The fortress, in the heart of the town, was the first building cell and then for eight centuries the symbol of Scandiano's political power. Initially built as a place of defence, it was equipped with walls, a moat with a drawbridge and watchtowers. It later became a Renaissance residence when the government of Scandiano passed into the hands of the Boiardo family and it was then that Nicolò dell'Abate painted the frescoes of the Camerino, with scenes from the Aeneid, which were transferred to the Estense Gallery in Modena at the end of the 18th century.
Later, the Thiene family lived there from 1565 for 58 years, making very significant changes to the building and bringing it to its present form, entrusting the project to Giovan Battista Aleotti. To him we owe the elegant staircase leading to the piano nobile, the imposing south façade and the completion of the west tower. In the 17th and 18th centuries, first the Bentivoglio family and then the Marquises d'Este introduced Baroque-style decorations. The numerous changes the castle has undergone over the centuries make it difficult to understand and interpret the structure; several styles coexist in it: medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and modern. The
rooms on the ground floor, which date back to the 16th century, form the so-called Este flat, modified in its present form at the beginning of the 18th century by the Marquises d'Este; here the Rococo-style Fireplace Room and the Drape Room, so called because of a drape that surrounds the vault of the ceiling. Leaving the flat, one crosses a short stretch of the inner courtyard and arrives at the monumental staircase, the work of architect Giovan Battista Aleotti, known as l'Argenta. To the left of it is a doorway leading to the castle's dungeons, home to the old prisons. The Courtyard The courtyard of the Rocca has many architectural elements that testify to the artistic stratifications that have taken place over the centuries. The south wall still shows a column (from the original 15th-16th century portico) with its characteristic late medieval 'water-leaf' capital. The west side shows (below the last 18th-century curtain wall) different styles and it is possible to recognise, under the pointed arches of the windows, some traces of 16th-century monochrome frescoes. I Giardini
Apartment Interior Hall of the Alcove Most of the paintings in the last room, known as the 'Alcove' room, probably date back to the 18th century. The event narrated on the four walls may have something to do with some Estense military campaign. On the two long walls are depicted: the preparation of the military campaign (according to stylistic modules reminiscent of Raphael's 'School of Athens') and the army's descent into the field (according to stylistic modules reminiscent of Nicolò dell'Abate); on the short walls: a warrior divinity, the turmoil in the vanquished city and the handing over of the city to the victors. The tour starts in the Estense flat, where the rooms of 16th-century origin were modified as we see them today at the beginning of the 18th century by the Marquises d'Este. This route winds its way through the different rooms, which take their name from the dominant motif in the decoration. The "Sala dei Gigli", also rich in frescoes with views of Scandiano, by an unknown author, the "Sala del Camino" in Rococo style and the "Sala del Drappo" with its precious drape surrounding the vault of the sky on the ceiling, the "Sala dell'Alcova", which features 18th-century frescoes with battle scenes, and finally the "Sala delle Aquile", located in the body of the tower, where the busts of Luigi, Borso, Foresto and Rinaldo d'Este are depicted. The decorations in these rooms are the work of Castellino, a well-known sculptor from Modena. The
monumental staircase of the Rocca was conceived in its original formulation by Giovan Battista Aleotti in the early 17th century; the 'pincer' staircase is a few years later and was probably commissioned by the Bentivoglio family. The terracotta statues most probably depict members of the Thiene family and were made in 1619 by the Genoese sculptor Giovan Battista Pontelli. Four surviving statues probably depict Marcantonio, Ottavio I, Giulio and Ottavio II Thiene. Didactic site "Sala del Paradiso" The fiefdom of Scandiano, governed from 1423 to 1565 by the Counts Boiardo, established itself among the courts of the Po Valley in the 15th and 16th centuries, thanks to the "good governance" of its lords, achieving a high level of social and cultural life. In particular, Giulio Boiardo, continuing the work begun by his father Giovanni, began the transformation of the town and the embellishment of the fortress: the building, from a primitive medieval fortress intended for defence, was transformed into a sumptuous Renaissance palace adorned with paintings, sculptures, furniture and precious furnishings. In this renovation phase, the commission to Nicolò dell'Abate to execute several cycles of frescoes, inside and outside the fortress itself, is of great importance. The latter, placed on the walls of the courtyard of honour, are today completely lost. Nicolò's presence in Scandiano is documented between 1540 and 1543, and the decoration of the two rooms known as the 'Camerino dell'Eneide' and the 'Sala del Convito o del Paradiso', located in the count's flat on the first floor of the building, dates back to this period. In 1772, the Camerino decorations were detached and transported to Modena by order of Duke Francesco III d'Este. The location of the 'Paradise Room' was also unknown, which only recent studies have identified in the room above the entrance tower. Numerous fragments of this room are conserved at the Galleria Estense in Modena, all obtained from the demolition of the vault and the spandrels on which the vault itself was set: the left part of the ceiling with the 'Convito di Amore e Psiche' (Banquet of Cupid and Psyche) and the sails with the 'Musicanti' (Musicians). There is no information as to when these were detached: probably also in the last quarter of the 18th century. The recently found fragments of paintings, surprisingly similar to those preserved in Modena, complete the architectural and decorative apparatus of the "Sala del Paradiso" and allow us to confirm its location inside the Rocca. Thanks to the intervention of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence, the complete restoration of one of the lunettes was initially carried out, working on this one as a "pilot object" to develop a methodology that would become a working model valid for the entire cycle, in order to arrive at the drafting of a recovery project for all the lunettes and the entire room. In order to valorise the discovery of the Room and the restoration work, the idea of a "Didactic Site" was born, i.e. a route that would allow the public, even while the work was in progress, to visit the Room and imagine, through a virtual reconstruction, its original face.