The centre of the town we today call Albinea was in fact once known as La Fola after the tavern that stood on the site. The original Albinea was located on the hill where the ancient rural church, or Pieve – first mentioned in 898 – still stands, along with the castle and small farming village called Broletto. The church of Albinea, dedicated first to Saint Prosperus and then to the Blessed Virgin, was altered down the centuries. From 1520, it was given the honour of hosting a Madonna painted by Correggio.
However, in 1702, the Duke of Mantua, Francis III, seized the painting, after which it vanished, never to be found again.
Albinea’s castle, once a residence of the bishop of Reggio Emilia was fortified by the Fogliani family before passing to the Manfredi clan in the 14th century. Today, the castle is owned by the Maramotti family, founders of the Max Mara Group, and Albinea’s most prestigious residents.
During the Second World War, two historic mansions, Villa Rossi – formerly Borgo del Balsamico – and Villa Calvi in the hamlet of Botteghe were requisitioned to become the headquarters of the V section of the German High Command in Italy and the Gebrigskorps, the German mountain troops deployed along the so-called Western Gothic Line that stretched from La Spezia into the area near Bologna. On the night of 27 March, a group of a hundred allied soldiers made up of British parachutists of the 2nd SAS, Italian freedom fighters from the Gufo Nero and Garibaldi Brigata formations, and a battalion of Russian freedom fighters launched a surprise attack on the headquarters. Commanded by the British Major Roy Farran, the attackers went into battle to the sound of bagpipes played by a Scot, David Kirkpatrick, who had been parachuted in in a kilt.
Called Operazione Tombolo (Operation Bingo), the attack accelerated the fall of the Gothic Line by the American/British advance and is recalled on a plaque still visible near the entrance.