The Apennines near Reggio Emilia


“Vassi in Sanleo e discendesi in Noli,
montasi su Bismantova e ‘n Cacume
con esso i piè; ma qui convien ch’om voli”

Dante Alighieri mentions the Rock of Bismantova in the fourth canto of the Divine Comedy’s Purgatorio. It is said that the poet actually visited it in 1306 while travelling to Lunigiana, and that it inspired his description of the mountain in this cantica. Its name may originate with the sacred nature of the rock for both ancient Etruscans and Celts. The Petra de Bismanto is mentioned for the first time in a document dating back to 1062, when it hosted a castle built by the Byzantines in the 5th century. It is located in the municipality of Castenovo Monti and is visible from anywhere in the Reggio Emilia Apennines. Its volcanic cliffs are studded with castles, such as that of Rossena, which belonged to Matilda of Canossa. Giovanni Fontanesi’s concept of landscape was an original one, which he had developed under the influence of the Roman school of veduta painting from life, which paintings were then finished in the studio. Upon his return to Reggio Emilia, his style became increasingly experimental, and he aimed to strike the right balance between sunlight and the colours of nature, an approach that also influenced the art of Paolo Ferretti.