The itinerary is part of a varied system of paths and river parks surrounding the city: the Crostolo route, the first of the river parks to be built, is today the typical place of entertainment for the people of Reggio Emilia. Before leaving, rent your bike at the Central Station and reach Piazza Gioberti, where our itinerary to discover the Este delights begins. At the end of the tour a tasty surprise awaits you!
The itinerary starts in Piazza Gioberti, seat of the Ducal Palace, where the 18th Century Walk begins, a route of about 7 kilometres that still runs from the historic centre of Reggio Emilia to the Reggia di Rivalta, through the river Park of the Crostolo torrent. The circular fountain surrounding the obelisk reflects the Este family's taste for water features that can be found at the Ducal Palace and in many other Este residences.
Proceeding along Corso Garibaldi, we come to another recently redeveloped square: Piazza Roversi, with the 18th-century Church of Christ. The rectangular pond in front of the church recalls the bed of the Crostolo torrent, which used to flow here before it was diverted outside the city walls. The Basilica della Ghiara, situated along the course, owes its name to the "gièra", the gravel found in the bed of the torrent.
The Porta Castello crossing connects the 18th-century path with the most important tree-lined avenue in the city: Viale Umberto I. Here too, the element of water accompanies us along the route, from the winding path of Corso Garibaldi, to the two monumental fountains of the avenue, to the pools of the Reggia di Rivalta.
Today, the broad avenue is characterized by a neat row of large plants and by pedestrian and cycle paths.
The route continues to the Crostolo Bridge, where two statues that once belonged to the Ducal villa of Rivalta can be admired: the symbolic statues of the Secchia and Panaro rivers, part of the triad that included the statue of the Crostolo, now standing in the central Piazza Prampolini.
We now become immersed in the main (and most loved) ‘green lung’ of Reggio Emilia: we have entered the Crostolo Park, commonly called Parco delle Caprette (Park of the Little Goats), due to the presence of several Tibetan goats that can move freely around the park. A pleasant bike ride along the city river will take us to the Ducal Palace of Rivalta, the magnificent country palace built by order of Duke Francesco III at the request of French princess Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans.
The villa, inspired by the Palace of Versailles, had a U-shaped plan with a central stately building flanked by wings on the sides. Ransacked and largely demolished during the Napoleonic occupation, only a part of it remains today, probably the section intended for servants.
The route along the Crostolo torrent flanks the Ducal Villa of Rivaltella and continues to Villa d'Este, where the palace and the pool, created as a fishing retreat for Duke Francesco III d'Este, were part of the huge project of the Ducal Palace of Rivalta and its gardens. The oval basin collected the water necessary to operate the fountains of the Palace, to which it was connected through underground pipes that still exist today.
In turn, the basin was fed by the nearby Crostolo torrent through a connecting canal, which was originally also the only way into the villa, accessible solely by small boats. Today, Villa d'Este is only open for weddings and special events, but it is possible to walk alongside the oval pool and enjoy some relaxing time in the shade of the large trees.
From the Corbelli Pool (Villa d'Este), past the small road of the Melmare, we cross the SS63 road and, going up along the Rio della Vasca (CAI path no. 646 D), arrive at the Parco le Ginestre. Continuing along the road and through the Cavalla woods (an old military road used for moving troops), we reach Villa Levi, one of the most unique villas in the Reggio Emilia countryside, with a distinctly neoclassical style. From 1888 the villa was home to Margherita Levi and, for a few years, her first husband, Baron Alberto Franchetti, a member of a noble Sephardic Jewish family. Their son, Baron Raimondo Franchetti, was the last of the great Italian explorers in Africa. Hunting trophies and artefacts from his journeys are now kept in the Palazzo dei Musei in Reggio Emilia.
The itinerary continues along the cemetery wall of Coviolo and the cycle path of Via Fratelli Rosselli to the Consorzio Vacche Rosse, a cheese factory with a shop that you can visit and buy excellent farm-to-table Parmigiano Reggiano. On the left of the dairy is the 18th-century Villa Gastinelli, named after an army general who moved to Reggio Emilia from Piedmont in the 19th century. From here, continuing along Via Fratelli Rosselli, we re-join the cycle path alongside the Crostolo stream, in a loop that crosses the river parks and the most beautiful villas in the province of Reggio Emilia.