"Slow" itinerary in the nature of Santerno Valley, to get to know its natural landscapes and its history: Imola side of the Gypsum Vein Regional Park, a panoramic view over San Biagio Rim and the Renaissance secrets of the Alidosi family.
The starting point of this itinerary is La Casa del Fiume in Borgo Tossignano: the visitors center of the Imola side of the Gypsum Vein Regional Park. Its peculiar location, between the Rineggio basins, shows the visitors the typical features of a floodplains landscape.
La Casa del Fiume is the ideal spot for those who wish to escape the city chaos and want to embrace nature, without completely forgetting the “bliss of civilisation”: a typical restaurant will offer lunches, picnic areas and tables are ready to host visitors with a homemade meal, right before leaving La Casa del Fiume for a hike or a mountain bike adventure.
Younger visitors can freely move in a wide and safe area, among themed playgrounds, to better understand the animals and plants of the Park or experience the excitement of Orienteering. Teenagers, on the other hand, can test their MTB riding skills thanks to the new Pump Track, a small circuit dedicated to the teaching and learning of bike riding technical skills.
For hiking fans, the hike climbing up to Monte Penzola, the highest peak of the Park, is recommended: the path starts right at La Casa del Fiume, and it takes about 3 hours.
When approaching the Rineggio area, do not miss the view on Bailey Bridge: this visible trace of the Second World War runs alongside the modern bridge but cannot be crossed.
The journey moves along Santerno river and climbs on the hill where Tossignano is located. This small district, eternal rival of the underlying district of Borgo, organizes every year the Polenta Fest on Mardi Gras: at the same time, Borgo organizes the Maccheroni Fest, demonstrating how this rivalry is still strong, even though today the districts belong to the same Municipality, Borgo Tossignano.
The story says this dualism finds its origins at the beginning of the last century, when a man from Borgo stepped on the foot of a lady from Tossignano. This “accident” was seen as a great offense and many were the insults for the Borgo people. From that day on, people from Borgo decided to boycott the Polenta Fest by offering maccheroni to those heading to Tossignano for their fest.
Tossignano today is a tiny district that offers a breathtaking view over the San Biagio Rim: just go up to the panoramic point, where a big cross stands today.
San Biagio Rim is a gypsum formation, symbol of the Gypsum Vein Regional Park with its many visible layers. This protected area named a Regional Park in 2005 presents unique geological features, testifying to a lost past in which the Imola area was submerged by an ancient Mediterranean Sea. Hidden among the rocks and the ground, there are many seashells that can be found.
Last stop is Castel del Rio: up to now the itinerary focused on natural features of the landscapes, while Castel del Rio offers the perfect chance for a short historical excursus.
This mountain village proudly preserves traces of a glorious past and the heritage of a combative people: the ancient Castrum Rivi was in fact one of the main centers of commerce for the Santerno Valley.
It was the Alidosi Family who lifted the village to a strong political force, by deciding to live in this strategical spot and creating passages between the two banks of the river. These precise intentions are still visible today in the spectacular Alidosi Bridge and Alidosi Palace.
A winding road descends toward the river and once your car is parked, it is possible to cross Alidosi Bridge on foot: it is an exceptional example of single-span humpback bridge, one of the most interesting in Europe for sure.
This engineering masterpiece was the connection between the two riverbanks, strongly facilitating the commercial exchanges: by paying a tax to the local Lords, merchants could cross the bridge and reach Castel del Rio square and its market.
In occasion of the Renaissance Festival, yearly celebrations which bring back Alidosi family times, the internal rooms of the bridge are open to visitors. Different hypotheses were made about the function of these hidden and tiny spaces: generally considered as storage rooms, it is also possible they were used as temporary jails.
The river beach under the bridge is a small oasis, ideal for those looking for an escape from the summer heat: a kiosk, bbq stations and swimming waters of the river make this Santerno spot special.
Castel del Rio's small historical center hosts the previously mentioned Alidosi Palace. Built in 1542, the palace had the double function of a noble home and defensive fortress. The richness of the long dominion of the Alidosi family is still visible in the architectural characteristics and especially in the inner courtyard “of the three fountains”, with a beautifully frescoed loggia.
After important renovations, Alidosi Palace is the headquarters of Castel del Rio Municipality, which decided to dedicate a great section of the building to another historical period which strongly impacted the Imola Apennines: the two World Wars.
The Museum of War and Gothic Line was born here almost spontaneously, on the impulse of locals, to collect the war finds discovered all over Santerno Valley: the collection today is incredibly wide, counting about two thousand items, organized in three thematic areas.
Outside Palazzo Alidosi, a rare Texas T6 aircraft is exhibited, historical witness of a territory completely shocked by the world conflicts. The visit to the War Museum is extremely interesting, as it presents a new point of view over the Wars: the perspective of the local population, that fought, embraced the Allies and still today preserves and protects this memory with austere pride.