An easy way to understand the artistic and social history of Reggio is by taking a walking tour of piazza Prampolini, piazza San Prospero and piazza Fontanesi. Not only will you visit some of the city's most important monuments (the Cathedral, City Hall, San Prospero, the Castello city gate), but you will also get a taste of the city's cultural fabric, its urban structure, and its mix of architectural styles. The tour starts in piazza Prampolini, heart of the city's government.
Piazza Grande is also a place for meeting and socializing
Over the centuries, the piazza has changed names a number of times, but for citizens of Reggio it has always been "Piazza Grande".
Market in Piazza Grande
The Crostolo river once flowed through the piazza, continuing along Corso Garibaldi. The piazza was also the center of the Roman city, just a few steps from via Emilia, creating an unusual contrast between a traditional grid-like street plan and the natural course of a river.
Piazza Grande or Prampolini
The Piazza at night
The most important civic and religious buildings are located here. The Cathedral and the Roman Baptistery look out over "Piazza Grande", as does City Hall with its 18th century Tricolor Hall.
Tricolore Hall, 1774-75, designed by Ludovico Bolognini
Romanesque facade with marble decorations by Clemente, 16th century
The linear measurements "braccio" or arm and "pertica" or pole are carved into the left column of the Baptistery, bearing evidence to the fact that this piazza has always been a place for meeting and for commercial exchange.
The facade of the Cathedral, framed by the portico of via Palazzolo
Piazza Prampolini is a rectangular space, completely enclosed by the buildings overlooking it. The religious buildings lie on the eastern side of the piazza (the Archbishop's Palace, the Cathedral, the Canons' Palace, the Baptistery), while City Hall completely takes up the narrow south side. To the west, we find the ancient house of Notaries and the portico where the city's notaries once practiced, the City Pharmacies, and the entrance to the beautiful St. Mary's Gallery. A statue of the Crostolo River, previously located in the park at Villa D'Este in Rivalta, now stands on the north side of the piazza, which is entirely occupied by the massive palazzo del Monte.
Anonymous, Statue of the Crostolo River, prior to 1754
From Piazza Prampolini to Piazza San Prospero
Once you have taken the time necessary to see piazza Prampolini and visit the monuments there, the walk continues on to of the most characteristic sites in Reggio: the "Broletto". In ancient times it served as the Cathedral graveyard, and later on as the garden of the Canons, where it got its current name ("Brolo" means garden in Reggian dialect).
Market day at the Broletto
Located on the right of the Cathedral, it was built in 1488 with the opening of a public passageway underneath the loggia, which is why it is still partially covered today.
Walkway through the Broletto
A lovely portal serving as a side entrance to the Cathedral is also located here. Rebuilt in the 16th century, the portal bears Roman column-bearing lions by the Antelami school. The paintings in the vaults of via Broletto, depicting "Madonna of the Ghiara" and "Madonna of the Angels", also date back to the 16th century.
Walkway through the Broletto
From the Broletto, as if framed in a painting, you can view the attractive porticos of the "Lion Square": piazza San Prospero.
Piazza San Prospero
Piazza San Prospero, also known as "Piasa cica", meaning "Piazza Piccola" (Small Square), was the site of the Reggio fruit and vegetable market in ancient times.
View of the piazza from above
Located just off the Main Piazza (now known as piazza Prampolini), it was an important hub for the city during medieval times.
Facade of San Prospero, built by Giovan Battista Cattani (1748-53) with sculptures by Angelo Finali
Upon entering the piazza, you are greeted by an impressive view of the Basilica di San Prospero, which is dedicated to the city's patron saint. The Basilica is characterized by a stately octagonal bell tower.
The climb to the belfry
Prospero Sogari, known as Clemente, Blessed Virgin with Child, 1558
The apses of the Cathedral look out over the opposite side of the piazza, providing an attractive contrast to the façade of the Basilica di San Prospero. The scenographic appearance of the walkway (in an explicitly Rococo style) dates back to the end of the 1700s. During that same era, decoration, with slightly Oriental tones, of the entryway to the main piazza was carried out based on designs by Francesco Fontanesi.
Twice a week, the piazza holds a lively, crowded market where you can truly find just about anything (from products for the home, to food products, to minor antiques).
The market and the portico
On special occasions (the San Prosper Fair on November 24th, or the Giareda in early September) the market expands to include vendors from allover Italy.
From Piazza San Prospero to Piazza Fontanesi
A small street named Via Fornaciari moves southward from piazza San Prospero, until it reaches via Toschi, one of the most attractive streets in the city flanked by many beautiful buildings. At n. 9, you can see palazzo Vezzani-Pratonieri, a 16th century building now home to the Reggio Emilia Savings Bank.
Inside you will find the remarkable salone pubblico, a great hall designed by Eugenio Collamarini and decorated by Cirillo Manicardi. The simple Omozzoli-Parisetti hospital stands at n. 24, with a small oratory annex. The fa?ade carries a beautiful renaissance fresco which depicts Madonna Enthroned with Child.
Notice, at number 28, the 18th century building, palazzo Masdoni, Rocca-Saporiti. Inside, find a late-baroque stairwell and a scenic theater hall adorned with impressive decorations by Francesco Vellani. Finally, at number 32 stands the interesting palazzo Cassoli-Tirelli, built in the early 1900s in a neo-medieval style.
A possible deviation on the tour lies to the right of via Toschi. By taking via Zefiro Iodi, at the intersection with via San Filippo, you can see the church of the same name. While it lacks a fa?ade the attractive interior, designed by Girolamo Beltrami in the 1600s, is airy and spacious. By turning onto via San Filippo, you will come upon the church of St. Jerome (San Girolamo), whereas by continuing straight on via Iodi, you will instead come to Villa Levi-Terracini, an interesting example of an upper-bourgeois home from the late 1800s, and the church of Saint Teresa.
View of via San Carlo and the San Prospero Tower
Getting back to the main itinerary, about halfway down via dei Toschi begins via San Carlo, another street filled with numerous artistic achievements.
Via San Carlo, porticos
Immediately, you will come upon the oratory of St. Charles and St. Agatha, recognizable by its portico with four columns. This renaissance oratory was redesigned in the 1600s by Girolamo Beltrami, based on designs by Luigi Avanzini.
Via San Carlo
At number 10, the Textile Art and Merchants building is quite interesting. The building has a typical late-renaissance floor plan with sandstone pillars.
Textile Art and Merchants building, 1487-51
The street ends with the lush greenery of piazza Fontanesi.
This elegant tree-lined piazza dates back to 1788. In that year the convent of St. Mary Magdalene was torn down, and the space was used to build a piazza suited to the architectural and urban dictates of the time. Indeed, the space is reminiscent of the geometric 18th century Paris plazas.
Numerous antique shops look out over the vast, harmonic space. In the summer, antique lovers meet there on a weekly basis. The oldest of the homes, located on the western side of the piazza, were recently restored, returning them to their lovely original pastel color.
The square after last restructuring
The home of painter Gaetano Chierici, with its elegant loggia, can be found at number eight.
At the end of via Guazzatoio rises the "bastion", the only remaining piece of the city walls, dating back to the 1200s. The "bastion" (more precisely called "porta Castello") shows visible traces of the great lancet arch which marked the gates to the city.
Beyond piazza Fontanesi
After visiting piazza Fontanesi, you can return northward by crossing the small piazza XXIV Maggio and then continuing onto via Ludovico Ariosto. From there, cross piazza Roversi to Corso Garibaldi, which was the course of the ancient Crostolo stream, now underground.
Facade of the Oratory of the Holy Crucifixion known as Christ. Designed by Engineer Giovanni Massa, 1914-17
You will take the same route on foot that was run by ancient Roman ships to reach the via Emilia, after first stopping to admire the Basilica della Ghiara. Turn right from there and pass by the attractive piazza del Monte di Pietà , until you reach the starting point, piazza Prampolini.