The castle and the hills of Albinea

The top of the hill on which the castle of Albinea stands is one of the most popular scenic spots in the Reggio Emilia area, due to its position at the eastern end of the vast arc of foothills which, lying at the mouth of the Crostolo stream valley in the high plain of Emilia, opens onto a vast panorama that on clear days takes in much of the Alps right up to the steep profiles of the Euganean Hills. The castle of Albinea is an important "keystone" of the belt of fortresses that once guarded the foothills of Reggio, creating a defensive alignment that snaked almost uninterruptedly from the Valley of the Secchia to that of the Enza.

All that remains of the ancient castle are some structural parts now hemmed in by a complex of buildings which over the centuries expanded a great deal to become a patrician residence. Of note is the entrance, surmounted by an eclectic turreted gateway and preceded by a long cobbled avenue. Near the castle is the parish church, already mentioned as far back as the eleventh century. The building is liturgically oriented and features a façade with a porch supported by round arches that enhance its remarkable setting. Of the medieval construction few traces remain except for a few sculptural elements including a capital dating to the Romanesque period.

From the church and castle of Albinea stretches a long ridge which, after crossing through the nearby mediaeval village of Broletto, continues towards the Apennine tableland, opening into the Cavazzone plateau in view of the Fortress of Canossa. This route, which climbs the first gentle foothills, is characterized by wide panoramic views over an area dotted with vineyards and other valuable crops. In the centre of the village of Broletto stands a characteristic tower-house distinguished by an eaved roof in irregularly laid brick, whose building characteristics date it to the late Middle Ages. A short distance away a side road branches off that descends into the Crostolo valley, soon coming into view of the Più Bello castle, a splendid holiday residence built in the late eighteenth century.