The ideal form of transport for mountain lovers to discover the small villages and varied natural landscape has to be the bicycle, and the e-bike, or electric bike, in particular, allowing you to travel for several kilometres and enjoy the surrounding scenery without getting too tired out. Here we propose an itinerary of approximately 50 km in total through the villages that form a ring around Mount Cimone.
The circular route starts in the valley, and crosses chestnut groves, and oak and Turkey oak woods, to then continue uphill, through fir woods, beech groves and upland pastures.
The length and the difference in height make it an itinerary of medium difficulty, which can be done independently or by contacting the licensed guides that work in the area.
Setting off from the “Pearl of the Apennines”, Sestola, you reach Pian Cavallaro, almost at the summit of Mount Cimone, first passing through Pian del Falco where, on the edges of a green meadow there stands the delightful Romanesque oratory of the Holy Cross, and onwards to Lago della Ninfa (the Nymph’s Lake).
To reach Pian del Falco we suggest taking the old road through the woods, which is tarmacked and very pleasant in the summertime as it is closed to traffic and in the shade.
We would also recommend taking a refreshing break on the stretch of the route after the lake, at the Bedini Fountain (1632 m above sea level), a natural spring which offers singularly refreshing water!
Cycling up the hairpin bends in the military road belonging to the Air Force, you come to Pian Cavallaro (1880 m above sea level), and from here enjoy a beautiful view over the valley. From here, just below the summit of Mount Cimone, carry on towards the right in the direction of Fiumalbo, along the dirt track “Via per Doccia”.
Once you get to Doccia, we suggest following the signs that lead to the distinctive “Celtic Huts”, stone-built rural buildings with their origins in Celtic culture and unusual stepped façades covered and protected by sandstone slabs. The route, immersed in the greenery of beech and fir woods, leads to the centre of Fiumalbo, a small village of stone houses set in an unspoiled landscape and with its historic centre and traditions perfectly intact. Here, amidst the churches and oratories, you can take in an atmosphere of bygone times; the most important sites in the historic centre today include the thirteenth-century Church of St Bartholomew, the Renaissance Oratory of St Roch, the Oratory of Our Lady Immaculate and that of Saint Catherine. In the village you can also admire the famous “marcolfe”, mysterious faces carved out of stone; there are about thirty of them dotted around the streets of the historic centre.
Leaving Fiumalbo, head towards Riolunato along the Via Circonvallazione (bypass), which will take you through the outskirts of Pievepelago.
A stop in the historic centre of Riolunato is a must! In this Medieval and Renaissance village, you can admire the houses that once belonged to noble families, with their coats of arms still visible, and the characteristic main square, Piazza del Trebbo, overlooked by Casa Ferrari, Casa Vellani, Casa Gestri, at one time the town hall.
We also recommend a visit to the Parish Church of St James (1611), patron saint of the village, which was restored in 1920 and preserves within its walls a fifteenth-century fresco depicting the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.
Leaving Riolunato behind, continue on your way towards Sestola cycling along the main road, the B road “SP324”. At the crossroads before the Strettara tunnel, you turn right and reach Montecreto via the old road. Once in the centre of the small medieval village, and not being put off by the steep slope, you start to climb uphill along Via Castello to get to the Castle and the Church of Saint John.
Only a few parts of the walls of the ancient fortress overlooking the Scoltenna valley still remain, along with one of the three towers, which was converted into the parish church bell tower. Via Castello, with its courtyards, carved portals and loggias, is a significant example of a fortified road, and a ride to the top, with a well-deserved rest, is a must!
Getting back on your bike for one last, 7-kilometre stretch, you end up back where you started from. And for those whose legs can still manage it, why not continue up to Sestola Castle and enjoy a well-deserved moment’s relaxation in the splendid, panoramic setting of the Parco della Covetta, just outside the walls of the old fortress?