Covering an area of five thousand square metres, the fortress of Scandiano in the centre of the town is famous not only as a defensive structure first and then as a noble residence, but above all because illustrious people have lived inside it: the poet Matteo Maria Boiardo was born in a room on the first floor of the building; Lazzaro Spallanzani used to carry out his experiments in the basement. The poet Francesco Petrarca, the reformer Giovanni Calvino and Pope Paul III stayed in the castle. Here, on 10 October 1796, they sang the praises of freedom and Napoleon and joined the Reggiana Republic. Also inside the Rocca di Scandiano, on 11 March 1800, the plebiscite that sanctioned Scandiano's annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia took place. The
Rocca dei Boiardo dates back to the 12th century, it dominates the town centre and is undoubtedly a monument of great historical and cultural
value: built by the noble Da Fogliano family, today it is named after the Boiardo family who inhabited it from 1423 for 137 years.
Until the 18th century, the Rocca preserved an important cycle of frescoes by the painter Nicolò dell'Abate, which are now in the Galleria Estense in Modena. Many artists worked in the Rocca, including Bartolomeo Spani, Giovan Battista Aleotti and Antonio Traeri.
The architectural complex has undergone many renovations over the centuries. In the building coexist: medieval architectural structures such as the pusterla tower of the north entrance and the hanging arches of the courtyard; Renaissance such as the courtyard portico and Baroque such as the grand staircase, the mullioned windows with two lights, the architraves of the courtyard, stucco decorations of the Estense flat.
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 characters from the Thiene family and were made in 1619 by the Genoese sculptor Giovan Battista Pontelli. The four surviving statues, of the many that Aleotti would have wanted (including an equestrian one) perhaps depict, starting from the top of the staircase and proceeding anti-clockwise: Marcantonio, Ottavio I, Giulio and Ottavio II Thiene. This last statue (the most successful) reveals affinities with classical statuary. It is not excluded that the other three warriors in 'monstrous armour' posing as demigods also have their stylistic archetypes in classical statuary.
The restoration of the gardens of the Fortress of Scandiano, completed in 2017, delivers to visitors a space that had never been open to the public in the past because the Boiardesque complex was a military structure, but also in recent times, after it was handed over in concession to the municipality, because the area was completely impassable, full of debris and spontaneous vegetation. An abandoned area, half-covered by many cubic metres of earth, on the southwest side of the Rocca, which after a few years of work presents a fascinating alternation of ancient walls and new grassy areas, slopes and a terrace on the moat: in the rediscovered gardens, cultural, food and wine and entertainment events are organised, and it is also possible to celebrate weddings. The redevelopment of the gardens was made possible thanks to important State resources: further funding is expected, again from the Government, particularly for projects related to the cities of the former Este Dukedom.