The only way to enter in the wondreful rooms of the Palazzo Ducale°° is to visit the Museo Storico dell’Accademia Militare. So, even if you are not really interested in military memorabilia, you must see this museum.
The Modena Military Academy, the place in Italy where army officers and carabinieri are trained, is the result of a long history, which started in Piedmont.
There, in 1678, thanks to Duke Carlo Emanuele II and Maria Giovanna di Savoia, regent of the State: the most ancient military academy in the world was born!
Almost a century later, when others institutions of that kind were fonunded in Europe, in Modena Duke Francesco III established an Academy and a ‘Conferenza di Architettura Militare’ for young soldiers (1757).
When Napoleon arrived in Italy in 1796, he founded in the Palazzo Ducale°° the ‘Scuola Nazionale del Genio e dell’Artiglieria’, which would have got an important role until the Restoration.
At that time, with the re-entry of the Austro-Estense family to Modena (the Duke was Francesco IV), the ‘Accademia Nobile Militare’, was born opened to everyone who wanted to undertake a military career (not only for aristocrats).
With the Unity of Italy in 1861, the famous general Manfredo Fanti decided to establish here the ‘Scuola Militare di Fanteria e Cavalleria’ (so called after 1865).
The above-mentioned Academy in Turin was still alive to educate Artillery and Engineer Corps. Only after the World War II, the head of the Italian Army Raffaele Cadorna decreed that the Piedmontese institute would merge with the Modenese one. The present Military Academy of Modena was so born.
In this Palace, the only one in Italy of this kind, more than 116.000 cadets have studied; among them, 502 medals for military valour, six Prime Ministers and 31 Ministers. Kings Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II di Savoia, the writer Edmondo de Amicis, the airman Francesco Baracca, the Fiat Cars factory’s famous owner Giovanni Agnelli and the generals Armando Diaz, Luigi Cadorna and Pietro Badoglio frequented the Academy.
Nowadays, to become a ‘cadetto’ you must have a secondary-school diploma and pass severe tests (general culture, physical strength, aptitude tests). The Academy is open also to women. The cadets study here the first two years of their training, and then they go to Turin or to Rome depending on which career they decide (Army or carabinieres).
The cadets are a characteristic presence in the streets of Modena, identified by their beautiful uniforms. The oath in the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale°° and the «Mak Π 100» are very closely followed events in Modena.
Established in 1905, the Museum tells the story of the 116.000 cadets who frequented the Military Academy of Modena. Among them: Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II di Savoia Kings of Italy, Edmondo de Amicis, Francesco Baracca, Augusto Salimbeni, Giovanni Agnelli, Armando Diaz, Luigi Cadorna and Pietro Badoglio.
The visit starts in the Galleria della Memoria, a long corridor where commemorative plaques and pennants are exhibited. Then, the Sala delle Accademie: on the walls Savoy and Ducal flags, arms and documents on the history of the institute.
In the Sala delle Armi, machine-guns and rifles, memorabilia of the World War I, grenades; in the Seconda Sala delle Armi, uniforms and educational arms. The Galleria della Stringa is so called from the name of the painter who decorated the ceiling; Estense busts, toy soldiers and a copy of the wonderful painting Notte by Correggio fill the room.
The Sala dei Cavalieri dell’Aria is dedicated to the airmen of the First World War: Francesco Baracca was one of them. His symbol, a rampant horse, was taken by Enzo Ferrari for his racing car stable!
In the Sala delle Uniformi there are uniforms and collections of medals. The Prima Sala Coloniale celebrates the African Wars of the XIX century and conserves the Italian tricolour flag donated by Queen Margherita di Savoia; the Seconda Sala Coloniale is dedicated to Oriental and Northern Africa.
The extraordinary Sala dei Comandanti houses the portraits of all the commanders of the Academy, from the first, Giovanni Ruffini (1860), to the present day ones.
The Sala degli Allievi commemorates the «Mak Π 100», the ceremony which every year celebrates the last one hundred days to the end of the course (see the page of the events).
The Sala delle Medaglie d’Oro conserves the portraits of the cadets who were awarded the gold medals for military valour. Finally, the touching Tempio delle Gloria is the memorial for all people who lost theri lives in every war. From here you pass into the historical rooms of the Oriental side of the Palazzo°°, which overlook Piazza Roma°°: the Salone delle Feste, the Sala dello Stringa, the Sala del Trono and the incredible Salottino d’Oro.
[Images by the Author with the kind permission of the Academy]