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Cesena is an ancient city of Emilia-Romagna, to the right of the Savio River and in a wide and fertile plain. It is an important city of approximately 88,000 inhabitants.
Malatesta has several places of interest including churches, palaces and other monuments, and also holds the oldest Public Library in the world. Start a visit perhaps in the Piazza del Popolo, where you can see the Palazzo Comunale, built by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz between 1359 and 1362. The Piazza del Popolo was formerly called Piazza Maggiore, and Galeotto Malatesta made this square the heart of the city with markets and tournaments.
The Town Hall, built by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz in 1357, contains some 15th century paintings attributed to Pietro Giacomo da Forli. On the right side of the City Hall is the Rocchetta di Piazza, a fortress more than 20 meters high and now the seat of the Natural Sciences Museum, while in front of the Tower is Saint Anne's Church (consecrated in 1664), designed by Pier Mattia Angeloni.
At the centre of the square is one of the most interesting sights in Cesena, the 'Masini Fountain' built in Istrian stone and attributed to Francesco Masini (1530-1603), gushing with symbols and figures in relief.
Next stop is the Cesena Fortress, dating back to Byzantine rule, which was restored by Galeotto Malatesta in 1377 and then also by Carlo and Novello Malatesta.
Passing along Corso Mazzini Cesena cathedral is in the Gothic style and was built at the end of the 14th century. The cathedral interior has three naves, with a 16th century wooden crucifix, and in the aisle to the left is the Chapel of Madonna of the People, in baroque style and coated with precious marbles and a triptych marble by Lorenzo Bregno (1514).
In an old Franciscan monastery the Historical Museum of Antiquities you can see collected pottery fragments and everyday objects dating from the 14th to the 16th century, and also some items that illustrate the history of the prehistoric phases of Cesena. In particular take a look at showcase number ten in the museum to see some finds from the Roman era such as household items, tools, weapons and armour.
Malatesta Library and Monastery
A visit to Cesena must include the Malatesta Library, built by Novello Malatesta in 1447 to a plan by Matteo Nuti (who completed the building in 1452). The library, which contains over 300 manuscripts, is located on the top floor of the old Franciscan monastery where the Historical Museum of Antiquities is situated.
The monastery has the formal structure of a basilica, with three naves, divided by 12 columns and capitals carrying the emblem of the Malatesta Family, an Indian 'small' elephant. The wooden door of the Library was inlaid by the cabinet-maker Cristoforo from San Giovanni in Persiceto while above it there is another Indian elephant of the Malatesta Family.
Underneath the elephant is a short Latin phrase, "Elephas Indus culices non timet" which means "The Indian elephant is not afraid of mosquitoes". Mosquitoes refers to the enemies of the Malatesta Family, haughtily regarded as annoying insects.
Among the most precious manuscripts here are the 13th century Illuminated Bible and the precious 'Etymologies' of St. Isidore (560-636), the oldest manuscripts owned by the Library. Among the manuscripts there is also a work by illuminators from Ferrara, the "Sermones in Evangelium Johannis" by St. Augustine (354-430).
In the refectory there are frescoes with scenes representing The Crucifixion, The Last Supper, and St Francis receiving the Stigmata, perhaps by Bartolomeo from Foligno.
The Saint Domenico Church possesses some extraordinary paintings and is among the most important 17th century buildings in Cesena. Also remarkable is the Saint Augustine Church (1520), which on the outside has pilaster strips and buttresses which stand out in white stones on the brick. The interior has a longitudinal plan with three chapels on each side, and the intersection of the nave with the transept has a grand octagonal platform.
The church originally had many paintings but many of these have now gone missing, except the 'Disputation on the Immaculate Conception' by Brera.
Another highlight is the Servi Church, probably dating back to the first half of the 13th century. It was the subject of several restorations before being completely rebuilt by Pietro Carlo Borboni between 1756 and 1765. The façade, made of brick, is marked by a series of paired pilasters. Among the paintings in the church is a 17th-century 'Annunciation' by Livio Modigliani (1540-1610).
Among the civic buildings of interest in Cesena are the 18th century Palace of the Congregation, in neoclassical style; and the Palazzo Ghini (1680) by P.M. Angeloni, with a brick façade, four rows of windows, a portal to the centre and edges in Istrian stone. Inside the palace there is a picture by Giacomo Bolognini [1664-1734] called 'The Triumph of Venus'.
Outside the historic city
Outside the town walls of Cesena there are also some very interesting monuments, such as the 12th century Abbazia della Madonna del Monte, which holds very important paintings such as the 16th century decorations by Gerolamo Longhi and paintings by Francesco Francia, Bartolomeo Coda and Francesco Zagarella.
In the nearby Church of the Observance is an extraordinary work by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (painting as the “Guercino”, 1591-1666) called “The Ectasy of St. Francis”.
See separate article for the history of Cesena
A tour of the region around Cesena also offers an opportunity to pause in some restaurants and to enjoy the traditional cuisine of Romagna between Forlì and Cesena. Among the first courses try the pasta in broth, 'cappelletti', noodles and lasagne. Other local types of pasta include the strozzapreti served with meat sauce, and the passatelli in broth.
The use of local sausages and meats derived from pork is widespread, especially ham, salami, “mortadella”, “coppa” and salted pork, accompanied by the famous “piadina” and a good glass of red wine while in some traditional taverns it is still possible to enjoy frogs or snails (breaded and fried or stewed).
All this, of course, must be enjoyed with local wines such as the Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Cagnina, Albana and the Pagadebit.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Emilia-Romagna guide.