Faenza and Brisighella combine in this itinerary that lets you experience all the excitement of going up the lower ridges that fringe the valley, cycling into a ravine and sampling one of the best-loved Made in Italy products at the Brisighella Open-Air Oil Museum.
Ready? Let's go!
The first day will take you on an off road bike ride from Faenza to Brisighella and back.
No itinerary around Faenza could not pay tribute to what made this town in the Emilia-Romagna region famous in the first place: so the first stop is the Museum of Ceramics, where collections of ancient artefacts dating back to the pre-Columbian, Eastern and Islamic civilisations are held, as well as Italian pottery from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, and twentieth century and contemporary works by artists of worldwide acclaim.
Up next is Palazzo Milzetti, Romagna’s national museum of the neoclassical age, located in an elegant historical building.
It’s time to jump back on your saddle and explore the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola: Romagna's Vena del Gesso is the only geological formation made entirely of gypsum in Europe, a spectacular silver-grey strip that starkly contrasts against the soft, sweeping outline of the hills, giving the landscape its unique appearance. Cycling along this geological feature promises to be an exciting adventure!
As you continue on your bike ride, you will reach the Rifugio Ca' Carnè visitor centre which, as well as being the information point for the Parco della Vena del Gesso, also has a nature museum all about the local fauna.
In the meantime, it will likely be that time of day, and a much-needed break is in store: the Via del Sangiovese is a food and wine itinerary that crosses paths with valleys, Medieval villages, watch towers and Romanesque parish churches; sample typical products and local culinary specialities along the way, starting with DOC (controlled designation of origin) wines to then continue with the fragrance of olive oil, the aroma of shallots and medicinal herbs, the intense flavour of meat, cold cuts and sheep's cheese, and the sweetness of the fruit and forgotten varieties.
Then we come to Brisighella, a Medieval village nestled in nature, a spa town renowned for its famous hospitality, as well as panoramic landscapes and traditional food and wine.
The village's Rocca [fortress] houses the L’Uomo e il Gesso Archaeological Museum, where all the discoveries unearthed in the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso area are held.
But that’s not all: as we mentioned earlier, this enchanting village is also home to the Open-Air Oil Museum. Olive trees have been cultivated in Brisighella since ancient times and were noted, appreciated and valued as far back as the Roman era.
Here you can sample the refined ‘Brisighello’ extra virgin olive oil, which was awarded the PDO designation in 1996.
The second day of the itinerary is for the Carnè trekking tour; an easy route along the ridges between the valleys of the Lamone and Sintria rivers. Castelnuovo's gypsum ridge overlooks a sink hole, the distinctive landform that is typical of the Parco della Vena del Gesso and, on the nearby south-facing peaks, you can admire the characteristic flora of the Vena del Gesso area, a landscape mottled with vast blotches of Mediterranean garrigue. On this leg of the itinerary, you’ll no doubt chance upon quills that have dropped off porcupines. These quills are essentially long strands of hair embedded together in clusters, which become the spines that this prickly animal is so famous for.
The Rifugio Ca' Carnè visitor centre provides a wealth of information, where you can pick up valuable recommendations for visiting the karst caves in the area, which are predominantly vertical abysses and distinctive topographic phenomena, like the candle-shaped erosion formations (subvertical grooves where the gypsum has been corroded away) on the ‘Sentiero degli Abissi’ path.
Gourmet tip: stop for a bite to eat at the Rifugio restaurant and sample local produce.
You’ve got two stops left before you complete the itinerary, both of which promise to add an element of adventure to this nature trail: the first is a look around the Tanaccia cave, just a stone’s throw from the Carnè park.
A visit to the Tanaccia cave will take you quite literally inside the Parco della Vena del Gesso, as you can venture into the cave on a speleological guided tour, which you can book at the visitor centre.
Lastly, once you reach the top of Monte Rontana, a low hilly rise that divides the valleys of the Sintria and Lamone rivers, you can explore the ruins of a fortress dating back to the year 1000.