The countryside north of Bologna treasures some interesting traces of the peculiar art society founded by the architect Alfonso Rubbiani at the end of the 19th-century, the Aemilia Ars, sort of a Bolognese "arts and crafts" characterized by floral decorations, artworks of refined handicraft and a 'neo-gothic' revival in restoration works.
First stop-over on the way is the Budrio Town Hall, where one can admire the splendid staircase leading to the Council Hall, masterfully decorated by Aemilia Ars artists. Following the itinerary, near Minerbio is worth a stop-over the Castle of San Martino in Soverzano: the ancient manor house surrounded by a suggestive moat, now a private property, was re-elaborated by Rubbiani according to the typical neo-gothic style that connects many of his restoration works to medieval architecture.
Another precious example of neo-gothic restoration is the Castle of Bentivoglio, built in the 15th-century by the Bentivoglios Signoria and thereafter restored by Rubbiani respecting and enhancing the original structure and the beautiful Renaissance frescoes. In Bentivoglio lies another masterpiece of the Aemilia Ars: the Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace), a gorgeous end-of-19th-century countryside residence with interiors decorated with natural motifs: the "Bolognese Liberty style" at its finest.
Moving to Baricella, another point of interest is the San Marco Oratory or Zucchini Chapel, one of the most valued examples of funerary art decorated with Aemilia Ars' floral motifs.
On the way back to Bologna, in Sala Bolognese, lies the Romanesque church of Santa Annunziata e San Biagio. Built in the 11th-century, the ancient building was skilfully restored by an Ars Aemilia society's scholar.
An interesting fact: the Aemilia Ars is also connected with a stunning lacework technique, still practiced by a few local embroidery associations.
Budrio Town Hall; Palazzo Rosso; Castello dei Bentivoglio; Oratorio di San Marco (o Cappella Zucchini); Pieve di Santa Maria Annunziata e San Biagio