Halfway between Reggio Emilia and Parma, the Castle of Montecchio Emilia dominates the town historic centre.
The beautiful building lies on a place inhabited since the Roman and Barbarian ages, but its first fortified structure dates back to the XIIth Century. The earliest walls rise on a burial ground, along the valley of the river Enza. Its strategic position allows the Fortress to serve as a military post and a symbol of power.
During the centuries, the Castle of Montecchio passes from the hands of the archbishop of Parma and his allies Vicedomini, to the hands of important families such as Visconti.
During the XVth Century the town falls under the dominion of the Este; in 1562 Don Alfonso d'Este obtains the title of Marquisate for the town and the Castle becomes a noble residence. The Este rule Montecchio Emilia until the unification of Italy in 1861.
From the late XVIIIth Century up to the 1960 the Castle serves as a local prison. Today it hosts the public library and it's a cultural and meeting place.
Around the perimeter of the Castle there was a moat, covered in 1649 on the orders of Prince Luigi d'Este. In front of the entrance we can see part of the ancient structure of the drawbridge.
Under the basement of the Castle, archeologists found a burial ground, that contains 28 graves dating from the early VIIIth to the Xth Century, before the construction of the Castle.
The Cemetery was probably extended to other areas of the town. Archaeologists maintained it was a Christian burial ground because there weren't any grave goods inside the tombs. Near the cemetery we can see a limekiln, a big furnace used to produce lime to cement stones for constructions.
A little old door brings us to the other side of the archaeological site, where an animal-drawn mill was found under the keep groundfloor, a mill probably used until the XVIth Century to produce flour. Near the mill we find the bastion built by the architect Accorsino da Fano in 1454 to protect the fortress.
Under the bastion we can see the compartment for the cannon and below some tombs, part of the cemetery, called “a cappuccina".