This area is a 25-km stretch of karst landscape – made up of dolines, caves and blind valleys – that characterise the great silvery ridge of chalk that extends along the foothills between Imola and Faenza, cutting across the valleys of the Santerno, Senio, Sintria and Lamone rivers.
The impervious rocky facades of the Gypsum Vein of Romagna Regional Park give life to a sequence of panoramic peaks that culminate in Mount Mauro, and stand out against the gentle rolling surrounding hills and against the bottom of the valley, where the historic villages of Brisighella and Riolo Terme are situated, both well-known thermal spa towns.
As in the nearby Bolognese Gypsum and the Abbadessa Badlands Regional Park, the area has a very peculiar morphology featuring dolines, blind valleys, deep abysses and caves of great speleological and archaeological value.
The environment and scenery
In the mosaic of meadows, shrubs and woodlands (downy oak, turkey oak, manna ash and maple) that marks the entire district, the presence of vegetation influenced by the warm currents of the Adriatic stand out, such as the evergreen holly oak.
From the botanical point of view, the emblem of the park is a small and very rare fern (Cheilanthes persica), which grows along the coasts of Anatolia, in the Caucasus region and in a few other places, including the slopes of Mount Mauro, near the town of Brisighella.
The landscape is scoured from above by birds of prey and populated on the ground by the typical fauna found in hilly areas. The subterranean world, filled with invertebrates and bats, is also very striking.
What can you do there?
The park is a thrilling place in every season of the year. A network of well-marked trails, managed directly by the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) [Italian Alpine Club], which are partly navigable by mountain bike and on horseback, allows visitors to explore the various zones of the park independently or with the help of expert guides.
Among the most famous hikes, the climb that goes from Tossignano to Mount Casino and the one that runs from Borgo Rivolta to Monte Mauro are both particularly picturesque. Cycling enthusiasts, on the other hand, can make use of the two cycle paths and the four sections of the Alta Via dei Parchi ridgeway that run across the entire district.
Near the Visitor Centres (the Ca’ Carné mountain refuge and “the Chalks and the River” of Tossignano), there are picnic and parking service areas where you can eat al fresco, alone or with the whole family, while, throughout the year, except the winter months, guided tours are organised to discover the King Tiberius and Tanaccia caves.
Lastly, there is no lack of good cuisine with the food farming products from the area, including PGI-certified Nectarines and PDO Brisighella Olive Oil. Finally, a couple of km before the village of Casola Valsenio, the Garden of Forgotten Herbs is worth a mention, with over 400 medicinal and aromatic plants, a benchmark for research, experimentation and teaching.