It seems that the name of Ridracoli, a small grouping of houses, located on the homonymous branch of the Bidente river, originated from a mispronunciation of the name Rio degli Oracoli, from the Latin Rivus Oracolorum.
This would indicate the presence of a pagan temple along this stream. In the temple there was believed to be a sibyl that pronounced sentences addressed to wayfarers. Until 1652, a hermitage dedicated to San Lorenzo was present on the opposite side of the river from the main nucleus. The small center of Ridracoli is composed of the church dedicated to San Martino, a bridge with an adjoining building where there was a tavern, a few houses and a mill. Then there is Palazzo Giovannetti, now home to the "Il Palazzo" restaurant where the school was located, moved to the rectory in 1961.
Not far from the church is the cemetery. The economy of the area was of a mountain type, linked to forestry and the production of coal, as well as to sheep farming for the production of cheese and wool. Cultivation was reserved for less impervious lands. 326 people lived in the small nucleus in 1913, which dropped to 250 inhabitants in 1959, 120 in 1962, 43 in 1971 and only 3 in 2020. The valley has regained liveliness thanks to the construction of the dam above (1975-1982) which caused the Bidente river to form a lake that goes for about 5 km into the heart of the mountain, containing 33 million cubic meters of water to quench the thirst of Romagna.
The Ridracoli dam is a highly engineered work that since 1987 has provided drinking water to the municipalities of Romagna and the Republic of San Marino. The "Giant of Romagna" is inserted in the territory of the Casentinesi Forests National Park which, with its 36,426 hectares of uncontaminated forests between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany is among the largest and best preserved in Italy. The Sasso Fratino Integral Reserve, the heart of the park, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.
Situated in the upper Bidente di Ridracoli Valley and composed of a small inhabited centre built around a 19th century bridge and the parish church. The valley, which used to depend on agriculture, has gained a new vitality thanks to the dam above the town which has caused the River Bidente to form a 100 hectare lake with a capacity of 33 million cubic metres to supply Romagna with water. Hotels in converted town houses and farms are set in the abundant greenery of the area. There are also trails and mule paths which lead to the "National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, Mounts Falterona and Campigna".
This area is the ideal environment in which to spend wonderful days admiring the combination of technology and nature and between rationality and fantasy. In this evocative scenario, IDRO - Ecomuseo delle Acque di Ridracoli awaits you, consisting of a headquarters and various territorial poles: the technological pole to discover the secrets of the dam, the naturalistic pole that acts as a window on the National Park, from which to start for an exciting boat excursion on the lake and the landscape pole, a privileged observation point of the imposing structure of the dam.
IDRO welcomes the visitor with exhibition rooms dedicated to the dam and the aqueduct of Romagna, from the distribution of water on the planet to the importance of water in the world of living beings, to the discovery of clean energies. The museum also offers the opportunity to take part in guided tours (for schools and groups), canoe and canoe-trekking excursions, guided e-bike excursions and educational workshops.
Another town, the gateway to the Romagna side of the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, is the small hamlet of Poggio alla Lastra, 20 minutes away from the Ridracoli dam and gathered around the church of Saints Pietro and Apollinare. The town located at the entrance of the Bidente di Pietrapazza valley was once populous, while today it lives on agriculture and tourism: a "holiday home" and a restaurant allow for peaceful stays even for large groups; well-marked paths and paved mule tracks allow excursions (trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding) in the suggestive abandoned valley. Among the initiatives organized, the pride of the small hamlet is the Poggio alla Lastra Nativity which is made every year during the Christmas holidays with the participation of the entire community. It involves the entire historic center of the village, extending to the whole town next to the church. Made with life-size figurines, it stands out at night for the particular and impressive lighting set up.