Vignola, whose name derives from the Latin vineola ("small vine") is located near an ancient Etruscan road connecting Bologna to Parma. However it is mentioned in the Middle Ages as having been founded in 826 as, according to the legend, a castle to protect the lands of the nearby Abbey of Nonantola.
Vignola was a possession of those bishops until 1247; during the wars between Guelphs and Ghibellines its territory was contented between the communes of Modena and Bologna, until the Grassoni family installed their seigniory in Vignola. This lasted until 1399, when it was acquired by the House of Este; two years later it was conceded as a county to Uguccione de' Contrari from Ferrara. With the death of Ercole Contrari in 1557, Vignola was assigned to Giacomo Boncompagni, son of Pope Gregory XIII. The Boncompagni rule fell with the Napoleonic Conquest of Italy, and, after the Congress of Vienna of 1814, Vignola became part of the Duchy of Modena.