On the road to Ferrara, in the gloomy northern fringes of Bologna, Pieve di Cento is the twin city of Cento, just over the River Reno. Pieve wears the nickname ‘Little Bologna’. Little it certainly is, and with its old brick buildings and porticoes there is a definite resemblance. Some of these are wooden-beamed; they survive from the 1300s, along with the three town gates, all that is left of Pieve’s walls.
Inside, the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore was severely damaged by the 2012 earthquake, which brought its cupola crashing to the ground. When reconstruction is completed, its paintings by Guercino, Lavinia Fontana and a very glossy Assumption by Guido Reni should be restored to their places.
To the east, cross over the 12th-century Canale Navile that gave Bologna a shipping outlet to the Po, to Bentivoglio, where that famous family, rulers of Bologna, built the imposing Castello in 1475, now home to a medical institute. Outside the village, the Oasi La Rizza is a wetland that is home to a summer colony of storks.
In San Marino di Bentivoglio, the Museo della Civiltà Contadina (see practical info) occupies the lovely Villa Smeraldi and its park, with extensive exhibits of traditional farm life and crafts.
Getting to Pieve di Cento: Take Bus No 97 from Bologna Bus Station; the journey takes about 50 minutes.
Museo della Civiltà Contadina (Villa Smeraldi), Via Sammarina 35, San Marino di Bentivoglio
Hours Mon, Wed & Fri 9.30am-12.30pm; Tue & Thu 9.30am-12.30pm, 2.30-5.30pm, Sun & hols 4-8pm (May & Sept) and 3-7pm (Mar, Apr, Oct and Nov). Closed Dec-Feb.
Adm €4; €2 ages 14-18 and over 60; under 14 free
+39 051 891050
Images by: PD Art, Collezione cartoline Albertomos