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Pieve di Cento is a town rich in culture and history lying in the Bologna Plain along the course of the Reno River, halfway between the art cities of Bologna, Ferrara and Modena. In 2019 it was awarded the Bandiera Arancione del Touring Club Italiano (Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club).

The town is known as the “piccola Bologna” (“the little Bologna”) for its long arcades. It has retained the city plan of the Roman “castrum”, with the addition of the 9th-century parish church, then the medieval and Renaissance-Baroque town.

The history of Pieve is linked to that of the twin city of Cento, a town located on the other side of a bridge over the Reno. The two towns were separated by the disastrous route of the Reno in 1459, which changed the course of the river from west to east of Cento, but they remain united by the art of Guercino. Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino (one-eyed) because of his one eye, was one of the greatest exponents of the great seventeenth-century Emilian season.

The village is a treasure trove of historical and cultural features that can still be visited today.
The Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is home to the ancient Notarial Archive and the Teatro Zeppilli (Zeppilli Theatre), dedicated to the soprano Alice Zeppilli, which houses a small Museo della Musica (Music Museum) with relics of the artist’s life and musical instruments from the Scuola di Liuteria (School of Stringed Instruments).
The Rocca medievale (medieval fortress), located near Porta Bologna, was designed in 1387 by Antonio di Vincenzo (architect of the San Petronio’s Church in Bologna). Today it houses the Museo della Storia di Pieve (Pieve History Museum), with eight rooms that tell the thousand-year-old history of the area.

Two other important museums in the town offering a journey into art, from the Middle Ages to contemporary art are: the Pinacoteca Civica (Civic Art Gallery), recently transferred to the Le Scuole cultural centre, and the Museo MAGI’900 (MAGI’900 Museum).

The Pinacoteca contains religious-themed works from the 12th century and some works by Guercino’s students. The exhibition itinerary illustrates the history of courtly art.
The Museo MAGI’900, instead, is a private art museum founded by the collector Giulio Bargellini in a refurbished silo in 1933. It is a place of contemplation of contemporary art and the Belle Epoque (to which an entire room is dedicated). The current permanent collection is dedicated to some protagonists of the movements of art and visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first century, including Boldini, Chirico, Guttuso, Ligabue, Manzoni, Modigliani and over 2000 contemporary authors.

Another interesting artistic feature is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore (Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Maggiore), an ancient church from which the town of Centopievese takes its name, which contains valuable paintings by Guido Reni, Guercino, Lavinia Fontana, Scarsellino and a famous Crucifix from the 1300s.

Last but not least, Oratorio della Santissima Trinità (the Holy Trinity Oratory), considered one of the masterpieces of art of the Bologna Plain, and the Casa della Musica (House of Music), designed by Mario Cucinella and built in the former Lamborghini area.

In the surroundings of the town, along the river Rhine, extends Bosco golenale della Bisana (the Bisana floodplain forest), an example of humid-riparian plain forest once widespread in the low Po Valley.

But Pieve di Cento is also famous for its gastronomic tradition. One of the tastiest dishes is the traditional Macaroni al Pettine, also celebrated in the festival of the same name in June. This fresh pasta is strictly hand-rolled. Small squares are cut out from the pasta and then rolled on a wand and then passed on the “comb” (that of the old frame used in ancient times by housewives) to give them the typical stripe. Among the sweetmeats, instead, are Sassi di Pieve (pastries made from flour, almonds and eggs), mistocche and sabadoni (pastries with chestnuts and pickled fruit).

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