Let me tell you something about Gualtieri, a small village probably founded by the Lombards that lays along the main embankment of the Po River, in the province of Reggio Emilia.
As I came here for the first time I was amazed by the grandeur of the square of this small provincial town, where the steps of the few visitors get lost in a dreamy and muffled atmosphere.
Gualtieri was a Free District, then in different times it belonged to the Bishops of Parma, to the Sforza and to the Este. Thanks to the lords of Ferrara Gualtieri became a Feud and was given to the Marquis Bentivoglio. In 1635 this family was forced to return it to the Este in exchange for Scandiano. Gualtieri owes the Bentivoglio its magnificent square, symbol of the generosity and grandeur of Cornelio Bentivoglio, a really controversial figure, an interesting man, who wanted the square to be the “theater” where to magnify himself and his family’s power.
Piazza Bentivoglio has a singular, almost elliptical shape. It is almost certainly the result of the collaboration of several architects; the most outstanding of them is probably Giovanbattista Aleotti, a prominent architect and hydraulic engineer from Ferrara active from the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth century. Around the square we admire the Marquis Palace, the Civic Tower, the Church of Santa Maria della Neve and the Community House.
Inside the Palazzo Bentivoglio there are several areas of great interest, such as the Private Chapel, the Hall of Icarus, the Theatre and above all the spectacular Hall of Giants, frescoed in the early seventeenth century with scenes from the Gerusalemme Liberata. Lounges feature, sometimes, temporary exhibitions and art shows.
Apart from the palace there are the Collegial Church of Santa Maria della Neve, the Via Vittorio Emanuele, flanked by several interesting buildings and the Piazza Felice Cavallotti, with the Church of Sant’Andrea.
But Gualtieri is also the homeland of Antonio Ligabue, “al màt”, the crazy one, as the locals called him. The painter was born in Switzerland and for sure he had a somehow strange attitude, for the simple inhabitants of Gualtieri; he used to pay back the ones that were gentle to him, or the innkeepers that gave him something for eating with a drawing or a painting. There also were some families that hosted him, but he preferred to sleep in the barn instead of the house. In one of these barns at present there is a little nice museum dedicated to Ligabue. You will discover how human and poetic this extraordinary man was.