You can easily reach Casola Valsenio by going up the Senio Valley, among rolling hills and tidy rows of vines. Known as “The Herbs and Forgotten Fruits Garden”, it is the southernmost garrison of the “Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park”.
The Herb Garden, the Fortress of Monte Battaglia, the Cardello and the Abbey of Valsenio are just some of the stops on a tour that combines the environment, culture and history.
The Cardello, the house museum where the writer Alfredo Oriani spent almost all his life, is located before the entrance of the small town. The building probably dates back to the eleventh century and functioned as a guest house of the Benedictine Abbey of Valsenio, whose existence has been documented since 1126. Alfredo’s father bought it in 1855 and settled there in 1866.
The current structure of the Cardello is the result of a massive restoration which did not respect completely the original set up of 1926. The interior of the house is a rare example of a stately home of Romagna between the nineteenth and twentieth century: the intact representation of a style and of an era, with rooms, like the study and the bedroom of Alfredo Oriani, which has been left as they were.
Inside the house the historic bike with which the writer, considered the father of "cycle tourism”, made his solo journey of nearly 1000 km between Romagna and Tuscany in 1897 is kept. This journey inspired one of his most beloved works: "The Bicycle".
The Herb Garden is located in the hamlet of Prugno and is dedicated to Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni, who designed it in 1938 and then moved it to the current site in 1975.
There are over 400 cultivated species, all neatly placed in the beautiful thematic terraces overlooking the Senio Valley. Among the well-stocked flowerbeds of The Herb Garden, you will find a Documentation Centre with a multimedia library, a museum space where the various sections of the plants are exposed and a well-equipped learning workshop.
While in the hamlet of Valsenio, you can admire a Benedictine Abbey, which is documented only from the twelfth century and is considered the first inhabited centre of the Senio Valley.
The abbey was set in a strategic point of the valley. Its importance is evidenced by the documented extent of its possessions and by many other churches that were run by it. The councils and assemblies of the community gathered in its churchyard.
The substantial restoration work carried out recently has unearthed parts of earlier structures. With a monumental appearance, some of them date back to pre-Christian times.
But the real surprise was found under the apse: the remains of an older church, with a three-foiled plan (with three apses) from the seventh to eighth centuries after Christ.
The abbey is a very special place, where you can breathe both the mystical atmosphere of medieval churches and the simple one of country churches.
Due to the presence of the Herb Garden and to the many events created over the years concerning the cultivation of aromatic herbs, a culture of these plants has been consolidated in Casola Valsenio. This has led to its definition as the “Village of Herbs and Forgotten Fruits”.
A visit to the Herb Garden is a must, maybe on the occasion of "Lavender Day" or "Herbs in Bloom”.
After being inebriated by perfumes and colours among cultivated terraces and rows of lavender, let yourself be amazed by the original dishes with aromatic herbs, flower petals and forgotten fruits proposed by many restaurants in Casola. There is also an ice-cream parlour, which offers flavours of ice cream based on herbs and forgotten fruits: a dip in the flavours and colours of these plants with multiple uses, studied and combined creatively, without ever forgetting tradition.
As required by Romagna culture!
In the small streets and squares of the village, a lot of initiatives take place during different periods of the year. These are dedicated to tales, fairy tales, flowers, herbs, and forgotten fruits, with markets and menus dedicated to these products.
Every year, on the 25th of April, the Spring Festival, the Feast of Thoughts Floats and the Burning of Segavecchia take place, while the following Saturday the suggestive night parade of the floats is held. The festival has very ancient origins. In 1891 a group of artisans decided to organize also in Casola Valsenio the Feast of “Mezzaquaresima”: a festival of pagan origin that interrupted the greyness of Lent with a day of Carnival. The festival included, among other things, the burning of the Old Woman and a procession of carnivalesque floats. Years go by and the “Floats of thought” get bigger and bigger, but even today, as at the beginning of the century, the three floats are made of wood, “grigioli” (cane mats used then for building ceilings) and plaster, while the dressed-up actors remain still in frozen poses throughout the parade.
Meanwhile, Casola Valsenio dedicates a unique and original festival to “Forgotten Fruits” every second and third weekend of October. In the cheerful and colourful stands that fill the squares of the small old town, the autumn fruits harvested from old plants that have survived cultural changes, awaken curiosity for shapes, colours and peculiar flavours. Azzeruole, sloe berries, rose’s apples, cornel cherries, pomegranates, corbezzoli, jujubes, Volpine pears, quinces, chestnuts and loquats are proposed both raw and processed in the form of jams, quinces, jujube broth and so on. The exhibition-market is accompanied by displays, decorations and reconstructions that recall the atmosphere of the rural world of the past. In the meantime, the food stand offers autumn specialties and, for the occasion, the restaurants prepare dishes based on “forgotten fruits”.
Furthermore, every four years, Casola Valsenio hosts an international meeting of speleologists.