A guide to the less known, but more than extraordinary corners of the Apennines in the heart of the territory between Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.
Being considered a secondary valley actually hides many advantages, both for the place and for those who visit it.
While the environmental context retains a certain mystery and an aura of an area that still preserves a wild character and free from the selfie must tourism, on the other hand, those who go here have the typical feeling that experiences the chosen, that atavistic emotion of the discovery of an unknown horizon denied to the eyes and objectives of the masses.
Climbing up from Selva di Ferriere and the Crociglia pass, you venture on a circular trek that leads to a true paradise for any geologist, the Tribolata Valley is a glimpse of the lunar landscape between Val Nure and Val d'Aveto. The clusters of rocks resulting from meteoric erosion hide the reality of an underwater volcanic origin: where now dominate the feelings dictated by extraterrestrial scenarios, there once was an ocean that separated two continental plates and lined in its dark and salty placenta the Apennines.
The suggestive valley is dominated by the uniform landslide ridge from which the boulders originate, known as Ciapa Liscia.
The entire route is included in the Mount Maggiorasca Site of Community Importance.
Do not miss: goodies made of porcini mushrooms, absolute protagonists of many typical recipes of Piacenza, such as in sauces for tortelli, "chicche della nonna", tagliatelle and gnocchi (all local kinds of pasta).
Walking along the Tidone Path it seems as if the path tells you the tradition of millers. It is a 69 km long route in its entirety (which can be covered on foot, by bike or on horseback) that runs along the entire length of the river of the same name, from Boscone Cusani to the province of Pavia.
Starting from Pianello Val Tidone and walking among the ancient mills that follow one another along the course of the homonymous stream, the importance of the milling activity of which these structures, generally dating back to the fifteenth century, are today the silent symbol, is clear.
Between the approximately 50 mills that you can find on the road, the one called Lentino hosts a museum that you can visit upon reservation.
Speaking of ancient crafts, those who face the "Tour of the Postman" in the green and wild Val Boreca you will certainly identify with mail carriers that, with a high sense of duty, trekked to deliver correspondence to villages like Artana, Bogli, Suzzi, Pizzonero and Belnome, at that time not reached by roads.
Do not miss: DOC Wines of Colli Piacentini, 16 of them can be grouped into 3 main PDOs (Ortrugo, Gutturnio and Colli Piacentini) and are the perfect match for PDO Piacenza cured meats (coppa, pancetta and salame)
Speaking of old trades, whoever tackles the "Giro del Postino" in the green and wild Val Boreca cannot help but identify with the postmen who, with a sense of duty, trekked to deliver mail to villages such as Artana, Bogli, Suzzi, Pizzonero and Belnome, which at the time were not reached by roads. Around 17 km with a difference in altitude of more than 1000 metres was no walk at all!
An island among the mountains where Liguria, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Piedmont meet in the space of a few kilometres, where cultures intersect and the cuisine is a fusion of flavours and tradition.
Do not miss: the traditional pin, small gnocchi made with herbs and ricotta cheese that provide the necessary calorie intake to face and overcome the climb.
From Val Taro, near Ghiare di Berceto, you climb in a barren and steep landscape, characterized by bare and protruding rocks.
The valley then gradually becomes greener and sweeter until you get to lush chestnut woods that surround the villages of Bergotto and Corchia and marks the end of the road.
Val Manubiola boasts one of the most evocative environmental frescoes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
Quite secluded but not at all hidden, the valley offers a surprising variety of landscapes that includes the Groppo Maggio with its ancient Copper Mines and the Groppo dell'Asino.
In Corchia, the Museum is worth a visit: it is dedicated to the painter Martino Jasoni, who, like many people, emigrated to New York and then returned to his valley.
Do not miss: Val Manubiola is the ideal setting to enjoy the traditional dishes with traditional PGI mushrooms from Borgotaro and chestnuts, but also to discover the typical taste of "pizza al testo" (testo was an ancient cooking tool typical of the nearby Lunigiana) which finds in the medieval village of Corchia an extraordinary interpretation.
Once you have reached the parking under the village, walking becomes the only possible way to reach Roccaferrara Superiore, one of those precious places guarded by the Parco dei Cento Laghi, where nature and stones are intertwined with history.
Walking along the pavement means retracing a story that has its roots in the thirteenth century and is linked to the name of the Rossi family, which would certainly never have imagined the fate of depopulation of a town which today teems with life mainly in summer. And it is precisely the summer season the ideal time to venture into an easy walk through the traditional architecture and try to imagine the lively rural atmosphere of old times.
Do not miss: visit Corniglio, a mountain center between the Val Parma and the Val Bratica, considered a gem for the 13th cent. castle and the Church of the Assumption.
About 100 km2 of territory in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, where different crops coexist with woods, waterfalls and sudden flashes of view. The walkways that allow you to cross the stream Tassobbio are part of a unique experience, in the course of which it is possible to admire the large number of hydraulic factories, now disused, but that give meaning to the fame of the valley of Mills, also part of Via Matildica del Volto Santo.
Do not miss: the 15th century Castle of Sarzano; And when hunger bites, every place is good to try the green tortelli from Reggio Emilia, filled with spinaches, ricotta and other kinds of cheese.
The Giant, the Dead Man or the Sleeper: in any point of the popular imagery you want to put the accent, the profile of the top of Mount Cusna is one of the most impressive natural suggestions of the Regional Park of the High Reggiano Apennines.
To reach it you start from Febbio and go along a path that creeps into the beautiful colors of a beech forest and then flows into the glacial valley of Passone. From here, you can see the cross made with organ pipes on the peak, which resonates thanks to the musical sense of the wind, but that is only a stop on the way to the summit, which is reached by conquering Mount La Piella and bypassing the Sasso del Morto.
Do not miss: Once you reach the top, over 2000 meters, after about 3 and a half hours of walking, the immediate and unrivalled reward is an extraordinary high-altitude sunset, which you may enjoy even better by opting for a descent on foot at the time when the sun retreats into its soft pink bed.