Cento is a picturesque town with a strong artistic vocation in whole region of Emilia Romagna, located at the center of the province between Ferrara, Modena and Bologna, in a plateau full of rivers and small ponds (once used for the cultivation of hemp) . The city's name derives from the method of land distribution used by the Romans (the centuriation).
The earliest records date back to 1185, when the area was under the control of the Bishop of Bologna. In 1378 began the construction of the Rocca (fortress) with predominant defensive features until the control of the territories was transferred, by Pope Alexander VI, from the Bishop to the d'Este Family, during the negotiations for the marriage of his daughter Lucrezia to Alfonso d'Este. Between the XVII and XVIII centuries, Cento flourished in a period of great splendor, which coincided with a renewal of the social, urban planning and architectural plan and contributed to the economic and cultural development of the city.
Sites of Interest:
- the Basilica of San Biagio, built probably before the year 1000 as simple chapel, restored and remodeled several times over the centuries. The current appearance is to attribute to the XVII century refurbishments completed by the architect Torregiani. The interior features three naves with a large apse, in a sober Baroque style that also reveals the extant Renaissance influences. In a side chapel is preserved a valuable painting by the artist Guercino, depicting "St. Charles Borromeo in prayer."
- the Rocca, built in 1378 at the behest of the bishop of Bologna, which 50 years later was replaced by a military-type structure. Quadrilateral-shaped, supported by four sturdy towers and once surrounded by a moat. Today it is home to exhibitions, conferences and theatrical events;
- the Jewish Ghetto, a small district located between the current roads: Via Provenzali and Via Malagoti;
- the Governor's Palace (also known as Palace of the Region or of the Clock) built in 1502 to host the court of Ferrara and their Ducal commissioners, while under the domain of the Papal States, it was the seat of Papal delegates. In the XVII century, the local architect Giraldini built the Clock Tower, in Classical style. Today it is the seat of the Gallery of Modern Art devoted to the local painter Aroldo Bonzagni;
- the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rocca, built in 1609 and which preserves inside a revered image depicting the Virgin with a trickle of blood that runs from her nose, that according to the local traditions, is due to a sacrilegious act;
- the Town Hall, built in 1612 and, at the time, externally decorated with frescoes by the Guercino. Today, the façade is divided by a marble balcony that cuts horizontally the prospectus for its entire length: the top is crowned by a spectacular structure that is dominated by the city coat of arms, while the lower level features a portico with three arches supported by octagonal columns. Noteworthy for the decorations and the elegant wooden benches of the Council Chamber;
- Palazzo Rusconi (1776), a splendid example of XVIII century architecture of the area of Bologna with a double staircase entrance and an impressive façade. Inside, on display is a Collection of Ancient Art of the Cassa di Risparmio, which includes several masterpieces of the Guercino and his pupils;
- Palazzo Scarselli Tassinari, seat of the Public Library, dating from the XVIII century and is characterized by fine decorations as well as by a splendid staircase;
- Casa Pannini, a noble manor house built in the first half of the XV century, characterized by a wooden porch entablature. The rooms were frescoed by the Guercino and his pupils, while today about half of these paintings are preserved in the Civic Art Museum of Cento.