Canyons and badlands in the Reggio Emilia Apennines

Discovering geology in the Reggio Emilia Apennines

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The landscape of the Reggio Apennines offers very different views, thanks to a very varied geology made by clays, gullies, gypsum, sandstones, and ophiolites. 

Here is a two-day itinerary to discover the major geological sites of the area, which are part of a system of Parks and protected areas, both on a regional and European level: very particular places, with formations that recall the most famous ones in other continents, such as Africa or South America.

  • Length
    48 hours
  • Interests
    Nature & Outdoor
  • Target
  • First stop - Baiso and its badlands Baiso

    The territory of Baiso, in the Reggio hills, is characterized by the presence of numerous polychrome gullies that make the landscape truly unique. The village itself looks like a long row of blocks built on the edge of a vast amphitheater gully

    Baiso can be easily reached both from Reggio Emilia or from the Secchia valley and the Modena plain.

    The badlands are the result of the erosion of layers of clay that were deposited in these areas in the Upper Mesozoic age (65 million years ago). The most famous and photographed are those located near the small village of Casale, just north of Baiso, with colors from yellow to pink, and brown to green.

  • Second stop - The Triassic Gypsum Valley Castelnovo ne' Monti

    After the visit in Baiso, let’s continue to Castelnovo ne'Monti; it takes about 30 minutes by car to admire the Bismantova Stone and the Triassic Gypsum valley of the Secchia river. 

    The Bismantova Stone is a large mass of sandstone, visible even at a great distance; its isolated ship-shaped profile distinguishes it from the surrounding landscape. It is the most famous place of this area, not only because it is an unmistakable formation, but also because of the link between Dante Alighieri and the Bismantova Stone, which is described in the Divine Comedy.

    Not far away, in the valley dug by the waters of the river Secchia, it is possible to see the Triassic Gypsum.

    The outcrops of Triassic Chalks are really a rarity in Italy: they are visible only on 1% of the national territory. 

    The colour is white or light grey, they have crystal formations and the layers form twisted drawings, sinkholes and caves, demonstrating the tectonic movements they have undergone over time, from the period called Trias in which they were formed, over 200 million years ago.

    At this point, it is advisable to dine in one of the restaurants in the area, in Felina, Castelnovo ne'Monti, Villa Minozzo or nearby towns, and then stay overnight and leave the next day to discover other geological sites.

  • Third stop - Atticola of Vetto: clay volcanoes Vetto

    The second day takes us near Vetto in a small canyon near the little village of Atticola, next to the homonymous stream, a tributary of the Enza river. Here it is possible to walk in an unexpected landscape that makes us think of an alien planet or one of the famous canyons overseas. There are a series of volcanoes a few meters high, in an area of outcrops of iron clay colored red and white that look almost like sculptures.

    We then return to Vetto and descend the valley towards Ciano d'Enza, along the SP513r road.

  • Fourth stop - Badlands of Canossa Canossa

    Between the castles of Rossena and Canossa there is an area characterized by gullies: it is the gully amphitheater of the Rio Vico, which really makes the landscape between these two medieval fortresses, built on Miocene sandstone, unexpected. 

    Walking along the streets of the area or looking out to see the landscape from the castles the view of the badlands is unforgettable.

    The gullies, deep furrows in the dark colored soil, are the effect of the leaching of rainwater on degraded clayey rocks, with little vegetal cover and therefore unprotected from erosion along the side of a mountain or a hill. In dialect they are also called "thin horses" because they resemble an animal of which you can see its rib cage because of its thinness.

    The presence of such different rocks has made this area a protected geosite, within the system of the regional Parks of central Emilia.

    The tour can now end, with your eyes still full of wonder for the views admired.. at the table. There are several restaurants in the area of Canossa, with views of the badlands and the castles, where you can taste traditional recipes and products.

Last update 28/12/2022

Information offices

IAT Reggio Emilia
Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 1/A - Reggio nell'Emilia (RE)
+ 39 0522 451152 Opening: all year round
IAT Castelnovo Monti
Via Franceschini, 1/A - Castelnovo ne' Monti (RE)
+ 39 0522 810430 Opening: all year round
UIT Terre di Canossa
Località Castello di Canossa - Canossa (RE)
+ 39 366 2287340

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