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A modern ceramic plate from Faenza




The Duomo of Faenza on the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele


Piazza Popolo at Faenza

Welcome to Faenza
From Jesse's Journeys in  Italy

Population: 54,749 (2004)
Official website:
Faenza
Wikipedia:
Faenza
Map:
MapQuest

Since time immemorial, Faenza has been an important center for the production of a beautiful majolica pottery, which, even in Etruscan times was exported far and wide.  Today, faience (in English) or  favence (in French) pottery is shipped around the world to high end shops for discerning buyers.  Today there are over 60 factories and workshops, most in the city's center, producing different forms of Faenza pottery.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Faenza boasts many businesses,  institutions and events dedicated to its best known industry, including ceramic manufacturers, schools, and most famously, the International Museum of Ceramics, whose collection consists of historically important pottery and ceramiche from every corner of the world, including stunning works from the Renaissance and the works of artists like Chagall and Picasso.

Faenza sits on the banks of the Lamone River in a fertile agricultural zone just 30 kilometers south of Bologna and 50 kilometers east of Ravenna.  The soil in and around the city contain the clay deposits that are the basis of Faenza's ceramic industry.

Originally settled by Celtic tribes people, by the 2nd century BC it had become a Roman town, which they called Faventia, along the Via Aemelia.  Like other northern towns it suffered during the barbarian invasions, settling for a long period under Longobard control.  During the medieval period it followed the usual pattern, evolving first into a more or less independent comune, but ultimately finding itself, by 1313 AD, under the domination of a despotic family, the Manfredi.

The Manfredi's ruled until Faenza was captured by the Pope's son, Cesare Borgia, in 1501.  At that point the town was absorbed into the Papal States, and remained there, except for a brief period during the Napoleonic conquest, until the Unification of Italy in 1860. 

The centro storico - historical center - of Faenza has very little to show of Roman times.  The town walls, its main piazzas and and principal building originated, for the most part, during the medieval period.  The facade of the Cathedral - or Duomo - faces the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.  The church, started in 1474 and completed in 1511, was designed in the Florentine Renaissance style by Guiliano da Maiano.  His father, Benedetto, may have done the carvings on the tombs of St. Terence and St. Emilian inside.

The Piazza della Liberta', hosting an interesting, monumental fountain with bronzes, is on the west side of the church, giving the area around the cathedral a pleasant immensity. Across the piazza from the cathedral is double porticoed building, erected  in the 17th century, known as the Goldsmith's portico, where, not surprisingly, artisans working in gold and other precious metals plied their trade.

The other main piazza, Piazza Popolo, has a torre di orologio - or clock tower - at its entrance, and at its center an ornate fountain on a  polygonal base. The clock tower stands at the intersection of what were the original Roman crossroads running through the city.  The Via Aemelia ran from the main city gates of the old city, the Porta Cardo to the Porta Decuman.

The Palazzzo Milzetti, built between 1792 and 1805 is considered one of  Italy's best examples of neo-classical architecture.  Its interior features intricate tempera and stucco work.   Faenza's most important theater, the Teatro Masini, on the Corte della Molinella, was also built in this period and is itself a good expression of neo-classicism.

The municipal painting gallery - the Pinacoteca comunale - has, with the exception of a piece by Donatello,  some good, but not great art  representing the period from the 13th to the 19th century.  Other artists whose works are in the collection include Palmezzano, Cignani and Dossi.  Other Faenza museums open to the public include the Diocese Museum, the Bendani Museum and the Manfredi Library.

The area surrounding Faenza is a rich, rolling agricultural area, with gorgeous landscapes that are very much worth an unhurried, meandering exploration.  In the valleys of the Lamone and Samoggia Rivers, one finds well-kept farms and stately homes, many of them dating to the 18th and early 19th century.  Of particular interest are the Villa Rotonda and Villa Case Grande dei Ferniani which has a fantastic collection of Faenza ceramics.

Another recommended drive through the upper Sintria valley from Croce San Daniele to Ca' Malanca will take you by a number of ruins of medieval forts.  At Ca' Malanca there is a small Museum of the Resistance, honoring the sacrifices of local partisans who fought the Nazis during WW2.

When you are ready for a good lunch or dinner, take note that the products and produce of the region - the olive oil, wines, vegetables, grains and meats find their way into a plethora of delicious dishes served up at local restaurants: try the strozzapreti with a rich Romagnol meat sauce, or the  lasagna, tagliatelle, or cappelletti.

Enjoy!

By Vian Andrews, September 4, 2006

Emilia-Romagna

4417′N 1153′E

Distances

Ravenna - 50 km:
Bologna - 58 km;
Modena - 98 km;
Ferrara - 103  km;
Florence - 163 km;
Padua - 169 km;
Venice - 204 km;
Milan - 272 km

Directory

 


Coat of Arms for Faenza

 

For more information about the International Museum of Ceramics click here.

 

Legend says that Faenza's original name rendered in Latin was Faoentia, meaning "Splendeo inter deos" or "I shine among the Gods".

 
Festivals and events:

June: the Palio del Niballo, an incredible horse back tournament evocative of the struggles faced during Manfredi rule, between horsemen representing Faenza and other localities in the area.

May (last weekend): The Florence - Faenza 100 kilometer marathon that attracts athletes of all nationalities

 
Tell us about your trip to Faenza. What were your favorite places to visit, stay, and dine.  Contribute