Pieve di Cento

'Little Bologna'

Old Postcard of Pieve di Cento

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. At the time of writing it's under reconstruction; when 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 Canale Navile, the 12th-century canal that gave Bologna a shipping outlet to the Po, at Bentivoglio, where that famous family, rulers of Bologna, built the imposing Castello in 1475; now it is home to a medical institute. Bentivoglio claims to be the birthplace of tagliatelle.

Also in Bentivoglio, the Museo della Civiltà Contadina occupies the lovely Villa Smeraldi and its park, with extensive exhibits of traditional farm life and crafts (May through Sept, Mon, Wed, Fri 9.30-12.30, Tue, Thu 9.30-12.30, 2.30-5.30, Sun 4-8pm; adm; website).

Outside the village, the Oasi La Rizza is a wetland that is home to a summer colony of storks.

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