Little know that Carpi is a lovely little city in Northern Italy, 15 minutes by train from Modena. Some maybe heard of it in 2012 as it was near the epicentres of the two devastating earthquakes that happened in May of the same year in Italy.
Although many of the sights are still closed for restoration, it is possible to spend a great day there, wandering around. A Renaissance pearl, the city really is beautiful; there is an impressive museum to visit, as well as one of the most exquisite cathedrals.
First a small fortified city, Carpi became a renowned Renaissance centre. The city has therefore a very interesting mix of medieval and renaissance architectures. Fortress, churches, bell tower, palaces, porticoes as well as the thirst biggest square in Italy, whatever your preferences go to, you will not be disappointed.
Top things to do in Carpi, Italy
Carpi can be easily visited on foot. If you come by train, it is only a 5 minutes walk to the city centre. From Modena by train, it is a 16 minutes ride. A lot of monuments are still closed for restoration after the 2012 earthquakes but there are enough sights left to visit to have a busy day.
Visit the Palazzo dei Pio
This is where the Tourism Information Centre is. They have really great multilingual paper guides to help you make the most of your visit.
Spectacular example of Renaissance architecture, the Palazzo dei Pio will take you 2 to 4 hours to visit, depending of which museums you want to see. It houses the beautiful Palazzo Museum, the City Museum and the Museum Monument to the Deported for Political and Racial Reasons. There is also an ancient aviary and a clock tower.
If you are not that into museums, visit at least the Palazzo Museum. It has beautiful frescoes and a splendid chapel. If you have children, there is a place called the Children’s Castle dedicated to them.
Admire the Civic Theatre
This neo-classic theatre is included in the “European Roads of Historical Theatres” with 38 other theatres recognised for their outstanding architecture.
Get ecstatic in the Basilica Cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta
You cannot miss it. Right next the massive shadow of the Palazzo dei Pio, its yellow facade will catch your eye. It has reopened early 2017, as it was damaged by the 2012 earthquakes.
Completely restored after the earthquake, the basilica has returned to its former glory. The colors are bright and vivid. It is a pure wonder.
Have a drink or your lunch on Piazza dei Martiri
This Renaissance square is the heart of the old city. It is also the 3rd largest square in Italy. Carpi is home to a varied range of traditional products that have a protected denomination: Balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, Lambrusco wine, home-made pasta, mostarda, pears, cotechino (pork) and prosciutto.
Stroll under Portico Lungo
Bordering one side of Piazza dei Martiri and facing Palazzo dei Pio, Portico Lungo is composed of 52 arches. There are also frescos.
Travel back in time on Piazzale Re Astolfo
This is the historic centre of the medieval town. Several beautiful buildings can be found there.
What's the best time to visit Carpi?
Carpi can be very hot in summer. The region has been very dry in 2017. The weather can be lovely early December and awful in May.
It is of course impossible to predict when an earthquake could happen.
Carpi may look a bit of the tourist track but it is a city of culture and gastronomy.
As such, there are annual events organised so the prices of the hotels might go up several times a year as there are obviously more visitors during these periods of time.
Whether you are a gourmet, a philosopher, a fan of short stories or contemporary arts, Carpi has an event for you. Dates are changing from year to year so it is best to check on the event website. Also they are sometimes held in Modena instead of Carpi.
The Modena Region is well known for its balsamic vinegar production. It is then logical to find a festival dedicated to this product every year in May.
The International Festival of Contemporary Theatre, Dance and Music is organised every year. Called VIE, it is held in Modena and around, including Carpi.
If you like motorbike and good food, La Mototigella is for you.
Lasagne lover? The Sagra della Lasagna e del Lambrusco is dedicated to this meal and the Lambrusco wine, both local products.
Chocolate addict? Every autumn, Carpi organises Cioccolato in Piazza, where you can find chocolatiers coming from all over the country.
Carpi a tavola is another food festival held in November. This time, it is the entire Italian food tradition that is showcased.
Not a food lover? Do not worry; there is more to Carpi that just gastronomy.
Every April, during one week-end, Carpi in Fiore transforms the centre of the city into an open-air garden.
During a week in May, Carpi, along with Modena, Bologna and Correggio, organises the International Festival of Different Abilities supporting people with mental and physical differences through arts and culture and celebrating abilities, not disabilities.
There is also the Festival Filosofia, about philosophy, in September, with music, art, sciences and of course food.
The Festival del Racconto is a literary event dedicated to short stories.
If you want the city all for yourself, come outside of these events. Carpi is a small city and can easily become very crowdy.