clearly see, Faenza has just about everything you have come to expect from an Italian art city. Surely, this article has convinced you to include Faenza on your next trip to Italy!
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