Emilia Romagna: the art of mosaics and stone-working
1. Ravenna: home of the mosaic
The last capital of the Western Empire and the centre of Byzantine rule in Italy, Ravenna holds Italy’s richest collection of mosaics.
When visiting, you are sure to come across the colourful glass and stone tiles decorating no fewer than seven UNESCO monuments. The most famous mosaic cycle is the late antique Christian artwork inside the Basilica of San Vitale, a perfect synthesis of East and West.
However, what enchants tourists is the starry blue sky under the vault of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
Be sure not to miss the mosaics in the Baptistery of Neon and the Arian Baptistry, testifying to the coexistence of different cultures, as well as the mosaics in the Archbishop's Chapel of St Andrew, glorifying Catholic orthodoxy, and the cycles in the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo and Sant'Apollinare in Classe, featuring the city's patron saint.
In Ravenna, the art of the mosaic is handed down the generations, thanks to the most qualified schools in the world, including the “Nervi Severini” art school, the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Mosaic Art School, hosting students of all nationalities.
In the many workshops throughout the historic centre, you can watch the artisans work.
Mosaics are everywhere, from street signs to shop windows, from flower boxes to walls: the French artist Invader has also stopped by this city in Romagna, creating his own “pixels” of coloured tiles.
We recommend visiting the contemporary collection at the Ravenna Art Museum, inside the monumental Loggetta Lombardesca, the CIDM, an international centre for studying mosaics, and RavennaMosaico, a festival held every two years featuring artists from around the world.
2. Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma: stone-working
Emilia Romagna still boasts excellence in the by now rather niche art of stone-working.
In the province of Modena, you will find artistic scagliola artefacts, which have made the town of Carpi famous throughout the world. Still today, skilled local craftspeople make furniture, tables, panels and pictures in the style of those of the 19th century, resembling real inlaid marble.
Stone has been quarried and carved for about two centuries in the town of Canossa, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Here you will come across the School of Stone Sculpture, which revives the ancient craft and passes it on to eager young people.
In places once populated by stone-breakers, you still today find arches, doors, windows, staircases, fireplaces, sculptures and sacred bas-reliefs being made,
including Ramiseto, Busana, Collagna and Castelnovo ne' Monti, a true labour of art, thanks to a deep understanding of the raw materials.
Finally, in Parma, Carniglia sandstone is extracted in the village of Bedonia, at the foot of Mount Pelpi.