“Walls talk” says an old expression…. but so does land! Through this itinerary, we would like to invite you to listen to nature and its secrets, finally discovering the hidden geological treasures of the Bolognese territory.
Let’s start our journey in the hinterland of Imola, along the valley of the river Santerno, dominated by the Vena del Gesso Romagnola, a Regional Park since 2005, which crosses the provinces of Bologna and Ravenna, also encircling the Senio Valley.
A beautiful scenic point to behold such a chalky formation is the town of Tossignano, perched on a hill. The panoramic view over the Riva di San Biagio highlights the glittering shades of the chalk layers, deposited here after centuries of submarine sedimentation before emerging from the surface in all their grandeur. A lot of mountain bike tours and trekking trips are organized along these fascinating ridges.
Ascending along the hallowed paths of the Santerno Valley, in the riverfront area of Fontanelice, you can admire a high sandstone-marly mountain face called Riva dei Cavalli (Horse Shore), which mirrors the typical underground movements.
Further downstream, in Imola, you can recognize other traces of the ancient sea that once covered the territory: the Sabbie Gialle di Imola (Imola’s Yellowstones). This geological layer testifies to the presence of old beaches, all the more so because of the discovery of fossil shells. The Yellowstones can be easily observed inside the Parco delle Acque Minerali and along the river Correcchio, upstream from the Riserva orientata del Bosco della Frattona. For younger explorers, the Guide of the Geologist Traveller – Discovering Imola’s Geological Sites is available for downloading.
Let’s now move towards the hills surrounding Bologna, San Lazzaro di Savena, Ozzano dell'Emilia and Pianoro, where you can visit the Parco dei Gessi e Calanchi dell’Abbadessa, Emilia Romagna’s largest karstic park.
The name itself refers to the park’s most evident geological peculiarities, i.e. the suggestive ravines of the Passo dell’Abbadessa and the amazing chalky outcrops, appearing as silver bumps characterized by a sparkling pearly luminosity. The name selenite (moonstone) is ultimately linked to this particular effect.
The park’s landscape is shaped by sinkholes, uplands, erosions, blind valleys and cliffs. The park’s underground structure, with its more than 100 grottos, is also of great interest. Make sure you visit the Grotta del Farneto and the Grotta della Spipola, which can be accessed through exciting speleological guided tours, suitable for children as well.
The park can be visited through organized guided tours or on your own following the area’s trail network. Mountain Bike lovers should not miss the Ciclovia dei Gessi di Gaibola.
This third stop takes us to the very heart of Bologna, which, despite its urban landscape, is able to offer several spots of geological interest. The first unmissable visit is at the Salaborsa Public Library, whose glass floor enables visitors to get a glimpse over the ruins of various past civilizations, from the Villanovan culture to the Roman Bononia.
Interesting investigations of the Salaborsa archaeological excavations, carried out from 1989 to 1990, have proven that the subsoil of the city’s old town is strongly moulded by clay and loam. Clay, in the form of fired and unfired bricks, is the most commonly used material for the construction of buildings and city monuments, such as the Palazzo Comunale, whose façade is dominated by a clay sculpture of the Virgin with Child by Niccolò dell’Arca, Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo Re Enzo, built entirely of brick.
Once in the city centre, you should not miss the Geological Collection “Giovanni Cappellini” in via Zamboni, opened in 1881 thanks to the important research work of Giovanni Cappellini, Italy’s first Geology Professor.
Over the years, new geo-paleontological findings and items from all over the world have been enriching the museum, which has now become Italy’s largest and richest geological and paleontological centre, with more than a million exhibits among which rocks, plants, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils. The exhibition’s highlight is undoubtedly the model of the Jurassic dinosaur Diplodocus, with its stunning 26 metres in length and 4 meter height.
It’s now time to continue our journey through the mountain routes of the Apennines, inside the Contrafforte Pliocenico Natural Reserve, the majestic 15-km long rocky cliff that runs crosswise through five valleys, marked by evocative rocky sandstone outcrops and stunning reliefs.
Here, along the famous Via degli Dei, Mount Adone stands out with its 655 meters, the highest peak of the Natural Reserve, particularly appreciated for the suggestive sandstone pinnacles eroded by the wind, the deep crevices and the many grottos inhabited since the Neolithic era.
After getting to Brento by Car, within the Municipality of Monzuno, you can continue your journey on foot along the undemanding CAI trail n. 910 up to the peak, from whence you can enjoy a 360-degree view over the Bolognese mountains.
The old town of Livergnano, 20 km from Bologna in the Municipality of Pianoro, is well worth a visit, thanks to its characteristic clusters of houses leaning against the rock wall.
From there you can enjoy a fascinating view over the surrounding landscape, or use the town as a starting point for a nice walk towards the slopes of Mount Rosso.
Livergnano is also the headquarters of the Documentation Centre and Museum “The Winter Line”, set up by Umberto Magnani inside one of the characteristic houses carved into the sandstone.
The exhibition displays important findings of the Second World War discovered in the area along the Gothic Line, including uniforms and various items, such as old radios, helmets, canteens and cutlery that tell of interesting stories and anecdotes.