Next to it is the hospital of Santa Maria della Scaletta, colloquially known as Ospedale Vecchio (“Old Hospital”). The ancient medieval hospital of the same name was originally located under the portico of Via Emilia on Piazza Matteotti, but had to be relocated when the modernization of the city began in the 18th century. Construction began in 1782, and the hospital opened in 1800, and still operates today even if most of the departments have been moved to a new location outside the historic center.
From there, I take Via Caterina Sforza (named after one of Imola’s most prominent historical personalities, the wife of Girolamo Riario) and head perpendicularly to Via Emilia towards what is perhaps Imola’s best known monument, the Rocca Sforzesca (“Fortress of the Sforza”):
Updated to meet the modern needs of defense between 1472 and 1484, at the behest of the Milanese court of the Sforza, the fortress was equipped with ravelins, round corner towers and embrasures decorated with emblems of the Riario-Sforza lordship:
Shortly afterwards, I arrive to another one of Imola’s highlights, the San Cassiano cathedral (Duomo). Built in Romanesque style between 1187 and 1271, it was consecrated with the deposition in the crypt of the remains of San Cassiano, patron of the city:
The building subsequently underwent numerous alterations, and was completely rebuilt between 1769 and 1781 due to serious structural problems according to a project by architect Cosimo Morelli (one of the most active architects of the neoclassical renewal in Italy) and consecrated again in 1782. The current façade is the result of another reconstruction commissioned in 1850 by Pius IX, who was the bishop of Imola between 1831 and 1846:
The Latin cross plan designed by Morelli is characterized by three naves divided by Corinthian pillars. A staircase leads down to a crypt housing the marble urns of the city's protectors: Saints Cassiano, Pier Grisologo, Proietto and Maurelio. The tomb of Girolamo Riario is also still visible inside the church. It was unfortunately closed that day, so I couldn’t take pictures of the interior.
Another remnant of Imola’s fortifications stands a short distance from the cathedral, Porta Montanara (literally “Gate of the Mountains”). This was one of the four gates to the town, but was of minor importance compared to the others that were facing Bologna or Faenza. Originally nicknamed “Pusterla” (which can be translated as “secondary entrance”), it was later called Porta Montanara because it faces the hills and the Apennine mountains further away:
Further on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi stands the impressive Palazzo Tozzoni. Built in the first half of the 18th century in late baroque style, it was donated to the city in 1978 by the last descendant of the Tozzoni family, who desired to offer an integral testimony of the life of a noble family in a provincial town, and turned into a civic museum in 1981. The building hosts a rich exhibition that includes an important gallery, artifacts, furniture and family memories.
From there, I follow Via Giuseppe Mazzini to the north and arrive to Piazza Gramisci, the continuation of Piazza Caduti per la Liberta (“Square of the Fallen for Freedom”) to the other side of the municipal clock tower that I saw earlier. A beautiful neoclassical building stands there, between the clock tower and the Nuovo Centro Cittadino. In the 19th century, a row of white marble slabs was discovered stretching across the square at a depth of a few meters, which led historians to believe that the Roman forum was located there. This was all the more plausible since this spot marks the intersection of the antique decumanus maximus (today’s Via Emilia) and the cardo maximus (Via Mazzini - Via Appia). The stone materials of the forum were taken and reused in other buildings in medieval times, however the square did not disappear, and continued to be the favorite place of the Imolese community for business and meetings:
The neighboring Piazza Matteotti can be seen behind a narrow alley, on which stands the Aldrovandi tower. Built in the 11th century, it is the last surviving of the many towers that were part of the aristocratic residences in medieval times, but was unfortunately partially demolished around the 13th and 14th centuries.
The aspect of Piazza Matteotti as it is today is due to the urban projects promoted by Girolamo Riario, who became lord of the town in 1473. The square was reconstructed and reshaped, and was devoted to the town market area.
The east side of the square is occupied by Palazzo Sersanti. Commissioned in 1480 by Girolamo Riario to be his residence and originally called Palazzo della Signoria (“Palace of the Lordship”), it has a facade of terracotta, with 14 arches with sandstone columns. The windows of the noble floor, the arches and the eaves are all in finely decorated terracotta. After the end of Girolamo Riaro’s reign, the ground floor of the building was converted into shops for the silk dealers, who would store the silkworms in the upper rooms. Today the palace houses the Margotti Art Collection:
Next to Palazzo Sersanti on the square’s southeastern corner stands the Chiesa del Suffragio, another one I didn’t manage to find any information about, which was surprising considering its very central location and its rather impressive interior with the elaborately decorated chapels.
The west side of the square is occupied by the elegant facade of the town hall, known as Palazzo Comunale. The building originally dates back to the first half of the 13th century, but only a few traces remain from that time:
It underwent a radical restoration in the second half of the 18th century, completed by architect Cosimo Morelli, but is still made up, as originally, of two buildings connected by a vault over Via Emilia:
Inside, the Fireplace Room, the Red Room, the Yellow Room and the Green Room are all elegantly furnished in Rococo style, with large golden framed mirrors, 17th century Murano chandeliers, and frescoed ceilings. The antique chapel of the palace, nowadays used as a meeting room, is decorated with frescoes portraying the patron saints of Imola. Unfortunately I didn’t visit the building to take pictures of the interior.
Finally, a portico runs along the north side of Piazza Matteotti, largely contributing to the square’s scenic effect. The columns and capitals are made of sandstone, and the round arches are in finely decorated terracotta:
I leave the square going east, and soon encounter the impressive Sant’Agostino church, dating back to the mid-14th century when the Augustinian fathers moved here from their previous convent. Remodeled and expanded through the following centuries, the church owes its current appearance to the works of Domenico and Cosimo Morelli in the 18th century:
The interior has a single nave with a barrel vault, three side chapels on each side, and is embellished with stucco decorations from the mid 18th century, but I couldn’t see it in person as the church was closed that day.
Immediately to the south stands another church, that of Santa Maria in Regola, which is probably the oldest surviving church in Imola. It was originally founded as an abbey of the Benedictine order in the 7th century, on the site of a preexisting cult building, then underwent a wide reconstruction in the 14th century, passing later from Benedictine to Olivetan rule:
The last reconstruction took place in the late 18th century by architect Cosimo Morelli (yes, him again), who remodeled the brick façade and square-shaped the interior. Among the oldest surviving elements are the Byzantine altar and the sarcophagus in white marble of San Sigismondo (1372), while the center of the coffered ceiling creates a fake dome perspective. However I have no pictures of the interior as the church was also closed:
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