An itinerary of 24h to discover Casola Valsenio, a small village in the Romagna Apennines on the Tuscan border, known as the Village of Herbs and Forgotten Fruits thanks to the many species of officinal herbs cultivated in its Botanical Garden.
The Herb Garden of Casola Valsenio is a specialized botanical garden, one of the most complete in Italy. A visit to this place allows for an immersion into the world of officinal plants – prized in many fields, from medicine to phytotherapy, from cuisine to cosmetics – and the many ways to extract essential oils and use plants for infusions.
Our day starts in the Herb Garden, a true point of reference for deepening one's knowledge of official plants, recognized and used for centuries thanks to their virtues.
The Garden was created in 1938 with the purpose of cultivating, preserving and spreading the knowledge of plants of medical and officinal interest: here are about 450 plant species, in use since the Middle Ages, when they were used and studied mostly in monastery laboratories. The current location of the Garden, opened in 1975, is named after Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni.
The Garden is open for visiting during the day, when walking around will lead you to smells and colors of nature, among terraces and lavender rows. If you wish to truly deepen your knowledge about this vegetal world, book a guided visit or a workshop, go through the Smells Gallery and enter the Chamber of Wonders.
And maybe, you could take home with you some officinal plants, to keep in your garden or your terrace, to find everyday the intensity of the smells and the memories of this magical place.
Around lunch time, the suggestion is to try the original dishes made with herbs and forgotten fruits that you can find in many restaurants in Casola Valsenio: creative pairings that don’t leave behind the traditions. Just as Romagna culture demands!
In the afternoon, our itinerary moves to Cardello, house-museum of the writer Alfredo Oriani, one of the most “original” characters in Italian culture of the late XIX century.
Originally built to be a guest house for the closeby Benedictine Valsenio Abbey and surrounded by a wide and green park, Cardello was acquired by Luigi Oriani, Alfredo’s father; the writer lived here his whole life and here composed all of his writings.
Fascism interpreted and interiorized some of the author’s values, forcing them into the frame of Fascism and making Cardello the core of the “myth of the pioneer”: starting from the building of a Mausoleum to host Oriani’s remains and the final destination of the “Cardello March” of April 27th 1924, guided by Mussolini himself.
The current layout of the building, vaguely resembling the neo-romanic style, dates back to the drastic remodeling promoted by the Fascist Regime in 1926, which changed completely the original look of Cardello.
On the other hand, inner spaces, including the writer’s studio and his private library, are perfeclty preserved offering a rare example of a noble home of XX century Romagna.
In the wide attic area, right under the roof, the bicycle used by Oriani is on display, as he is considered the inventor or cyclotourism, for his long solitary trip through Romagna and Tuscany. This journey inspired the writer to write “The bicyle” (1902), one of the most memorable Italian books dedicated to cycling.
A few kilometers away from Cardello is Valsenio Abbey, whose presence has been documented since appearing in a Papal bull in 1126. Next to the Abbey there used to be a Benedictine monastery with a cloister and guest house.
Valsenio Abbey is located in an old strategic point of access to the valley. Its importance is can be seen through the expansion of the lands it owned and the many satellite churches. Here, community council and assemblies took place.
Recent restoration works brought to light adjacent monumental buildings from the Pre-Christian age. But the true surprise was found under the apse: the remains of an ancient church with three apses bating back to VIII Century A.D.
Valsenio Abbey is truly a special place, where visitors can breathe the mystical yet simple atmosphere of Medieval countryside churches: a magical end for our quiet and laid-back itinerary.