A stone's throw from the so-called "Sentiero Matilde" (Matilde's Path) which, on a route that goes from San Pellegrino in Alpe to Ciano d'Enza, Votigno di Canossa allows the visitor to get to know this important female figure: on foot or by bicycle, one crosses history among parish churches, churches, castles, among which the one in Canossa, just 2km away from Votigno, and the Castle of Sarzano.
Discovering the village
Votigno di Canossa is a village almost hidden by vegetation, situated on the green and fertile hills of Reggiane: it is fortified and among its stone houses, iron staircases, postcard squares, flowered balconies and a black and white chessboard, time seems to have stopped. The Middle Ages can still be seen in its streets where silence is almost total: you can still see a blacksmith in his shop, the baker and women intent on spinning or weaving baskets.
It is not surprising that Votigno di Canossa has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and often hosts historical re-enactments, without forgetting the Ecomercato del Borgo which in June welcomes visitors with live music, artisan products and local food and wine: there is no better location to enjoy, for example, the Erbazzone savoury cake, Parma ham or fried gnocco, washed down with a glass of excellent Lambrusco wine.
You wouldn't say that the stories of kings and emperors intertwined here, before giving way to a peasant civilization made up essentially of peasants, artisans, pilgrims and monks: from the medieval tower that dominates Votigno, the armigers sighted and fought all those enemies who walked towards the nearby Canossa Castle.
Entering Votigno di Canossa the first thing that catches the eye is the presence of many Buddhist religious symbols, including statues of Buddhas and colorful flags fluttering with prayers. The reason for this specificity of the place is the presence of the "House of Tibet", a Buddhist monastery that makes the village even more characteristic and suggestive: the construction, absolutely unique in its kind in Europe, was commissioned in 1990 by a doctor named Stefano Dallari, with the aim of spreading and preserving a Buddhist culture endangered in his country of origin.
The monastery was also visited in 1999 by Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama who defined this beautiful and quiet place, perfect for meditation and prayer: this important visit is remembered by the presence of a small temple, a gompa, with objects of worship and images of this spiritual guide important for all Buddhists.
The Dalai Lama also inaugurated the adjoining Museum where there are costumes, photos taken in the 1940s in Tibet by the photographer Fosco Maraini, plus a section dedicated to the figure of Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy based on peace, dialogue and non-violence.
From Votigno di Canossa to the Castle of Canossa
After discovering the historical and cultural richness of Votigno di Canossa, you cannot miss a visit to the nearby Canossa Castle, only 2 km away: it was built on a white sandstone cliff in order to make it practically inaccessible. Legend has it that Matilda of Canossa imprisoned the devil in a bottle, placing a condition for her freedom: the construction of an inviolable fortress. So it happened and the gullies that can be admired from the top of the castle, together with the distant Crown of the Alps, are in fact nicknamed "the devil's claws" because they were created by him with a single paw.
Today the Castle of Canossa is an accumulation of ruins, with some ruined walls and a crypt still visible: the charm and charm of this place has remained absolutely intact, so that the Castle is now a National Monument. It was built in 940 by a certain Azzo Adalberto and soon became an important centre of feudal power of the Longobard family Attonidi at the time when Matilde di Canossa flourished.
The most important historical event linked to this castle is remembered as "The Forgiveness of Canossa" in January 1077: here, in the royal presence of Matilda of Canossa (who in history always played a fundamental and peacemaking role in relations between the Church and the Empire) and the charismatic abbot Hugh of Cluny, Pope Gregory VII absolved King Henry IV from excommunication.
Among the remains of this castle there is the interesting Noborre Campanili Museum: inside this small exhibition space it is possible to admire the scale reproduction of the Canossa Castle, but also precious finds such as a splendid 12th century baptismal font (in the past kept in the church of Sant'Apollonio built just inside the fortress) and an 11th century book written by Donizone di Canossa.
Fortress lovers will be able to easily reach Sarzano Castle, just 8 km away from Votigno di Canossa: the archaeologist Corrado Ricci called this building one of the most elegant in the whole Emilian Apennines. It dates back to 958 A.D. and was commissioned by the ancestors of Matilde di Canossa: today two towers remain, one of the 15th century and the other converted to a bell tower of the nearby Church of San Bartolomeo.
Village of Votigno di Canossa
Municipality of Canossa
Province of Reggio-Emilia
Altitude centre: 219 m a.s.l.
Protected natural areas:
Oriented nature reserve Rupe di Campotrera rock
Piazza Matteotti 28 - tel: 0522248411