Travel to Dozza

Dozza, the enchanting open-air art gallery

July 2, 2021 | By

Dozza is an Italian town of 6.629 inhabitants in the metropolitan city of Bologna, in Emilia-Romagna, consisting of two countries: Toscanella (La Tuscanèla in Romagna, over 5.000 inhabitants), the only fraction, and the municipal capital Dozza (just over a thousand inhabitants).


Dozza is considered one of the most characteristic medieval villages of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, both for the state of conservation and for the landscape in which it is immersed. The capital is also called Dozza Imolese to distinguish it from the township of Bologna. It is part of the New Imolese District.

The name Dozza derives from the medieval Latin ducia (shower, docciola, gargoyle); the etymology is that of “conduit”, or canal that leads water. In medieval documents the toponyms Ducia and Dutia appear alternately. The name could also be a reference to an ancient aqueduct capable of accumulating water from the Monte del Re in a cistern to cope with drought periods.

The city coat of arms features a rampant griffin, heraldic animal, in the foreground, which quenches its thirst with water coming out of a pipeline.

Dozza is part of the club of “The most beautiful villages in Italy” and walking through its narrow streets your eyes fill with pure beauty.

On the facades of the houses of Dozza there are real works of art. The walls of the city are real canvases where you will find murals and drawings. It is worth walking through the narrow stone streets of Dozza. Every corner will reserve surprises. That’s why visit Dozza is a must.

Dozza is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and a beautiful guarded jewel of Emilia Romagna. It  is located on a hill in the valley of the Sellustra river. Dominating the village is the Rocca Sforzesca, a perfectly preserved medieval structure that houses a small art gallery that is worth visiting. The small town is easily reached from Bologna.

You will find a real museum on the streets of Dozza, because art is hidden under the windows, in the corners, in the threshing floors, in front of the facades of the shops.

A village framed by vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see, whose rows chase each other through slopes with soft profiles almost to delimit the western border between Romagna and Emilia Romagna with their perfect geometries.

Let’s start our virtual tour in this gem of Emilia Romagna!

Dozza Street Art and Old Town

Rocca Sforzesca

The current appearance dates back to the renovation carried out at the end of the 1400s under the rule of Caterina Sforza, designed by the military engineer Giorgio Marchesi, works made necessary to adapt the original structure to the new defensive needs due to the advent of firearms.

The complex has a hexagonal shape with a perimeter of about 200 meters and is characterized on the front side by two circular towers.

The largest place near the entrance has a diameter of about 16 meters and is called “il Torresino”, while the other tower has a diameter of about 11 meters and is called “dei Bolognesi”.

The moat, once full of water, is present only on the front of the building, while the other two sides of the fortress equipped with two rhomboidal bastions, are heavily sloped and rest directly on the ground.

The fortress can be accessed by passing over a small bridge (once mobile) located next to the Torresino. After passing a via ferrata gate, we find ourselves in a small courtyard overlooked by the entrance to the castle and the entrance to the Emilia regional wine bar. Romagna the latter obtained in the basement.

The first floor or main floor which corresponds to the ancient residence of the Campeggi-Malvezzi is really interesting, together with the main room with the family art gallery, the red room with a remarkable golden mirror from the 19th century and coffered ceiling, the room of Pius VII with furniture from the 1600s, the weapons room containing a collection of vintage weapons and a small chapel dedicated to the immaculate Madonna.

Note the razor well in the premises opposite, there is an ancient military defense pitfall.

A further two rooms are the bedroom and the guest bedroom.

Using a staircase, you enter the Bolognesi tower, and from this along the walkways you reach Torresino, the main tower located next to the entrance.

You can now go down to the internal courtyard with porch, to access the base of the tower and visit the prisons (with torture instruments of the time), the weapons room and the particular razor well.

Then you can visit the  kitchen on the ground floor, a large room divided into two rooms where tools and period objects are exhibited.

On the upper floors of the Rocca, it is also possible to visit the art gallery where some “tears” of the frescoes made on the walls of Dozza are displayed in the various editions of the biennial “Painted wall”.

These premises are also used periodically for extemporaneous “themed” exhibitions. Inside the Rocca there is the regional Enoteca which offers a permanent exhibition on the wine-growing activities in the area, but also tastings and direct sales.

The Biennial of the Painted Wall

There is something for which Dozza has become so famous. The village is all an open-air museum, always open and free, a permanent exhibition of murals that color, crowd, dress and decorate the walls of the houses (and not only).

Dozza is made unique by the numerous paintings that embellish the facades of the houses and give it a characteristic appearance. The Biennial of the Painted Wall (born in 1965) represents the most important event in Dozza.

During four days of September, famous national and international artists perform permanent works on the walls of the houses of the small town, giving it the peculiar characteristic of an open-air art gallery.

New works see the light on the walls and on the still free exits of this small medieval fortress that coexists in total harmony with the contemporary gleam of “Street art”. Some begin to show the first signs of aging betrayed by a light veiled patina, while others still shine in their bright colors. In short, author’s walls that have told more than 200 stories in a continuous succession, for over half a century.

It all dates back to 1960, when the first edition of the Biennial of the Painted Wall was held.

Since then, every two years, artists from all over the world meet in this small and silent village to leave their mark on one of its walls. Actually, every element of Dozza is good for becoming a ‘canvas’ for the works and creativity of the participating artists! Windows, doors, planters are often incorporated in the design, in a mutual exchange that is sometimes very surprising.

Over the years, true masters of painting have also passed through here, such as Sebastian Matta, Riccardo Licata, Bruno Saetti, Remo Brindisi, Aligi Sassu, Riccardo Schweizer, Norma Mascellani.

Since the year 2000, the hamlet of Toscanella has also been involved, where graffiti and street art works are performed.

“Don G. Polo” parish museum of sacred art

Attached to the parish church of the Assumption, the small museum displays sacred furnishings (vases, crucifixes, reliquaries, vestments, a 17th century breviary), 90 plaques and other devotional objects, paintings on canvas and table, drawings and engravings, prints ancient, together with sacred vestments and liturgical silverware from places of worship in the surrounding countryside.

Open to the public in 1978, it is located in the building adjacent to the parish church of the Assunta.

Rebuilt towards the end of the 15th century and restored between 1942 and ’45, the building of worship retains a lunette with relief depicting the Virgin of Romanesque-Byzantine art, a panel by Marco Palmezzano (Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Caterina, 1492) and good paintings from the Bolognese school from the 16th to 17th centuries.

Other church furnishings are kept in the adjacent museum, together with objects from places of worship in the surrounding countryside: paintings on canvas and on wood, drawings and engravings, antique prints, sacred vestments, liturgical silverware, as well as a 17th century breviary.

Sanctuary of the Madonna del Calanco

Inside, it preserves the sacred image of the Blessed Virgin of the Calanco, a bas-relief depicting the Madonna with folded hands carried by angels. The bas-relief is carried in procession every year on the occasion of Pentecost, the day of the patron saint of Dozza.

The image was discovered by chance in the early sixteenth century by two shepherds: originally hanging from a tree, he cured a cripple from infirmity who had stopped to rest under it. Following the miraculous event, the bas-relief became an object of veneration and was placed first in a chapel and then in the current church.

The sacred image of the Blessed Virgin of the Calanco is not a painting, but a bas-relief in off-white stone.

The sacred image was found in the early sixteenth century: originally it was hung on a tree, later a devotion was created around it that led to the construction first of a chapel, then of the current church.

Tradition says that the image of the Virgin was hung on a tree by some shepherds who had found it by chance and that a cripple stopped under it to rest. Upon his awakening he was cured of infirmity.

The image of the Madonna is finely worked in an oval white  tile. At the end of the eighteenth century, the French government ordered the dismantling of all that was sacred in the area including the Madonna del Calanco which was saved by the Toschi family who purchased it with all the sacred furnishings.

The building was restored a first time after the First World War and a second time after the Second World War and restored to its ancient form without side altars. Since 1723, the day of the patron, which coincides with Pentecost in Dozza, the Madonna del Calanco is carried in procession.

Regional Wine Shop of Emilia Romagna

The Emilia Romagna Regional Enoteca is housed inside the Rocca Sforzesca di Dozza, in the splendid perfectly restored cellars.

The DOC and DOCG wines of the Region are being tasted and sold. About 200 members are represented, with over 600 labels selected by a qualified commission of experts.

The Emilia Romagna Regional Enoteca was born in 1970. The initiative was born from the Municipality of Dozza, from the Pro Loco and from some local producers, with the help of public bodies of the Province of Bologna interested in the wine sector.

In 1978, the Region, with a specific law, defined the Enoteca as the most suitable tool for promoting regional wine both in Italy and abroad.

Inaugurated in May 1990, the new headquarters are spread over 1000 square meters. It completely occupies the ancient basements and part of the ground floor of the Rocca.

The offices and boardrooms are located here. The cellars of the Rocca host the showroom, with the possibility of tasting and buying. A “cave” area was then created, with a room dedicated to white wines and one for red wines, and tastings are possible.

A gun station of the Rocca, always connected to the exhibition hall, was used for the storage of aging wines. The Rocca’s “preserve” has been transformed into an air-conditioned cell where the wines are kept for chemical-organoleptic tests.

Upon request, weddings can be organized in the rooms of the fortress and catering service within the Emilia Romagna Regional Enoteca.

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