Art & CultureArt & Culture

Places of silence in which to find oneself

by /// March 1, 2024
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes



Millennial abbeys, protected oases by the sea, ancient abandoned villages, dreamlike bamboo labyrinths, Renaissance libraries, spiritual gardens.

The places of silence in Emilia-Romagna are physical journeys, but above all spiritual ones, during which the traveler loses themselves in absolute peace to find themselves again.

Here is a tour along the Via Emilia to discover landscapes where the absence of noise is absolute, and one returns to the essentials.

The Dome of Guercino in Piacenza

This ascent offers an intangible thrill, through secret passages, spiral staircases, and labyrinths, to reach the dome of the Cathedral of Piacenza at a height of 27 meters and admire from close up the colossal frescoes by Guercino, painted between 1626 and 1627.
Up there, far away from everything, you feel a sense of detachment from the earthly, an intense homage to the infinite.

Piacenza, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e Santa Giustina, Cupola affrescata da Morazzone e Guercino, Archivio Immagini Comune di Piacenza, Licenza CC-BY-NC-SA, 3.0
Piacenza, Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Giustina, dome frescoed by Morazzone e Guercino | Credit: Archivio Immagini Comune di Piacenza

The Palatine Library in Parma

The Palatine Library inside the Palazzo della Pilotta is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Since 1761 it has been a paradise of knowledge and books. Here is kept the Breviary of Barbara Hohenzollern (1527-1595), Princess of Brandenburg.
Libraries are the quintessential places of silence, preserving everything that man has thought and developed over the centuries. There is only the gentle rustle of the pages and a peace that will never be forgotten.

Parma (PR), Biblioteca Palatina (Sala Maria Luigia) | Credit: Ministero della Cultura
Parma (PR), Palatine Library | Credit: Ministero della Cultura

Masone Labyrinth in Fontanellato (Parma)

The largest bamboo labyrinth in the world, the Masone Labyrinth is a dreamlike place: first imagined and then realized by Franco Maria Ricci, publisher, dreamer, and art collector.
The labyrinth is located in Fontanellato (Parma).
Those who enter have the sensation of getting lost in the silence of the bamboo paths.
The complex also includes an art collection, a restaurant, and two suites for overnight stays.

Fontanellato (Parma), Labirinto della Masone
Fontanellato (Parma), Masone Labyrinth | Credit: D-VISIONS, via ShutterStock

The Bismantova Stone in Castelnovo ne' Monti (Reggio Emilia)

Nature reigns supreme in this mysterious corner of the Apennines at Castelnovo ne’ Monti, an hour’s drive from Reggio Emilia. The Bismantova Stone appears almost like a sacred mountain in the shape of a ship, where time has stood still.
In this absolute silence, the only human presence is a hermitage at the foot of the rock, built in 1617. The energy emanating from the stone is the subject of many popular legends.

Castelnovo ne' Monti (RE), Appenninica MTB
Castelnovo ne’ Monti (RE), Appenninica MTB | Credit: Visit Emilia

The Abbey of Nonantola (Modena)

The Abbey of Nonantola (752 AD) is a masterpiece of poetry and spirituality. At its feet, one can only stop and silently observe the ancient history in an atmosphere reminiscent of The Name of the Rose.
Walk in silence between the columns of the crypt, the largest of its kind in Europe from the Romanesque period, then the church, the Benedictine monastery, the codices library.
You can almost feel the footsteps of Matilda of Canossa coming to life for a moment and then disappearing into thin air.

Abbazia di San Silvestro (Nonantola, Modena)
Abbazia di San Silvestro (Nonantola, Modena) | Credit: © MStucchi

The abandoned village of Castiglioncello (Bologna)

An hour’s walk through the hills, passing a waterfall where you can swim, on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, will take you to a mysterious place where silence reigns: Castiglioncello di Moraduccio, a 9th-century village abandoned after the war.
Hidden by the vegetation that is now its only inhabitant. The houses, mostly in ruins but still stubbornly standing, are a lesson in resilience. The most exciting point is the roofless church: raise your eyes and you meet the sky.

Castiglioncello di Moraduccio
Castiglioncello di Moraduccio (BO)

The Po Delta Park (Ferrara)

The Po Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a magnificent natural setting: the river flows into the sea through a thousand tongues of brackish water that stretch for kilometers before reaching the sea.
Lagoons, forests, islets, families of pink flamingos, fishermen’s huts, and exceptional biodiversity make it a paradise for birdwatchers: 300 species of birds.
This is because the Delta lies on one of the three migratory routes used by birds between Europe and Africa.
The real magic is at sunset: you have to hold in your heart all the light that lights up the space and the silence with colors.

Valli di Comacchio (FE) | Credit: S.Stanislai, via
Comacchio Valleys (FE) | Credit: S.Stanislai, via

The Island of Love (Ferrara)

A white lighthouse on a tiny, lonely island. It’s the Island of Love, one of the wildest corners of the Po Delta. Untouched and free, it can only be reached by sea.
During the summer, a ferry runs between the island and the mainland in the municipality of Goro.
The Island of Love has been named one of the thirteen best Italian beaches by Legambiente. The lighthouse was transformed into a romantic hotel on the wild island.

Goro (FE), Isola dell’Amore
Goro (FE), Island of Love | Credit: Carlo Pelagalli, via Wikimedia

The zone of silence in Ravenna

In Ravenna, a magnificent city of art, UNESCO World Heritage Site and ancient capital of the Western Roman Empire, there is a Zone of Silence. It is located in the most poetic part of the city, where you can find the tomb of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the Dante Museum, the Basilica of San Francesco with the Garden of Silence and the ancient Franciscan cloister.
A corner of refined beauty where passers-by are invited to observe the rule of silence. An opportunity to stop the constant flow of thoughts.

Antichi Chiostri Francescani (Ravenna)
Ancient Franciscan Cloisters (Ravenna) | Credit: © Nicola Strocchi, Archivio Fotografico Comune di Ravenna

The Ridracoli Dam in the Casentinesi Forests (Forlì-Cesena)

Thousand-year-old forests where man has never set foot, majestic waterfalls that appear along a path: this is the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, Monte Falterona and Campigna, with its high altitude trekking, both physical and spiritual.
At the heart of the Park is the Integral Reserve of Sasso Fratino, 800 hectares of beech forest, one of the oldest in Europe, where man has never trespassed or intervened, and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can immerse yourself in the silence and enjoy the singing of the birds, the energy of nature and the pure light.
In the middle of these woods, it is also possible to navigate the azure waters of the Ridracoli dam, a stretch of water that widens out between steep rocks. An electric and ecological boat glides lightly over the water to the delight of the passengers.

Lago di Ridracoli (Bagno di Romagna, FC)
Ridracoli Lake (Bagno di Romagna, FC) | Credit: © Massimo Sanchini, via

The Malatestiana Library in Cesena

It’s a little thrilling to pass through the doors of time and enter the Malatestiana Library (1447) of Cesena. Even the air you breathe and the silence that fills the room are perceived by the senses as if from another era.
The Malatestiana Library of Cesena is the only case in the world of a humanistic library that has remained unchanged for 600 years. Within its walls, no electricity has ever been used, not even a candle, so as not to disturb the microclimate created over the centuries and risk damaging the fragile illuminated codices. Small groups are admitted for each visit and only before sunset.

Cesena (FC), Biblioteca Malatestiana Antica
Cesena (FC), Malatestiana Library | Credit: Robert Dawson, Archivio Comune di Cesena

The Bascio Tower (Rimini)

C’era una volta un castello temuto, il Castello di Bascio, su un’altura selvaggia dominava tutta la valle. Nel 1685 vi abitava il “Principe del Sacro Romano Impero e di Bascio”. Oggi di quel maniero rimane una torre quadrata del XIII secolo.
L’atmosfera, specialmente nelle giornate di vento, è aspra e solitaria. Ai piedi della torre, sono stesi sul prato sette tappeti di ceramica a sbalzo: è il “giardino pietrificato” creato da Tonino Guerra. Ogni tappeto è dedicato a un personaggio del passato che qui è transitato. I tappeti hanno nomi fantasiosi. Vale la pena e la salita fin quassù – siamo a 60 km da Rimini – per fermarsi a immaginare queste storie e farsi cullare dalla brezza.

Once upon a time, there was a feared castle, the Castle of Bascio, on a wild hill dominating the whole valley. In 1685 it was inhabited by the “Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and of Bascio”. All that remains of the castle today is a square tower dating from the 13th century.
The atmosphere, especially on windy days, is harsh and lonely. At the foot of the tower, seven ceramic carpets are laid out on the lawn: it’s the “petrified garden”, created by Tonino Guerra. Each carpet is dedicated to a historical figure who passed through here. They have imaginative names. It’s worth the climb – it’s 60 km from Rimini – to stop and imagine these stories and let the breeze lull you.

Pennabilli, Torre di Bascio (Rimini) | Credit: Paritani
Pennabilli, Torre di Bascio (Rimini) | Credit: Paritani

The Monastery of Santa Caterina and Barbara in Santarcangelo di Romagna (Rimini)

In Santarcangelo di Romagna, 15 minutes from Rimini, the Franciscan nuns of the Convent of Saints Caterina and Barbara open their home to travelers in search of peace.
The convent, built in 1505, overlooks one of the most beautiful corners of Santarcangelo, the Piazzetta delle Monache. The complex also includes a baroque church dating from 1738.
In the basements, there is one of the most fascinating caves in Santarcangelo. To wander among these ancient walls, to be caressed by the sun in the cloister, to savor the peace, to meditate, is all that there is to do to find new energy.


Daniela Camboni

Journalist and mum.
Traveller. I adore happy endings.

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