When all you want is a place to be mindful, the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna may have what you seek – centuries-old abbeys, protected oases by the sea, ancient villages, renaissance libraries and spiritual gardens.
Featuring sea, mountains and charming towns, Emilia Romagna is the perfect off-the-beaten-track region for visitors to slow down, switch off and find themselves, both physically and spiritually.
Below are the top 10 ‘places of silence’ in Emilia Romagna:
Cupola del Guercino – Piacenza
The dome (cupola) of the Cathedral of Piacenza is decorated by an extraordinary series of frescoes painted by Bolognese painter, Guercino. Those climbing up the dome through its secret passageways, spiral staircases and labyrinths will be able to get a close look at Guercino’s six colossal frescos with images of prophets Haggai, Hosea, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Micaiah and Geremiah, painted between 1626 and 1627. After ascending through medieval paths, far away from everything, one feels a sense of detachment from earthly things. An intense homage to infinity with breathtaking views.
Malatestiana Library – Cesena (Rimini)
Situated in the grounds of the former convent of the Franciscans, Malatestiana Library was founded in 1452 by Malatesta Novello Lord of Cesena and keeps 340 manuscripts of the 9th – 15th centuries in Latin, Greek and. The Library is also the first UNESCO Memory of the World site in Italy. Just North West of the seaside town of Rimini, it is the only example in the world of Humanistic Library perfectly preserved in the building, furniture and book equipment – despite surviving multiple wars and natural disasters. For book lovers and historians alike, the peaceful nature of Malatestiana Library allows visitors to revel in their surroundings whilst exploring each corner. The experience is made more remarkable as visitors discover manuscripts that have remained unscathed since the structure was built. Feel connected to history and pause time whilst immersed in silence.
Labirinto della Masone – Fontanellato (Parma)
The Labirinto della Masone is the largest bamboo labyrinth in the world – made with 200,000 bamboo plants between 30 cm and 15 metres in height. The path through it is over 3 kilometres in length. It was first conceived and created by Franco Maria Ricci, an Italian art publisher and magazine editor.
Within the connected building, visitors can find an art collection, a restaurant, and two suites to spend the night. Ricci’s extraordinary personal art collection, amassed over 50 years, includes Napoleonic busts, mannerist works, paintings spanning the 17th to 19th centuries, original illustrations of Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianu and a wooden model of Milan’s Duomo.
The Pietra di Bismantova – Castelnovo ne’ Monti (Reggio Emilia)
In the Apennines, near the town of Castelnovo ne’ Monti – just one hour from Reggio Emilia – is the Pietra di Bismantova, a curious geological formation shaped like a boat, presenting almost like a sacred mountain where time has stopped.
Used as a natural defence against various people in the past, Pietra di Bismantova is now an ideal destination for mountaineering and rock climbing. In the absolute silence that fills the area, the only human presence is a hermitage at the foot of the cliff, built in 1617.
Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, passed by the Pietra di Bismantova on his journey from Padua to Tuscany in 1306, and it is said that he took inspiration from it for the description of the Purgatory mountain in his iconic narrative poem, Divine Comedy.
The Zone of Silence – Ravenna
Visitors to the UNESCO-listed city of Ravenna will find the ‘Zone of Silence’, an area that includes the Tomb of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the Dante Museum, the Basilica of San Francesco with the Giardino del Silenzio (Garden of silence) and the Antichi Chiostri (Franciscan Cloisters).
This spiritual area is the result of a series of urban works carried out between the 1920s and 1930s with the aim of creating a space of respect, peace and tranquillity around Dante’s sepulchre. Through a series of demolitions and reconstructions, new squares and traffic diversions, the Zone of Silence has become a fundamental intervention example of the city’s urban history. It is also a chance for visitors to calm their minds and admire the beauty.
The abandoned village of Moraduccio – Bologna
After an hour-long walk through the hills and waterfalls located on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, visitors will reach a place of silence shrouded in mystery: Moraduccio. This is a village from the 9th century that was abandoned after the war. It is hidden by vegetation, which has now become its only inhabitant. The houses, mostly ruins but still tenaciously standing, are a lesson in resilience. The most striking features are the roofless church (visitors can see the sky when looking up) and the Moraduccio Waterfall with its clear waters.
The Po Delta Park – Ferrara
The UNESCO-listed Po Delta Park is one of the most beautiful oases in Italy and the second largest wetland in Europe. Here, the Po river splits just before reaching the sea, creating a multitude of streams and small isles. Lagoons, woods, small islands, flocks of pink flamingos, fishermen’s huts and exceptional biodiversity make it a paradise for birdwatchers. Due to its peculiar position – along one of the three migratory routes used by birds between Europe and Africa – the Po Delta Park hosts 300 different bird species.
Visitors can enjoy a relaxing weekend and do activities including bout tours and wine tasting. At sunset, the Po Delta reveals its true beauty at sunset: the red, warm light of the sun sets the space ablaze with beautiful colours.
The Ridracoli Dam and the Foreste Casentinesi National Park – Forlì-Cesena
Covering an area of 368 square kilometres, the Monte Falterona and Foreste Casentinesi National Park boasts age-old forests, majestic waterfalls and endless hiking routes. In the heart of the park is the Integral Natural Reserve of Sasso Fratino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which features 800 hectares of beech woods that are among the oldest in Europe, untouched in the course of history.
Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the silence, enjoy the birds singing, the beauty of nature and the warm light of the sun. Among these forests, visitors can also sail on the waters of the Ridracoli Dam, a stretch of water between the steep rocks. An electric, environmentally-friendly boat glides lightly over the water to allow passengers to admire the beauty around them.
The Convent of Saint Catherine and Barbara – Santarcangelo di Romagna (Rimini)
Convents are true places of silence and this one in Santarcangelo di Romagna, 15 minutes from the seaside town of Rimini, is worth a visit. The nuns of the Convent of Saint Catherine and Barbara open their home to travellers who love peace and quiet.
The convent, built in 1505, overlooks one of the most beautiful corners of Santarcangelo: the Piazzetta delle Monache. The Convent also houses a Baroque church built in 1738 and in the basement, it houses some of the most fascinating caves in Santarcangelo. Wandering around these ancient walls, letting the sun caress in the cloister, savouring the peace, and meditating under an olive tree, is all visitors have to do to leave feeling better.
The wild, romantic and deserted Isola dell’Amore – Ferrara
Isola dell’Amore (the Island of Love) is one of the wildest spots of the Po Delta – a small, unspoiled, solitary island that can only be reached by boat. Its beach has been listed as one of Italy’s best.
The sounds of the island are those of nature with all its elements, the gentle breeze, the ship cutting the water surface, and the singing of the birds – the perfect sounds to relax while enjoying the view. Isola dell’Amore features a characteristic white lighthouse that has been transformed into a romantic hotel.
More info www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en