Tour of the Sforza Fortresses

Motorcycle tour in Emilia Romagna, between culture and nature to discover the magnificent Sforza Fortresses.

Rocca Imola Strengths Caterina Sforzesca Bologna Emilia Romagna
Fortress of Imola - Ph. Canva

A motorcycle tour to discover the Sforza Fortresses of Bagnara di Romagna, Dozza, Imola, Riolo Terme, and the nature of Emilia Romagna.

Between culture and nature, in a "slice" of the region between Emilia and Romagna, there are 4 wonderful medieval fortresses united by the legendary figure of a woman who was their Lady: Caterina Sforza, the "lioness of Romagna". The fortresses of Imola and Dozza, in the province of Bologna, and those of Riolo Terme and Bagnara di Romagna, in the province of Ravenna, represent four stops for a tour of the Sforza fortresses, splendidly preserved and open to visitors.

Content index

  1. Rocca of Bagnara di Romagna
  2. Fortress of Riolo Terme
  3. Fortress of Imola
  4. Fortress of Dozza
  5. Vena del Gesso Regional Park

The fortresses can be reached comfortably by car, or by experimenting with the e-bike (can also be rented on site), while for the more trained it is possible to do the tour by bicycle (with departure and arrival in one of the 4 cities, they are about 70 km overall, with differences in height to reach Riolo Terme and Dozza).

Rocca of Bagnara di Romagna

rocca bagnara struggles caterina sforzesca bologna emilia imola romagna
Rocca of Bagnara

The Rocca di Bagnara of Romagna (Ra) constitutes the fulcrum of the defensive structure of the Castle, whose organization was completed by the walls, the civic gate, the Torrioncello, the earthenware and the pits, as well as the cornerstone of the population and the building and housing complex. The origin of the fortress is of uncertain dating, it was probably built by Uguccione della Faggiola in 1297, and then became a possession of the Barnabò Visconti. After several destructions, restorations and dominations, it was granted by Pope Sixtus IV to his nephew Girolamo Riario. The restoration and modernization of the fortress (1487) and the walls, the primitive structures of the noble palace and the construction of the keep (1494) date back to the time of the Riario and his wife Caterina Sforza. Conquered by the French in 1494, it then returned under the control of the Sforza family who had to yield in 1500 to the advance of Cesare Borgia, known as Valentino, an event that marked the beginning of the decline of the Rocca di Bagnara. The Rocca is a typical fifteenth-century brick construction, with a regular and compact appearance, with a square plan, with the buildings articulated around a courtyard. In the south-west corner is the keep, a mighty circular tower, which represented the main defense of the entire complex; on the opposite corner there is the bastion, another circular tower of smaller dimensions, connected to the keep by the surrounding walls. The Lord resided in the palace, located on the north side, a long rectangular building with two floors and a loggia, whose function was closely linked to the tasks of representation, a symbol of power and, as such, a guarantee from safety against enemy attacks.

Fortress of Riolo Terme

rocca imola effort caterina sforzesca bologna emilia romagna riolo
Fortress of Riolo Terme

The Rocca di Riolo Terme (Ra) is one of the most interesting fortresses in the area, due to the state of conservation in which it is located. From the end of the XNUMXth century, this military fortification belongs to the type of "transition", in which medieval and Renaissance architectural features are added: the moat and the machicolations for the plumbing fire, the maneuvering chambers with the mouths of fire for the flanking grazing fire . Inside you can experience a real immersion in history, discover the Middle Ages through the life of Caterina Sforza and the Faenza area and its settlements through the finds found in the nearby Grotta di Re Tiberio. From the basement to the upper floors, through narrow passages, you can descend into the adventures medieval knights wearing and holding the tools used in battle, we discover the functioning of war machines and listen to the stories of Caterina Sforza. In the hall of the well, the permanent multimedia exhibition “The mysteries of Caterina”, dedicated to the deeds and loves of Caterina Sforza, transports the visitor into an interactive reality, calling him to interact with the Leoness of Romagna in person. In the Keep is the archaeological section, which houses finds dating from the Iron Age to the Roman period. The section of the Landscape Museum of the Faenza Apennines offers a broad view of the surrounding hilly landscape, with gullies and chalk outcrops, which can be observed thanks to binoculars. Being the Documentation Center of the Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park, the Rocca is an important center of studies, discoveries and activities, a museum of the territory in continuous evolution.

Fortress of Imola

Rocca Imola Strengths Caterina Sforzesca Bologna Emilia Romagna
Fortress of Imola

The Rocca di Imola (Bo) is a splendid example of fortified architecture between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Its origins date back to 1261. Nine quadrangular towers stood on the perimeter of the original structure, only a tenth tower, the keep, still stands in the center of the internal courtyard. The Church of Rome, the noble families of the Alidosi, the Visconti then the Manfredi led Imola and the Rocca. However, it was at the end of the fifteenth century that the complete Renaissance transformation of the building began with the Sforza family, which continued with the new lord of Imola Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV and husband of Caterina Sforza. Starting from 1480 the square corner towers were incorporated into new and thicker circular towers capable of withstanding the blows of the bombards, and the construction of a residence, the Palazzetto, was also started. The death of Pope Sixtus IV marks the beginning of the crisis of the Riario-Sforza lordship over the city, up to the siege of the Rocca moved by Cesare Borgia, known as Valentino, who in 1499 decreed the return of a direct papal dominion. In 1502, the Valentino resorted to the advice of Leonardo da Vinci to inspect the fortresses of Romagna, including the one in Imola: the plan of Imola that Leonardo laid out, where the Rocca is also clearly visible, is testament to this. Finally, with the definitive annexation of Imola to the papal state, the use of the fortress rooms as a prison is strengthened, a situation that continued until 1958 when the restoration began and the Sforza monument was designated as a museum.

Fortress of Dozza

fortress imola struggles caterina sforzesca bologna emilia dozza romagna
Fortress of Dozza

La Rocca di Dozza (Bo), on the hills between Imola and Bologna, is a medieval complex built in the XNUMXth century, still open to visitors inside, where you can admire the ancient kitchen, the torture room, the prisons, the various apartments furnished with original furniture and paintings. The Regional Enoteca is housed in the basement Emilia Romagna with the display and sale of over 1000 wine labels. The current external appearance of the fortress is attributable to the late fifteenth century, when Dozza became part of the Riario-Sforza seigniory. In 1473, with a marriage of strong political values, Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, joins Caterina Sforza, daughter of the Duke of Milan and nephew of Ludovico il Moro. Instead, the distribution system of the building - courtyards, atrium, entrance hall and stairs - and the organization of the noble floor, as they appear to us today, are mainly attributable to the Lordship of the Campeggi which, in the second half of the sixteenth century, undertook massive interventions transformation in order to transform the fortress from a fortress to a seat of diplomatic representation. When the fiefdom of Dozza was abolished, the Rocca remained the property of the Malvezzi-Campeggi who made it their residence until 1960.

Vena del Gesso Regional Park

From the Sillaro valley to Brisighella, in the Lamone valley, the Romagna hills are furrowed by an incredibly recognizable silvery gray ridge which gives a unique aspect to the landscape. This is also the longest and most impressive chalky relief in Italy, and develops for 25 km with an average width of one and a half kilometers. The area is characterized by peculiar karst morphologies, which include sinkholes, blind valleys and numerous caves, among which many "abysses" stand out.

Where to eat and sleep

Where you'll be

Photo courtesy: "IF Imola Faenza Tourism Company" Press Office