The Conca Valley is wide and attractive, thanks to its gently-rolling hills covered in vineyards, which lead towards meadows and woody uplands, and chestnut groves that in autumn provide abundant and delicious fruits. If you love carefree, outdoor tourism, you’ll certainly enjoy visiting these places, where every hillside will win over all visitors, from the most lethargic to the most reckless.
From the imposing Malatesta Fortress, which dominates the fortified village of Montefiore Conca, a number of paths depart, that can be covered either on foot or by mountain bike. They criss-cross the surrounding countryside, revealing the beautiful landscapes of the middle Conca Valley, towards the hilly slopes and mountains that form a crown of ridges inland of Rimini: Mount Auro, Mount Maggiore and Mount Faggeto.
The woods narrate a history that is 23 million years old: from the Miocene to the rule of the Malatesta family, through to the nineteenth century, when great historical events shaped these rural landscapes that are still beautiful and well worth preserving and protecting.
One of the many trails managed by CAI (Italian Alpine Club) is the one that leads from Montefiore to Mount Faggeto, along paths 019, 021 and 043. Starting from the car park at the base of the walls of Montefiore and covering almost 9 km, it has been designed for excursionists and crosses country roads and lanes, offering panoramic views that open towards the sea, wheat fields and olive groves.
In this landscape, ancient examples of rural settlement stand out, such as the church of St Simeon of Serbadone and some isolated houses, reflecting a past history that contrasts starkly with the frenetic world just a few kilometres down the valley.
Following CAI indications leads along rural roads to San Felice and from there, on dirt tracks and gravel paths, that pass by farmhouses and cross fields, as far as Case Fonti.
Continuing, walkers will next come across the first chestnut trees: this means they have reached Mount Maggiore. Leaving behind the houses in Serra di Sopra, they will reach the heart of Mount Faggeto, surrounded by elm and oak bushes. When the panorama opens up on two sides, walkers have reached the watershed between the Ventena Valley and the Rio Sedano Valley, which descends from Montefiore. From here, Serbadone church can clearly be seen below.
The main feature that dominates the landscape is the imposing mass of Montefiore fortress, with Mount Auro appearing to sit on its shoulders. Twilight is a magical moment here, when the light from the west magically blurs edges and shapes.
The route continues, crossing the chestnut wood of Mount Faggeto, and then along a dirt track that climbs back up the slope of the mountain, as far as the tarmac road that leads to the main town, thus closing the large ring circuit.
Don’t forget to visit the village and its imposing Malatesta Fortress, the fourteenth-century church of St Paul, with its beautiful Gothic portal, and the numerous sacred works housed in the small Hospital Church, construction of which began in 1461 and which houses a beautiful series of frescoes attributed to Bernardino Dolci (circa 1485).
Finally, surrounded by lush greenery and just outside the village, stands the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonora, an important place of worship in the Rimini area: a picture of the Madonna breast-feeding her Child, which dates from the fifteenth-century, is venerated by the faithful, many of whom bring ex-votos to offer for graces received.
Camper area in Via Europa
A thirty-minute drive from Montefiore are Onferno Caves, a karstic system that is home to the largest colony of bats in the region. There are over 8,000 here, which belong to seven different species, including the common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii), the largest species in Onferno that is considered endangered in most of Europe.
In the municipality of Gemmano, the caves are part of the protected Oriented Nature Reserve: a breath-takingly beautiful area covering 274 hectares, protected due to its undoubted naturalistic importance given the presence of dense and rich vegetation, rare wild fauna and an unusual geology, closely linked to the chalky outcrops and its calanques.
Visits are led by expert guides and include a descent into the wood along a path that is initially outdoors and that, from an altitude of about 300 metres, descends to 196 metres where there is access to what amounts to an underground canyon, along which it is possible to admire some fascinating features.
Walking along the main canal created by the water, visitors can marvel at the scintillating chalk crystals, the ceilings and walls, polished over the years by the flowing torrent, and numerous limestone concretions. The cave known as Sala Quarina or Sala dei Mammelloni, due to the huge conical chalk protuberances (or mamelons) that emerge from the ceiling, is truly spectacular and one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Before or after the visit, participants can visit the Natural History Museum and Botanical Gardens free of charge.
For those who want to stay a few days longer in the area, other walks nearby include: