Faenza, at the foot of the first Subapennine hills, enjoys a fine location and evocative agrarian surroundings: vineyards in the hills, cultivated land with traces of the ancient Roman land-division system, and fertile market gardens in the plains. In the nearby green valleys of the rivers Samoggia and Lamone there are great number of 18th and 19th century stately homes, set in extensive grounds or preceded by long cypress-lined driveways.
Of Roman origins, Faenza is a splendid city of art whose fame already shone in the Renaissance period of the production of exquisitely made pottery that was exported all over Europe. According to mythology, the name of the first settlement, Faoentia, had Etruscan and Celtic roots, meaning in Latin "Splendeo inter deos" or "I shine among the Gods", in modern English. The very name, coming from the Romans who developed this center under the name of Faventia, has become synonymous with ceramics (majolica) in various languages, including French (faïence) and English (faience).
From the second half of the 1st century AD the city flourished considerably as a result of its agricultural propensities and the development of industrial activities such as the production of everyday pottery and brickwork objects and linen textiles.
After a period of decadence from the 2nd century to the early Middle Ages it regained prosperity from 8th century on. Around the year 1000 with the government of the Bishops and subsequently in the age of the Commune the city began a long period of richness and building expansion which reached its peak with the rule of the Manfredi family. First consuls were elected in 1141 and in 1155 a podestà was in charge of government of the city. In the wars between Guelphs and Ghibellines that began in the following years Faenza was at first loyal to the emperor. In 1178, however, it changed side and entered the Lombard League. The inner disputes anyway favoured acquisition of power by Maghinardo Pagano, who remained podestà and capitano del popolo for several years.
At the beginning of the 14th century the Guelph family of Manfredi began a rule over Faenza that was to last for almost two centuries. The peak of splendour was reached under Carlo II Manfredi, in the second half of the century, when the city centre was renewed. In 1488 Galeotto Manfredi was assassinated by his wife: his son Astorre III succeeded him, but was in turn killed in Rome as a prisoner of Cesare Borgia, who had captured Faenza in 1501.
After a brief period of Venetian domination Faenza became part of the Church States until 1797. So the city we see today was formed over a long arc of historical evolution and enriched over the years by fine architecture with strong Renaissance and Neoclassical features.
Faenza's architectural attractions are concentrated in the two contiguous main squares: Piazza del Popolo, lined by two spectacular double order porticoed wings, and Piazza della Libertà.
Among the other monuments of the historic centre are Palazzo Milzetti, the richest and most significant Neoclassical building in the region, and the Teatro Masini (1780-1787) one of the finest theatres in Italy. In the nearby, the Villa Case Grandi dei Ferniani has a collection of 18th and 19th century Faenza ceramics.
Grotta Tanaccia Karstic Park and the Carnè Natural Park, a vast green area with a visitor’s centre and refreshments, are also of great interest, characterized by a typical landscape of dolinas, ravines and swallow holes.
In Faenza you can visit one of the world’s most beautiful and complete art collections: the International Museum of Ceramics houses pieces from all over the world and from every epoch, from classical amphoras to the works of Chagall and Picasso, and there is a rich section dedicated to Faenza pottery in the golden age of the Renaissance. Other interesting art collections are located in the Municipal Art Gallery, the Diocese Museum, the Bendandi Museum and the Manfredi Library. The historic production of Faenza majolica is recognized worldwide as one of the highest moments of artistic creativity expressed through pottery. The tradition was born from a happy convergence of favourable conditions: a territory rich in clay, a centuries-old history of political and commercial relations with nearby Tuscany (especially with Florence) and great sensitivity and aptitude with regard to this art form. So over the years Faenza craftsmen and artists developed and perfected the decoration of hand made pottery, and the 60 workshop currently active - most of them in the city centre - offer the tourist the chance of unique purchases unavailable elsewhere.
In September and October international contemporary and classical ceramic art events draw majolica amateurs, collectors and artists to Faenza from all over the world. In June the Palio del Niballo, a tournament between five horsemen from the districts of the town, re-evokes the magnificence and struggles of Faenza in the Manfredi epoch.
The Florence - Faenza 100 kilometres marathon, a demanding long distance race held during the last weekend in May, attracts athletes of all nationalities.
Faenza was home to the Minardi Grand Prix team, which was one of the last small, independent constructors in Formula One. The team was founded in 1980, racing in the European Formula Two championship. The team moved up to Formula One for the 1985 season. However, the team had little success, due to their size. In 2001, team founder Giancarlo Minardi sold the team to Australian millionaire Paul Stoddart, who changed the name to European Minardi, but kept the team in Faenza. In 2005, the Minardi team was again sold, this time to an Austrian duo of Red Bull energy drink company owner Dietrich Mateschitz and former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger, and, after some discussion, was re-branded as Scuderia Toro Rosso (meaning simply Team Red Bull) to become Red Bull's second F1 team, after the Red Bull Racing senior team. STR, as it is sometimes known does remain based in Faenza, a lasting claim to international sporting fame for this small town.
Typical regional dishes include home-made tagliatelle, cappelletti, lasagna and strozzapreti with the rich Romagnol meat sauce.
Faenza is a green town. The Botanical Gardens, next to the Civic Natural Science Museum with its important collections, boast more than 170 species of plants indigenous to the Romagna region. There is about 1 km² of public urban green area and the local Administration takes good care of it. The Bucci Park, created in 1968 has an area of about 80,000 square metres of undulating land, green meadows and fish-rich waters. Here you can find various species of birds including wild duck and swans. It houses a large colony of storks.