Once upon a time there were the "Rooms of Wonders", private collections of rare, precious or exotic objects.Today many of these "wonders" can be seen in museums which have sent experts out into the country’s highways and byways to bring back treasures that are selected, catalogued and put on display. There’s no need to dwell on the immensity of this heritage. (For each exhibit on show many other less important but equally significant objects live a secluded life in the dim light of museum store-rooms). You only have to think of the number of museums our region boasts to get an idea of its cultural wealth.
There are more than four hundred (the database of the region’s museums can be consulted online at www.ibc.regione.emilia-romagna.it ) museums ranging from large-scale repositories of artistic and archaeological treasures to small civic museums which conserve local finds, and thus document the history of a microcosm. There are scientific collections (the best are the university museums), and curious collections of cigarette cards, toy soldiers, upholstery, naïve art, boats (obviously outdoors and bobbing in a harbour) and a museum dedicated to the history of weighing machines. There are single-room museums (celebrating village-pump virtues) and museums which cover vast tracts of territory (the Po Delta, the Trebbia valley) whose cultural heritage - a culture made of houses, stones, water, plants - would not lend itself to conventional methods of selection and display.
There are museums exhibiting priceless Old Masters and others which diligently set out the everyday tools of common working folk; museums that sink their roots in ancient history and others presenting modern history so recent that it has a disquieting ring of familiarity. The idea is to give them (great or small) a second chance: to exorcise memories of tedious school trips (lined up unwillingly to admire the usual Egyptian mummy, the enigmatic Etruscan divining liver, Guido Reni and the extended family of the Carracci, a whalebone from the Pliocene Period or one of Garibaldi´s old shirts). Life is also here - not only elsewhere.
From the Carracci family to the museum houses of Verdi and ToscaniniSchools of painting and great artists are exhibited in regional museums. Beneath the porticoes of the School of Fine Art in Bologna the National Picture Gallery possesses, among many other oustanding works, paintings such as the Virgin of the barefoot by Ludovico Carracci and the Massacre of the Innocents by Guido Reni. And there is also the Medieval Town Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art and University Museums. Just outside Bologna, in San Marino di Bentivoglio, the Country Museum recounts the history of the Emilian landscape and you only have to visit the Romagna Folk Museum in Santarcangelo (Rimini) to get an idea of what the people of this region are like. Another picture gallery of national importance is in Ferrara, at the Palazzo dei Diamanti ( Diamond Palace), itself an architectural masterpiece of rare beauty.
Also in the city of the Este family you can discover treasures on display in the castle rooms and at the City Museum, inside the Schifanoia Palace. Ravenna exhibits the ancient splendour of the Byzantine Age at the Town Museum and at the Municipal Picture Gallery. In Modena you can visit the Este Museum and Gallery as well as the Museum of Modern and Medieval History and Art. Parma: after visiting the National Picture Gallery inside the Pilotta Palace, you really must pay homage to Toscanini and Verdi, calling in on their respective memorial houses, the former in town and the latter in Busseto. Piacenza boasts Antonello da Messina´s Ecce homo at the "Alberoni" Gallery and the City Museums in the magnificent setting of the Farnese palace.
From cultural to natural heritage, often hidden in out-of-the-way places: Ferrara and Faenza have their Natural Science Museums and nature is also in the limelight at the Valley Museum in Argenta, the Centre for Environmental Education in Mesola, the Ethnographic Po Museum in Monticelli D´ Ongina in the province of Piacenza, the Flora and Fauna Museum in Premilcuore in the province of Forlí, and at the Nature Museum in Pavullo del Frignano (Modena). From these museums, renowned all over Europe, to the minor but equally interesting, curious and sometimes bizarre collections: in Brescello there is a Museum devoted to Peppone and Don Camillo, and the Museo degli Sguardi museum in Rimini dedicated to non-European culture. The Museum of Naïve Painting can be found in Luzzara (Reggio Emilia), the Romagna mammal museum is in Bagno di Romagna, and you can visit a floating Museum of maritime history in the harbour of Cesenatico.