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Faenza: short history


Of Roman origins, Faenza is a splendid city of art whose fame already shone in the Renaissance period of the production of exquisitely made pottery that was exported all over Europe. The very name has become synonymous with ceramics (majolica) in various languages among which French (faïence) and English (faience). From the second half of the first century A. D. the city flourished considerably as a result of its agricultural propensities and the development of industrial activities such as the production of everyday pottery and brickwork objects and linen textiles. After a period of decadence from the 2nd century to the early Middle Ages it regained prosperity from 8th century on. Around the year 1000 with the government of the Bishops and subsequently in the age of the Commune the city began a long period of richness and building expansion which reached its peak with the rule of the Manfredi family. Under Carlo II Manfredi, in the second half of the 15th century, the city centre was renewed. After a brief period of Venetian domination Faenza became part of the Church States until 1797. So the city we see today was formed over a long arc of historical evolution and enriched over the years by fine architecture with strong Renaissance and Neoclassical features.

Palazzi, porticoed squares and a Cathedral of pure Tuscan forms
Faenza's outstanding architectural attractions are concetrated in the two contiguous main squares: Piazza del Popolo, lined by two spectacular double order porticoed wings, and Piazza della Libertà. The Palazzo del Podestà and the Town Hall, both of mediaeval origin, stand in Piazza del Popolo. The former was largely restored in the early 20th century while the latter - radically transformed in the 18th century - was the Palazzo of the Captain of the People and later the residence of the governing Manfredi family. Along the east side of Piazza della Libertà , the splendid Cathedral. Of clear Tuscan influence it is one of the highest expressions of Renaissance art in Romagna. Built to Giuliano da Maiano's design, it was begun in 1474 and completed in 1511. The marble decoration of the facade remained unfinished. The interior, nave and two aisles with obvious references to Brunelleschi's San Lorenzo in Florence, houses numerous works of Renaissance art, chiefly sculpure, among which the tombs of St. Terence and St. Emilian (Tuscan school 15th C.) and that of St. Savinio, perhaps done in Florence by Benedetto da Maino. Opposite the Cathedral the open gallery known as the Goldsmiths'Portico, built in the first decade of the 17th century, and the monumental fountain whose bronzes date to the same period. The Clock Tower, in front of the entrance to the Piazza, is a postwar rebuilding of the 17th century tower that stood at the crossroad of the cardo and the decuman gate of the Roman Faventia. Among the other monuments of the historic centre are Palazzo Milzetti, the richest and most significant Neoclassical building in the region, and the Teatro Masini (1780-1787) one of the finest theatres in Italy.

Faenza Majolica: all the light and colour of the Renaissance
In Faenza you can visit one of the world's most beautiful and complete art collections: the international Ceramic Museum houses pieces from all over the world and from every epoch, from classical amphoras to the works of Chagall and Picasso, and there is a rich section dedicated to Faenza pottery in the golden age of the Renaissance. You will find other highly interesting art collections in Municipal Art Gallery, the Diocese Museum, the Bendani Museum and the Manfredi Library. The historic production of Faenza majolica is recognized worldwide as one of the highest moments of artistic creativity expressed through pottery. The tradition was born from a happy convergence of favourable conditions: a territory rich in clay, a centuries-old history of political and commercial relations with nearby Tuscany (especially with Florence ) and great sensitivity and aptitude with regard to this art form. So over the years Faenza craftsmen and artists developed and perfected the decoration of hand made pottery, and the 60 workshop currently active - most of them in the city centre - offer the tourist the chance of unique purchases unavailable elsewhere.

Art, folklore and sport in great events
In September and October international contemporary and classical ceramic art events draw majolica amateurs, collectors and artists to Faenza from all over the world. In June the Palio del Niballo, a spectacular tournament between five horsemen from the districts of the town, re-evokes the magnificence and struggles of Faenza in the Manfredi epoch. The Florence - Faenza 100 kilometres, a demanding long distance race held during the last weekend in May, attracts athletes of all nationalities. For lovers of good food and drink Faenza offers welcoming restaurants both in the city centre and in the surrounding green hills. Typical regional dishes include home-made tagliatelle, cappelletti, lasagna and strozzapreti with the rich Romagnol meat sauce.

Fields, flowers and water in the heart of the city
Faenza is a green town. The Botanical Gardens, next to the Civic Natural Science Museum with its important collections, boast more than 170 species of plants indigenous to the Romagna region. There are around 100 hectares of public urban green area and the local Administration takes good care of it. The Bucci Park, created in 1968, stretches over roughly 8 hectares of undulating land, green meadows and fish-rich waters. Here you can find various species of birds including wild duck and swans. Pride of the park is a large colony of storks. The public parks offer a pleasant opportunity to rest, near flowers and water, in various areas of the centre.

Green valleys, historic homes and the wild karstic landscape of the Chalk Vein
Faenza, at the foot of the first Subapennine hills, enjoys a fine location and evocative agrarian surroundings: vineyards in the hills, cultivated land with traces of the ancient Roman land-division system, and fertile market gardens in the plains. In the nearby green valleys of the rivers Samoggia and Lamone there are great number of 18th and 19th century stately homes, set in extensive grounds or preceded by long cypress-lined driveways. Two of these are «La Rotonda», built to Giovanni Antonio Antolini's design between 1798 and 1805, and the Villa Case Grandi dei Ferniani, celebrated for its collection of 18th and 19th century Faenza cermics. There are loads of possibilities for excursions in the nearby karstic area of the Chalk Vein, walking great ridges of surface selenite and discovering extraordinary morphologies of dolinas, ravines and swallow holes. The guided visits to the Grotto Tanaccia Karstic Park and the Carnè Natural Park, a vast green area with a visitor's centre and refreshments, are also of great interest. Another evocative itinerary, among woodlands and the ruins of mediaeval fortifications, runs from Croce S. Daniele to Ca' Malanca in the upper Sintria Valley. At the end of the itinerary you can visit the small Museum of the Resistance.