Despite the ravages of times, the castles in Reggio Emilia surroundings preserve still the fascination of the past, telling the story of the Canossa family and of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages, Matilda da Canossa, who had a major role in the battle for investitures deciding thus the destiny of Europe.
Atto Adalberto, son of the lord of Lucca Siegfried, Marquis of Tuscany, shifted the axis of power towards the Reggio territory and provoked its gradual fortification. From Canossa the family ruled and kept strengthening its strongholds, intimidating the enemies that many times were defeated on these hills and plains turned into battlefields. Many important chapters of the ancient history of Italy and of Europe were written between those hills: the Queen of Italy Adelaide found shelter in the Castle of Canossa during a very long siege of Berengarius II, and was successfully freed by the Emperor Otho I in 950 AD.
On 28 January 1077, the Gran Contessa Matilda ( great-granddaughter of Atto Adalberto) siding with the Pope in the battle for investitures, forces the Emperor Henry IV to humiliate himself before Pope Gregory VII in an effort to have the excommunication revoked; even now, “andare a Canossa” (“to go to Canossa”, meaning “to eat humble pie”) is synonym in more than 30 languages with forgiveness and humiliation .