Brisighella Italy: A Medieval Gem

June 3


A summer in Brisighella Italy

Back home in Canada after my AFS exchange to Italy, I was finishing my first year of university and pining for anything Italian, when I got The Letter. “Come to Italy this summer”, it said, “we’ll send you a plane ticket, give you room and board and a small stipend in exchange for looking after our kids”. A nanny job, yes, which I had done before. But in Italy. I was 19, and most of my friends were going to spend the summer painting houses. “Yes, yes, yes!”, I wrote back.

I knew the family: they were friends of friends, and I had met them over a weekend during my exchange year. They knew I babysat and that I loved Italy: it was a great fit. And so, after my exams were over, off I went for the summer. To the tiny, tiny town of Brisighella.

My Home Away From Home

The family lived in a palazzo whose façade took up an entire side of the main square. Huge paintings of their ancestors, like ones I’d only seen in museums, hung in gilded frames on the walls lining the enormous main staircase; the flip-down pasta-making table in the kitchen was used on a regular basis for making spaghetti, gnocchi, and ravioli. One wing of the house was closed off, but on a rare visit I saw an old carriage that had belonged to someone in the family. In the garden behind the house was an authentic wood-burning brick pizza oven; and when I played tag with the boys, we zig-zagged around the artichoke patch and through the fruit trees. And it was the first time I ever heard the music of cicadas, an all-encompassing chirp on a hot, hot day, that sounded like it was coming from the sky. 

Main Sights of Brisighella

I was in Brisighella in July and August, the hottest months of the year. Nevertheless the kids and I frequently climbed the long staircase to the Torre dell’Orologio or clock tower (photo above is a view from the fortress),and took in the spectacular view over the town and countryside while resting with a drink of water. We played around the Rocca Manfrediana, or Manfredian fortress (photo), wandered through the raised, covered medieval street, Via Degli Asini, and admired the sanctuary of Monticino (photo). (At least I was admiring and enjoying – I’m not entirely sure about the 3- and 5-year olds. But I think they had fun.)

When the medieval summer festival started, I hardly knew what hit me: the usually quiet streets filled with performers dressed in robes, local spectators, and tourists. The older sister of the kids I was babysitting, who was my age, invited me out with her friends: we put charcoal on our faces, dressed up in rags, and explored the festival as a group of streghe, or witches.

What to eat in Brisighella

Brisighella is in the province of Emilia-Romagna, known in Italy as the “foodie” region. The area produces excellent olive oil, has local wine, and is also known for its cheese, pork, and Moretto artichokes. The local dish, spoja lorda, is basically an egg-rich pasta filled with cheese (we’d call it ravioli, but they don’t), and is served in a chicken and beef broth. 

What to see near Brisighella

In addition to natural spring waters (read: spas), Friday evening markets in the summertime, concerts and medieval dinners, the town is in a convenient location: just a 10-minute train ride from the city of Faenza – famous for its ceramics – Brisighella is easily accessible from the mosaics of Ravenna, the great university town of Bologna, the beaches of Rimini, and not far from Parma, Florence, and Venice.

Click here for more details on festivals, concerts, what to do, where to stay and where to eat in Brisighella, or here for more details on its history.

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