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Bologna and Modena have a history of battles for the conquest of the territory.

Even a satirical chivalric poem sings of their hostility and of the "Secchia Rapita" (kidnapped Bucket): a wooden bucket who has been stolen from Modena's warrior after a failed siege outside Bologna's walls and immediately taken as a trophy in Modena,

where it still is.

The historical rivalry between Bologna and Modena was born from desire for conquests and opposing political positions: Guelphs (Bologna), allies of the pope and Ghibellines (Modena), allies of the emperor. Fight for investitures and border warfare mingled and led to tragic events.

In Modena after the death of Orbizzo Este, a struggle for succession was unleashed: Azzo VIII prevailed, who launched the gauntlet in Bologna, in an attempt to strengthen his prestige and have the support of the nobility. The war along the border became even more violent, a war from which the noble Modena was defeated.

At his death his successor continued and exacerbated the tension policy between the two cities.

In 1296 the Bolognese army invaded the lands of Bazzano and Savignano, effectively removing them from the Modena area, thanks also to the support of Pope Boniface VIII who officially recognized the Guelph possession of the castles of those localities. Doing that  the Pope intended to strengthen his power over the Bologna,and the Ghibellines of Modena was the main enemy for the ancient question of borders.

Bologna had infact widened its territorial aims, having to face the demographic increase resulting from the fame of its university. Successive conquests, reconquests and looting followed until the Modena's forces conquered the castle of Monteveglio, which was an important bastion for the defense of Bologna.

Zappolino and its castle became the last important stronghold in defense of today's capital of Emilia.

The battle that took place at the foot of the Zappolino hill, on November 15th 1325 just outside the castle walls, represented one of the greatest battles that took place in the Middle Ages:  35,000 infantry and 4,000 knights took part and more than 2,000 men lost their lives on the battlefield.

The battle, brief and intense, ended with the terrible defeat of the Bolognese army.


Despite the numerical superiority, the Bolognese troops, taken by surprise by a lateral attack, dispersed.

Many men took refuge in the castle of Zappolino, others in that of Oliveto, others reached, chased, Bologna finding refuge among its walls.

The people of Modena came to the city gates (destroying the castles of Crespellano, Zola, Samoggia, Anzola, Castelfranco, Piumazzo and the lock of the Reno near Casalecchio, which allowed, as today, the deviation of the river waters towards the city) but they never entered it, limiting themselves to remaining outside its walls and finally returning to Modena, bringing a bucket stolen from a well as trophy (the well still exists under a manhole outside Porta San Felice in Bologna).

A few months later, in January 1326, the peace signed by the two sides saw the return of the lands and castles conquered by the Ghibellines to the Bologna.

Inspired by the episode of the well, in the 1600, Alessandro Tassoni wrote a heroicomic poem entitled "La secchia rapita" (The Kidnapped Bucket") where he writes about the refusal of Modena to return the bucket and the war unleashed for its reconquest. Various imaginary characters and even the Olympian gods participate in it, distributed between the two cities.

The war for the kidnapped bucket lasts for some time between battles, duels and tournaments, interspersed with comic and burlesque episodes that often have the count of Culagna as the protagonist, who at the end of the conflict concludes that even if the Bologna hold prisoner king Enzo, the people of Modena would held the bucket.


In the course of the real conflict, King Enzo, son of Emperor Frederick II, fought in favor of the people of Modena.

After the defeat of the battle of Fossalta, in May 1249, he was captured by the Bolognese army and taken to Bologna to beimprisoned in the town hall adjacent to Piazza Maggiore, which was then called Palazzo Re Enzo.

Most of the prisoners could obtain the freedom behind the payment of a ransom but despite the insistence and offers of the emperor Frederick II, Enzo was imprisoned for life; although with a fairly well-to-do treatment, he could in fact rejoice with poetry and literature as well as with the company of the ladies (from whom he also had children).

After twenty-three years of imprisonment, and an attempt to escape into a "brenta", a basket, he died in Bologna on March 14th 1272 and was buried at the "Basilica of San Domenico" with splendid honors at the expense of the municipality of Bologna.

Modena la-secchia-rapita.jpg

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