During the eleventh century, the Apennines of Reggio, that rise from the lower hills overlooking the plains to the highlands, provided the backdrop to some of Europe’s major historical events. One of the foremost figures in the many episodes of conflict and reconciliation between the empire and papacy was the Countess Matilda of Canossa, who had concentrated here the political and military base of a fiefdom that extended from Lombardy to Tuscany. The immense power she wielded is still witnessed today by the numerous castles that remind travellers of a period of strong political and religious passions.
The most famous of these castles, even at an international level, is that of Canossa, from which the Canossa family took their name and where one of the most significant events of the Middle Ages took place: Emperor Henry IV came here as a pilgrim in January 1077 and waited barefoot under the castle walls for three days to beg forgiveness of Pope Gregory VII.
Other castles also remind us of Matilda’s times, such as Carpineti, which hosted two councils and was nicknamed “new Rome” due to the Pope’s frequent visits, and Sarzano di Casina.