The city of Novellara appears for the first time in the chronicles of the Latin historians that accredit the origin of the settlements on the territory to the Gauls, which in the VI a. C. invaded northern Italy, occupying it.
Even before the year one thousand in Novella territory there were three small inhabited settlemnets: Cortenova, Castelloncolo and S. Antonio, but archaeological findings have also highlighted the existence of more ancient settlements, dating back to the I - II century BC. A.D.
It was however the Gonzaga family, from 1371 to 1728, to determine the fate of Novellara. The Novellara County became a sort of city-state, independent thanks to the diplomatic and military abilities of the Gonzaga: the Rocca was the symbol of this power. Built at the end of the fourteenth century for defensive purposes, the imposing fortress was later transformed into a noble residence in the sixteenth century and decorated with frescoes and works of art. Today the Rocca is home to the Town Hall, the Museo Gonzaga, the nineteenth-century Theater, the Library and the Historical Archive. Inside there are also the Sala del Fico, decorated in grotesque style in the mid-sixteenth century, and the Sala del Consiglio, painted in the nineteenth century with a spectacular taste.
The Gonzaga Museum, which occupies the noble apartment of the Gonzaga counts, on the first floor of the fortress, was designed, built and decorated under the direction of Lelio Orsi. In the richly decorated rooms that house the collections you can admire friezes attributed to students of the Ores, Byzantine Romanesque frescoes (c. 1280) from the ancient Church of San Giovanni della Fossa, the fresco cycle (dated 1560) by Lelio Orsi from the Casino di Sopra, several paintings and the important collection of pharmacy jars of the Jesuits of Novellara (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).
Novellara's center is the renaissance Piazza Unità d'Italia, which overlooks the Church of Santo Stefano, built at the behest of Alfonso I Gonzaga in 1567; the facade is eighteenth-century. Inside are preserved valuable paintings and stuccos from the school of Lelio Orsi. Not far away is the church of the Beata Vergine del Popolo founded in 1704. In 1708, there were transported the image of the Blessed Virgin of the Snow, originally painted on the wall of the gateway to the castle and the statue of San Bernardino da Siena from Oratory no longer exists, located in front of the fortress.
Novellara has also given birth to Vivaldo Poli, one of the major post-war reggiani artists, who in his native city has left works of the collection Arrigo Negri, a friend of Vivaldo since a young boy, donated in 1995 to the Municipality. It is a series of watercolors, tempera, oils that belong to a period between 1930 and 1960. These works are exhibited in a room inside the Museo Gonzaga.