San Giovanni in Persiceto
Into the Northern Plains
A considerable portion of Bologna’s prosperity, medieval and modern, is due to La Bassa, the rich, well-watered plain north of the city, laced by rivers, streams and the canals, some of which go back at least as far as the 13th century. Even when you get beyond the sprawl and small industrial towns that surround the city, it’s a monotonous bit of countryside, without any compelling attractions along the way. But if you’re passing through…
Northwest on the SS568 for Mantova, San Giovanni in Persiceto is famous for its century-old carnival, where each year the people spend months creating a parade of lavish allegorical floats. What sets it apart from others is the Carnival Sunday spillo or 'transformation': when the floats reach the main piazza, they open up to reveal their hidden allegorical meaning.
San Giovanni, like many towns around Bologna, has an impressive theatre, the 18th-century Teatro Comunale (Corso Italia 72) that after serving as a cinema has been restored to its original glory (visits by appointment, +39 051 6812953).
The castle, designed in 1504 by Sebastiano Serlio (famous as the author of the Seven Books of Architecture) for Giovanni II Bentivoglio, is known as the Villa Giovannina (Via Sette Famiglie) and has rooms frescoed by Guercino. Today it's used for weddings and other events: to visit, ring Bologna Catering, +39 338 6200300.