The Spungone, a name deriving from the local dialect “spugnò” that describes its spongy appearance, is the particular type of calcareous sandstone rock that characterises the Romagna hills from Bertinoro to Castrocaro Terme and passes through Meldola and Predappio.
Three million years ago, this rocky ridge was a splendid coral reef; today it is a natural heritage offering fascinating views of a landscape that hosts important biological diversity and numerous thermal springs as well as providing excellent land for agriculture and the production of wine and oil.
This itinerary allows you to discover the area by bike or on foot.
The balcony of Romagna: such is the epithet that Bertinoro bears thanks to the position of its square, perched in the upper part of the town and affording sweeping views over the hills to the sea.
Above the village stands the centuries-old fortress that once hosted Frederick Barbarossa and then remained as the Bishop’s residence from the 16th century until 1970. This is where the first part of the itinerary starts, allowing you to discover the prosperous countryside close to the village.
The roads wind through a rural environment that unfolds though a succession of vineyards, olive groves and orchards: the perfect setting for a bike ride.
The route then continues to the town of Fratta Terme just a few kilometres from Bertinoro. You set off along Via Banchetti and continue along Via Rio Rose and Via Ausa to arrive at the recently renovated historic spa and the park with its ancient Roman springs. A perfect stopping point or holiday spot for those who enjoy long walks and wish to take advantage of the beneficial properties of its healing waters.
Before moving on to the next stage, make a detour along Via Loreta to visit the Lombard parish church of San Donato in Polenta, visited by Dante and celebrated in verse by Carducci.
Travelling along Via Fratta and then Strada della Magnalova, you reach Meldola. As you enter the urbanised area, you come across one of the town’s gems: the Venetian Bridge, so called because it was built during the Venetian domination in 1508 to allow the water to drain from the nearby Doria canal. An easy five-minute bike ride takes you to Piazza Orsini, surrounded by its Loggiato Aldobrandini. From here, the itinerary continues along a route set above the valley and below the ridge. The valley is that of the Bidente River along whose banks travellers and pilgrims have passed through the centuries as they made their way from northern Italy to Tuscany and Rome. Nature lovers are advised to take Via Collefiorito and stop to admire the Scardavilla Nature Reserve, a 30-hectare wood rich in biodiversity that was much studied by the naturalist Pietro Zangheri. The area was once inhabited by Camaldolese monks, as evidenced by the beautiful monastery still visible today.
Our itinerary continues across the wild ridge that leads to Rocca delle Caminate, a fortress whose strategic position on the border between Meldola and Predappio dominates a large part of the territory of Romagna, from the coast to the Apennines. Probably of Roman origins, this castle was the summer residence of Mussolini who installed a large lighthouse with a beam that had a candlepower of 8,000 and was visible up to 60 km away. To conclude the first day’s exploration of the Romagna hills, you can book an exclusive tour of the Rocca accompanied by local guides, and then complete the evening by enjoying a glass of Sangiovese wine and a selection of local cheeses and cold cuts.
The second day begins with a steep descent from Rocca delle Caminate to Predappio from where you climb a winding route to Predappio Alta along a road of the same name that affords sweeping views. This medieval village nestled among the vineyards boasts a well-known wine-bar built inside an ancient wine cellar. It is no coincidence that between October and November various festivals and food and wine-themed fairs and celebrations take place here. From this observation point, you can admire the beauty of the Montone Valley, a natural route to Tuscany and a historic area of transit towards Rome. Travelling firstly along Via Marsigliano and then Via Sadurano you come across part of the Sentiero degli Alpini, the ideal path for those who prefer to discover the route on foot. Cyclists, on the other hand, can enjoy an easy ride to Sadurano, another hilltop destination.
The second day of the itinerary continues by exploring Sadurano and the municipality to which it belongs, Castrocaro Terme. The name of the village of Sadurano has changed several times over the course of history, but is thought to derive from Saturn, to whom it would seem a temple was once erected and located in what is now the Church of Santa Maria in Sadurano. The richness of this territory is expressed also in the famous spa town of Etruscan origins. The town’s history has been documented since the Roman era when the springs were used not only for their healing properties but also created a hub of social and cultural value. Today, history and art lovers can admire the buildings that remain as a testament to Rationalist Architecture and have focused international attention on Castrocaro.
The last stage of our discovery of the Spungone territory ends with a winding route through the hills closest to Forlì. Leaving Castrocaro Terme on the bike and pedestrian path along the Montone River, you pass through the historic village of Terra del Sole, a stronghold of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in Romagna. The road then begins to climb and takes you to the panoramic Rocca di Monte Poggiolo.
From here, the itinerary continues along a succession of easily manageable climbs and descents allowing you to enjoy broad views of the Rabbi valley, with its suggestive gullies. Along the route, in Rio Cozzi, the Spungone rock appears as an imposing outcrop (also used for climbing) that is perhaps the most spectacular example of Spungone in the entire rocky chain.