Emilia Romagna and Tuscany by bike: up hills and down dales
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
From Reggio Emilia to the Mediterranean Sea and back, a bike journey on that fine line between the European continent and the Mediterranean. After the journeys on the footstep of Piero della Francesca, through the nature of Po Delta Park and on the Muraglione Pass, this time we will lead you on the edge between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna: a 3-days bike trip on those Valleys that have linked for centuries Po Valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Starting from the city center of Reggio Emilia, we will then head towards the Apennine passes that divide Emilia-Romagna from the Tuscan Lunigiana. From here we will run down into the ancient lands of the House of Malaspina until catching the Sea and the city of Carrara. Then we will start to come back towards the hills of Garfagnana and finally, we will we will finish our trip in Modena.
One of the greatest Italian bike itineraries, which runs through lands that have become renowned throughout the world for their history, culture, great gastronomy and the nature that shaped them over the centuries.
Duration: 3-4 days
Length: About 425 Km
When: From spring to early autumn, then cold and snowy roads.
A bike itinerary towards the Tyrrhenian Sea begins in Reggio Emilia, the city where was born the Italian flag and one of the main gastronomic centers of Emilia-Romagna. We are in fact in the production areas of Parmigiano Reggiano, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, and the renowned Lambrusco wine; It would be really a shame not to take the chance to have shopping. Since we are in the center of Reggio Emilia, it can worth a visit to the Duomo, the beautiful city squares and the Basilica della Ghiara, they are true city symbols.
Before lunch, we take the Via Emilia towards Parma and, at the height of Sant’Ilario d’Enza, we turn right onto the SP12 towards San Polo d’Enza. Here we are in the hills of Reggio Emilia, renowned for the good food and for the Matilda castles that adorn the tops of the hills. At the height of the village of Ciano d’Enza, we turn left again to the “Via dei Castelli” and in 4 km we arrive at the Rossena Castle, the ancient epicenter of Matilda’s Kingdom, the powerful countess that once owned these valleys. This is the right place to try local delicacies, we are in fact in the mountain areas where the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and genuine beef are at the highest quality level.
Just the time to have a break and we are again in the direction of Canossa where the streets are small and winding, a paradise for bikers who like to drive their horses. A short visit to the ruins of the Canossa Castle and the nearby Sarzano Castle and we have to resume our journey in the direction of Casina and the SS63.
Once on State Road 63 we suggest a small detour in the direction of Carpineti and the homonymous castle, and then aim definitively towards Castelnovo né Monti and the plateau of Pietra di Bismantova, whose form has inspired the Poet Dante Alighieri in the description of Purgatory Mount and which today it is instead a renowned center for climbing and hiking.
We end the day by following the route for the amazing hermitage located under the Bismantova massif and from which you can continue along the marked path that leads to the top of the Mountain.
The second day we get up early in the morning leaving Castelnovo ne’ Monti in the direction of Passo del Cerreto: about 30 kilometers from which you can admire different views of the Bismantova Mountain and catch sight of the summit of Cusna Mount, one of the highest peaks of the entire Apennines. Shortly before reaching the Passo del Cerreto, a small detour invites us to visit Cerreto Alpi, a small village that has kept intact rhythms and traditions of the past and where we can relax for a short break before going down to Tuscany.
The Lunigiana opens up before us bright and blue like the sea; we are in fact on the sunniest slopes of the Apennines, those that overlook the Ligurian Sea and the Versilia Riviera, and we are already beginning to feel the warmth and scent that comes from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A few kilometers into the land of Tuscany and we arrive at Verrucola, a fascinating medieval village that preserves its almost intact Fortress. 5 kilometers further on we find Equi Terme, our destination for lunch, a splendid little town renowned for the presence of sulfurous thermal springs. After so many kilometers in the mountains, we want only to enjoy the SPA, the good food, and the great walks that this part of Tuscany reserves to visitors.
Just enough time to relax and we are back on the road towards Carrara. We take the SS446d that promises us curves and views to the city, with the addition of some glimpse of the imposing Pizzo d’Uccello, whose North wall is reminiscent of the most famous Dolomite walls. From here you could take several detours depending on your personal interests, ranging from the village of Vinca, from which you can admire one of the best views on the Apuan Alps and on the historic quarries of Carrara Marble, or you can deviate to Fosdinovo, which preserves a beautiful Castles. A detour to Campo Cecina will ensure you a breathtaking view that sweeps up to the sea, and from which on clear days you can see the extreme tip of Corsica Isle, as well as a visit to Colonnata, a country famous worldwide for its Marble Quarries and for its delicious Lard. But now it’s late and we just have to go down to Carrara for a night of deserved rest, waiting to resume the journey the next day.
On the third day, the ascent to the Apuan Alps awaits us, but not before having made some stops in the beautiful Garfagana. The Garfagnana is a historical-geographical area of Lucca Province in Tuscany and is included between the Alpi Apuane and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. It is an area of rare beauty as regards the natural landscape, which is located in the unique conditions of being both in the mountains and exposed to the winds of the sea.
From Carrara, we leave early in the morning towards Massa, and ready to climb the Garfagnana. We skirt the Apuan Alps Park and in less than 50 kilometers we are in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a small fortified village on the border with Emilia-Romagna, which was once the last possession of the Duchy Estense and saw among its governors also the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1522-1525).
A small detour to Castiglione della Garfagnana and we return to the SP 71 which, after about ten kilometers of curves and climbs, leads us to Passo delle Radici on the ridge between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, from which we recommend a short excursion to San Pellegrino in Alpe which preserves a beautiful Sanctuary.
Another 15 kilometers away and here we are in Pievepelago, a town in the Modena Apennines renowned for hiking, climbing and its proximity to the ski resorts of Abetone and Cimone Mount. Here we take the SS12, which is a mountain road that offers multiple routes for bikers, and we begin to descend to the town of Pavullo nel Frignano. As we put kilometers under our wheels, the mountain tops give way to the green and colorful hills of Modena. We are now in the finishing line and Modena is just under 50 kilometers; there is, therefore, time to deviate along a small final excursion.
From Pavullo nel Frignano we suggest going back to Modena taking the SP12 up to Serramazzoni and from there the SP3 up to Maranello. Here we are on the roads where the new Ferrari models are usually tested, where bends and semi-curves test the skills of the drivers.
After three days of travel and a lot of treasures preserved inside our eyes we close this excursion between the Po Valley and the Mediterranean with a touch of speed and genius: the Ferrari Museum of Maranello, final point of a journey that in little more than 400 kilometers has led us to appreciate some of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of all of northern Italy.