Walking and cycling

  • July 12, 2013

Walking in any direction is a rewarding experience in the Appennini mountains! Some lovely walks can be enjoyed straight from your doorstep – from a 10-minute stroll to a whole day (or even longer!) of trekking. Kids will love walking down to the river Dolo, just a few minutes away; there are a few areas by the river where you can sit and sunbathe, have a picnic or cool off – and plenty of rocks to climb over. The nearby Fonti di Quara are sulphur springs that were known as far back as Roman times. There are several marked walks that can be picked up from Villa Bonicelli itself; alternatively, walk or drive to nearby Castagnola, where the routes officially start. One of them includes a Via Ferrata with two slightly scary rope bridges! (Climbing ropes required).

Another lovely place for short trails etc suitable for all ages is the Fonti di Poiano (Poiano springs), about 25 minutes away. There’s something for everyone – a nice restaurant, an open expanse of flat grass that’s perfect for ball games etc, some short forest trails with shady picnic tables, and the river just opposite, where there are always bathers during the summer months. Well worth a visit, especially with younger children.

About 30 minutes away, in Castelnovo ne’ Monti, is La Pietra di Bismantova, a huge rock with a flat top. It is a famous landmark in the area and was even mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The walk to the top only takes 30 minutes and is manageable for most ages, or you can do a 2hr tour round it. There is another Via Ferrata here; it is also possible to arrange climbing lessons, with Guide La Pietra, a company that also organises guided treks and canyoning.

For something a little more strenuous, there are plenty of walking routes around the various rifugi (mountain hostels/inns) dotted around the Appennini, for example Rifugio Battisti (near Civago), which is at 1761m and has absolutely gorgeous views of Mount Cusna and Mount Prado; Rifugio Monte Orsaro (near Febbio), at 1300m; Rifugio Zamboni (also near Febbio); and Il Rifugio dell’Aquila (in Ligonchio). They’re good (and very popular) stop-off points for a hearty lunch; and, for those planning longer treks, you can even book a bunk in the dormitory-style accommodation (or, in the case of Il Rifugio dell’Aquila, a ‘chalet’ or a hotel room). The Rifugio Battisti holds outdoor musical events during the summer, which include concerts at both dusk and dawn. See the individual websites for more information and itineraries.

For serious walkers, there is plenty of choice. We are located in the heart of the Terre di Matilde di Canossa (the Matildic lands) and the Sentiero Matilde is 80km of designated footpaths split into several stages. They are (we have been told!) not overly strenuous (the shortest stage is about 4.5 hours, the longest 8 hours). Stage 3 is 6 hours in total and starts in Toano, through Frale and Castagnola and down to the Fonti di Quara and the bridge at Cadignano and then onwards to Gazzano. Click here for information about walking routes and itineraries.

The Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco-Emiliano, also known as the Parco del Gigante, one of the largest National Parks in Emilia, is great for walking and horse-riding. There’s a good choice of walking itineraries for all abilities here and also here.

For other walking/hiking ideas, see our ‘Ski Resorts in Summer’ section.

This area really is fantastic for cycling; there are plenty of challenges for experienced and less expert cyclists alike. Every route you take locally will offer hills, descents and breathtaking vistas!

Alternatively, just drive in pretty much any direction and enjoy the wonderful views. You can find itineraries for motorists here and here (the last link includes drives from Bismantova to Garfagnana via the Cerreto pass – spectacular).