It seems as if you have been catapulted onto a film set when you look out over the horizon and see the large sandstone towers of Roccamalatina and Sant’Andrea, monoliths of rock that are over 70 metres high, with steep walls that are in sharp contrast with the gently rolling landscape surrounding them.
Unconquerable natural strongholds, over the centuries, they have housed fortified settlements, perhaps even as far back as the era of Byzantine rule. Today they are a historic nesting site for birds of prey, such as the peregrine falcon, and the overwintering place for the rare wallcreeper.
The park, which stretches for more than 2,000 hectares, includes the municipalities of Guiglia, Marano sul Panaro and Zocca.
The Panaro River flows a little further away, in the direction of Modena. All around, several places of historical interest punctuate the horizon. There is the Pieve di Trebbio [parish church of Trebbio], probably founded between the eleventh and twelfth centuries; the picturesque medieval villages of Castellino delle Formiche and Castellaro, and some examples of rural architecture in locations such as La Grilla, Pugnano and Ronzone.
The environment and scenery
A Site of Community Importance and a Special Protection Area, different ecosystems coexist in the park, which feature the presence of arboreal species, such as Erica erigena (commonly known as Irish heather), alongside others, which, by contrast, are typical of high-altitude areas, like beech trees and bilberry shrubs.
Woods, rocks, caves and streams characterise the entire area around the large towers and the surrounding glades are populated by fields of orchids, anemones, bellflowers, lilies and cyclamen.
Many animals, typical of the middle Apennine zone, live in the area: from badgers to porcupines, from squirrels to dormice, from foxes to roe deer.
What can you do there?
The park can be visited at any time of the year, but autumn and spring, in particular, are the seasons that offer the most stunning spectacles. More than 100 km of trails can be enjoyed on foot, on horseback or by bicycle. These range from simple walks to more complex hiking trails, to which are added short via ferratas and trails that visitors are only permitted to take if accompanied by an expert guide. The Borlengo and Chestnut Museum is not to be missed, the main place for supplies of traditional culinary specialities in the park.