The network of ancient medieval paths forming the heart of Via Matildica del Volto Santo (The Matildic Way of the Holy Face), is an opportunity to relive the atmosphere of the feud of Matilde di Canossa, reaching the castles of the Great Countess, crossing villages and the same venerable land travelled by pilgrims on their religious routes.
From Mantova to Lucca, passing through Reggio Emilia, the route is a slow walk through the history of Matilde di Canossa, the authentic female protagonist of the Middle Ages.
In its Emilian section, the historic route (partly cycleable) passes from the Unesco MAB Po Grande to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines Unesco MAB reserve, passing Parmigiano Reggiano cheese farms and ancient vinegar cellars, where you can discover the production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia PDO, big protagonist of the Reggio Emilia table together with the celebrated 'erbazzone'.
The Reggio Emilia section of Via Matildica del Volto Santo starts in Guastalla, ancient and important Renaissance court, heading south; it passes the villages of Santa Vittoria and Pieve Rossa, to reach Bagnolo.
From here you continue until the Reggio Emilia city gates, where the new Mediopadana Station, designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava, welcome pilgrims.
The city centre can be reached on foot or by bus. Reggio Emilia is also known as the Tricolour Flag town, as here the future Italian flag was adopted for the first time in 1797.
Continuing the route, you start from the Ponte di San Pellegrino, and you take an easy cycle-pedestrian path that runs along the Crostolo stream and it leads up to Villa d'Este-Vasca di Corbelli born as a fishing retreat of Duke Francesco III d'Este and part of the vast Ducal Palace of Rivalta.
Going through cultivated fields, you reach the bridge of Puianello, where the path turns again into a cycle-pedestrian path to Vezzano and its EcoPark, to continue to the top of Mount Grafagnana, in the direction of Pecorile.
From here, you take the direction of Canossa-Votigno passing through Casola: there are three kilometers of ups and downs that lead to the intersection with the provincial road 73.
The Castle of Canossa is on the left, one kilometer away, and it can be reached by walking along the side of the provincial road on a flat stretch. Emblematic of Matilde di Canossa, an important personality of the Middle Ages, the Castle of Canossa played a strategic role in the dispute between the Empire and Papacy.
The route starts from the Castle of Canossa and it goes to the village of Cavandola; here on the right you take the dirt road that leads to Cerredolo de' Coppi.
When you reach the village, the Via Matildica takes on the left the path to Bergogno village and from there, the route arrives at Crocicchio.
Following the CAI signs you reach Monchio and then the Castle of Sarzano, from where you can enjoy a wide view of the entire Reggio Emilia Apennines, and Casina.
From the center of Casina, you descend to the right and continue on the path to Migliara church area and from there, you continue in the direction of Marola, with its large chestnut groves.
From the seminary, the asphalt road descends towards Carpineti, passing through Cigarello, until you reach the Castle of Carpineti, one of the medieval fortresses of the powerful Canossa noble family, a favourite residence of Countess Matilde.
From the center of Carpineti, behind the church, you take the path that climbs up through the woods to the Castle of Carpinete. From here with a half hour walk detour, you will reach the beautiful church of San Vitale, hostel, restaurant and Archaeological Museum.
From the Castle the next stop is the village of Savognatica. Then through the village of Coliolla, you proceed to Secchia river.
In Cavanna di Sopra you have two options, to arrive to the Ponte dell'Oca on Secchia river, which you cross to go up to Cavola.
After the church of Cavola, the path will lead to the village of Stiano, then to Corneto, home to many wood carving masters, to the beautiful village of Manno and finally to the village of Toano.
Toano is an important agricultural center for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and with its Pieve Matildica is the oldest example of medieval architecture in this area.
The path starts from Pieve di Toano slightly outside the village and it arrives at the oratory of Prevedelli. From there, passing among the houses below, you will reach soon the village of Frale, then Villa Bonicelli up to the springs of Quara. From the springs, the path goes up towards the "balze di Malpasso" equipped with incredible Tibetan footbridges, then it continues until Cadignano.
A few hundred meters away from Via Matildica, there is the homonymous humpback bridge on the Dolo river.
Via Matildica continues going up towards the locality of Gova, passing by Campolungo and from there, it continues to Case Rossi and then Morsiano, to get to Gazzano: village of medieval origin with a valuable seventeenth-century oratory dedicated to Sant'Antonio da Padova.
Let's head out for the last stage, from Gazzano you head towards Civago, following 690 trail, which also passes the ruins of the ancient Amorotto tower.
At Case Civago we take path no. 605 which will lead you to Segheria refuge (1,400 metres a.s.l.). From here you take trail 681 to Passo delle Forbici and then you follow the forest road to the highest point of the entire Via Matildica del Volto Santo: 1,700 metres of Passo del Giovarello, where the view sweeps over the great panoramas of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park.
From Giovarello you descend along trail 601 to Piana della Maccherie, you take the Alta Via dei Parchi trail to reach the San Geminiano meadows and then to Passo delle Radici.
From the pass, the trail descends to the right through woods and meadows, passing the Pradaccio Refuge. From here it is about one kilometre to San Pellegrino in Alpe, an ancient village located at 1525 meters a.s.l.