E-Bike & Gravel

E-BIKE

"ANCIENT GULLIES" EXPLORING LOOP


"ANCIENT GULLIES" RIDE LOOP 69.3 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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Things to see

An average-length route but nevertheless a challenging day due to the succession of steep climbs dug out of the gullies, the only respite from which is provided by the section skirting the historic centre of Faenza.

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This route is a tribute to geology and the perennial action of the rain on the Apennine slopes, excavating the clay and unveiling the chalky truth that runs through Italy from north to south for a thousand kilometres.

The gullies play a starring role in roads in which human engineering is obliged to bow to the coordinates established by nature, tracing a route that blends vineyards, fortresses and castles in the signature style of a landscape only superficially touched by the advent of industrialisation.

The [[Sangiovese]] – Romagna’s number one grape variety – still reigns supreme over the hills that open up on either side of the road leading to the town of Brisighella via the Calbane Pass (3.6 km at an average incline of 5%).

The fortress of Riolo Terme and the [[Torre del Marino]] tower are the prelude to a succession of castles that continues uninterrupted from Brisighella and its [[Venetian fortress]].

These hills provided fertile ground for anyone seeking materials to build forts; indeed, from the peak of the Carla Pass (1.2 kilometres at 9.2%, with highs of 12%), these can be admired in an almost 360º panorama. On one side are Mount [[Rontana]] and [[Mount Mauro]] – where the vegetation conceals the ruins of the fortresses – and, on the other, Mount [[Castellaccio della Pietramora]] and, a little further south, the Ceparano mountain on whose summit the castle, the focus of archaeological excavations and still in an excellent state of preservation, is semi-concealed by vegetation.

Here, the local Spungone stone was the material used for building, quarried from an outcrop as rugged as the climb from Moronico, which ascends towards Pietramora for 5 kilometres at an incline of 5.1%, made extremely challenging by the midday sun and a long section ranging from 10 to 14%.

The rode is relentless: the ‘vertical wall’ of Via Croce – 900 metres at an average of 11.2%, with two sections at 15% – gives no opportunities to get your breath back. From San Mamante, the route follows a short uphill section towards Oriolo, through the land of the [[Centesimino]], a grape variety not grown anywhere else, on 21 hectares belonging to just eight wineries. The level stretch that passes under the city walls of [[Faenza]] precedes another climb towards Castel Raniero and the farms of La Berta. The day is completed by the flattish stretch towards the hamlet of Pideura and the Vernelli climbs (800 metres at 10% with highs of 15%).

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Village of Brisighella / Mount Castellaccio della Pietramora and nearby castles (Rontana, Ceparano and Monte Mauro) / Oriolo wineries / Faenza / Castel Raniero wineries

MASSELLINA BIKE TOUR


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"RIOLO TERME BH1 - CASOLA VALSENIO AND MOUNT POGGIOLO - SINTRIA VALLEY" EXPLORING LOOP


"Riolo Terme BH1 - Casola Valsenio and Mount Poggiolo - Sintria Valley" Exploring Loop 49.3 kilometres - Medium difficulty ELECTRIC
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Things to see

The climb towards Mount Mauro and continuation towards Mount Albano trace a route that ventures into the Apennines as far as Mount Poggiolo

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This place was largely forgotten by the modern world and is now at the centre of the Apennine comeback featuring the revival of villages and groups of dwellings abandoned for decades. Mount Poggiolo and the surrounding mountains form the heart of a route that winds its way from some of the most popular peaks in the Apennines around Faenza to other, lesser-known ones such as Mount Cece.

After a beginning dedicated to very popular destinations like [[Mount Mauro]] and Mount Albano – reached via a series of surfaced and unsurfaced roads, following a kind of ridge – the route then sets its sights deeper into the Apennines, towards places very close to the Via Aemilia trunk road or to Florence as the crow flies and yet so far removed.

The existence of a road linking Casola Valsenio and Marradi – the two main centres of the Upper Senio and Lamone Valleys and the last ones before the town of Borgo San Lorenzo, many tens of kilometres further on – had almost been erased from living memory. It had even lost its name, and the rare cyclists who ventured into these parts referred to it merely as the place “beyond the point where the Mount Poggiolo road ends”, almost as though it were Erebus where, according to the Ancient Greeks, even the ocean ceased to exist.

A few years ago, the heart of the valley began to beat again, first through the observatory on Mount Romano – which, in summer, causes hundreds of people to climb up to that first peak and, inevitably, wonder what lies beyond – and then through the gradual repopulation of various abandoned farmsteads together with renewed cultivation of the adjacent land. The new inhabitants of the valley include people originating from Spain, as well as those who had met people from Faenza during trips to South America and remained enchanted by their stories.

The Via del Cerro, which leads from the village of Casola Valsenio to [[Mount Poggiolo]] and, from there, to the hamlet of San Martino in Gattara, seems to take on new life with each metre that passes, despite the average gradient of 6.9% (with highs of 14%) that marks the 2.8 km climb on an irregular road surface. On the left, you can see [[Mount Cece]], a peak damaged by the fighting in 1944 on nearby Mount Battaglia.

The route’s true destination is Mount Poggiolo, the deepest secret in the heart of the Apennines. From here, the road descents gently through the countryside towards the hamlet of Zattaglia and Riolo Terme.

Places of interest

Mount Mauro / Mount Albano / Village of Casola Valsenio / Mount Poggiolo / Riolo Terme

“RIOLO TERME BH2 - TOWERS AND FORTRESSES OF THE VENA DEL GESSO RIDGE” EXPLORING LOOP


“Riolo Terme BH2 - Towers and Fortresses of the Vena del Gesso Ridge” Exploring Loop 36.4 kilometres - Medium difficulty ELECTRIC
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Things to see

The ascent of Mount Rinaldo is the prologue to a route that touches, in turn, the fortresses that distinguish the skyline of the area around Brisighella.

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Quarrying and building. These are the two key components of the relationship mankind has cultivated with the the chalk hills since ancient times, when the early Europeans, lacking tools particularly effective in handling stone, were fatally attracted by the outcrop now known as the Vena del Gesso (or ‘chalk vein’), with many points where building material could be extracted without difficulty.

The quarried stone was quickly repositioned on the ground, beginning a new life as a building material. This explains the blossoming of fortresses and castles dotted all over this area. Some of these have almost disappeared, like the one that stood on the summit of [[Mount Mauro]], while others have recently been brought back to life, as in the case of [[Rontana Castle]] which undergoes intense campaigns of archaeological excavations each summer, and others still, like the [[Torre del Marino]] tower, easily accessible from [[Riolo Terme]].

The route leading from here to Mount Rinaldo, through landscape furrowed by gullies, passes right in front of this 15th-century tower, unmistakeable thanks to its distinctive battlements and arrow slits and now a regular nesting place for the local birds. From Mount Rinaldo, the route follows Via Rio Chiè, immersed in greenery, to Brisighella and its three hills. From the medieval village of Brisighella, the road rises and falls, first towards the [[Venetian fortress]] – the greatest legacy of the Doges’ very brief rule of Romagna, lasting just a few years in the early 16th century and quickly forgotten – and then towards the [[Geological museum]], just beyond [[Monticino Sanctuary]]. Here, prehistory speaks to us through the Corten forms of fossils unearthed in local caves: mammoths, rhinoceroses, hyenas, apes, crocodiles and even an aardvark.

The [[Rifugio Ca' Carnè]] visitor centre is situated a little further along the route, at the foot of a now vanished fortress, and its small natural history museum is worth visiting. The ruins of Rontana Castle are not visible from here but, if you head south, using the Rontana cross or nearby antenna towers as reference points, you will suddenly find yourself in the Romagna of the year 1000

Mount Sacco is the final obstacle of the day, before the return to Riolo through the countryside.

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Torre del Marino tower / Brisighella and its Venetian fortress / Monticino church / Monticino geological museum / Mount Rontana and the archaeological excavations / Rifugio Ca' Carnè visitor centre

“RIOLO TERME BH3 - MOUNT MAURO” EXPLORING LOOP


“Riolo Terme BH3 - Mount Mauro” Exploring Loop 19 kilometres - Difficult ELECTRIC
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Things to see

An exploration of the Regional Park and the ancient village of Crivellari, one of the extremely rare settlements built directly on the chalk.

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«Flattened beneath Mount Mauro». The words used by the famous physicist Luigi Donati to describe the now semi-abandoned village of Crivellari are an insight into the life, hardships and gradual abandonment of this corner of Romagna by its inhabitants.

Documented as far back as the 13th century, the village of Crivellari is one of the extremely rare settlements build directly on evaporite rock. A challenge of nature taken up through the choice to complement farming with chalk quarrying – in an environment in which water resources were scarce and compromised by the vicinity of the chalk vein itself – and which, during the post-war period, would cause the last inhabitants to surrender to the chalk and the harshness of the habitat it created.

This route approaches Crivellari from the peak of Mount Mauro and, less than 8 km from the start, you already come upon the final section of path towards the summit. The Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco is directly opposite, having survived the castle dating back to 932 – documented as ‘Castrum Tiberiacis’ – but of which nothing now remains.

The history of this part of the Apennines can be seen everywhere; indeed, expert eyes can find traces of ancient quarries – which, centuries or millennia ago, were little more than family undertakings – all over the place. The place where scenes from the past are most tangible is a little further west, beyond the dolines of Mount Mauro, the Ca' Faggia pass and Ca' Faggia itself. A rugged descent leads, indeed, to [[Crivellari]], the village sharing its name with the nearby cave where the local people used to store olive oil, wine and foodstuffs, laboriously extracted from land besieged on all sides by chalk.

This has always been one of the access points to the Vena del Gesso ridge, since the days when its primary use was for extraction of materials, and today it is, above all, the obligatory starting point for attempting the ascent towards Monte della Volpe, ‘the other peak’ of the Vena, the same but in reverse, wilder, less trafficked and ‘more untamed’. Here, the Senio Valley, at the point of the hamlet of Borgo Rivola, forms a kind of gorge, and Sasso Letroso, a mountain on the other side of the valley, is just one kilometre away as the crow flies. A cycle path immersed i the greenery of the river park then rejoins Riolo at the [[Thermal Baths]].

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Mount Mauro and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco and castle ruins / Mount Mauro dolines / Semi-abandoned village of Crivellari / Senio river park / Riolo Thermal Baths

“RIOLO TERME BH4 - MOUNT BATTAGLIA” EXPLORING LOOP


Riolo Terme BH4 - 49.6 kilometres - Medium difficulty
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Things to see

The ascent to Mount Battaglia, from which the view stretches as far as the Adriatic Sea, is the greatest obstacle of the day, beginning, however, with the challenging climb of the Gallisterna peak.

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This route is a homage to [[Mount Battaglia]] and its significance to Italian history. The mountain top is dominated by the ruins of the fortress first built in the Lombard period (the place name may be the legacy of an armed conflict here between the Goths and Byzantines in the Early Middle Ages), then largely remodelled in the Late Medieval Period and, recently, restored.

However, contemporary events are what have marked the history of this site, described as ‘Little Cassino’, no less, due to the violence of the battle that raged here from September to October 1944, with some 300 partisans from the 36th Garibaldi Brigade – later joined by American infantrymen – engaged for weeks in holding possession of the fortress, under heavy attack by German artillery.

More than three thousand men lost their lives during the bloodbath, in which the Allies and partisans prevailed, establishing a stronghold from which, many months later, they would set out to liberate Imola, Faenza and Ravenna. A testament to this sacrifice is the [[bronze monument]] now found here, dedicated to the Resistance, the Liberation and peace between peoples, in which the sculptor Aldo Rontini recalls David’s fight against Goliath.

Mount Battaglia is the greatest obstacle in this route which, before reaching the Santerno Valley and immediately after leaving Riolo, jumps straight into a challenging ascent of the Gallisterna peak (with killer highs of 15% that decided the last cycling world championship), from whose summit it then descends not towards Imola but in the direction of Codrignano, along a largely unsurfaced road. Then it is just a question of a few slightly sloping kilometres before the start of the climb up the Prugno Pass.

The fortress of Mount Battaglia briefly appears on the right, during the ascent, before becoming a constant presence, first distant and then increasingly clear.

On arrival at the top of the pass, the route does not head immediately for the village of [[Casola Valsenio]] but, instead, turns right and continues for 3.7 kilometres to the 715-metre altitude of Mount Battaglia.

Before descending once again towards Casola Valsenio and [[Riolo Terme]], it is essential to take a look at the fortress (restored but still proudly bearing the signs of time that have made it immortal), the monument to the Liberation, and also the Adriatic Sea, visible on very clear days.

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Mount Battaglia and the Monument to the Resistance, the Liberation and peace between peoples / Rinaldi Ceroni Botanical Herb Garden / village of Casola Valsenio / Cardello Museum / Valsenio Abbey / Riolo Thermal Baths

“RIOLO TERME BH5 - CRIVELLARI” EXPLORING LOOP


“Riolo Terme BH5 - Mount Mauro and the quarries of Lapis specularis («Roman glass»)” Exploring Loop 24 kilometres - Easy
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Things to see

A genuine treasure trove of history and geology, Mount Mauro constitutes the heart of the Vena del Gesso ridge, rich in traces of mankind’s relationship, in particular, with Lapis specularis, the transparent gypsum crystals the Romans used as a precursor to glass.

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Indeed, for the Romans, the Vena del Gesso was, above all, a source of Lapis specularis, or ‘Roman glass’, a crystalline variety of gypsum, mentioned as early as two thousand years ago by the Latin author Pliny, used in building but also as a luxury item; an extremely important element in the lives of all inhabitants in the early centuries of the Empire. Mount Mauro is Italy’s treasure trove in which it is easiest to spot signs of the Romans’ quarrying activities for extraction of transparent crystals of Lapis specularis which they used as a precursor to glass for making windows.

Trenches, caves enlarged by human intervention, newly excavated tunnels, and deposits of production waste; man has left his marks here since ancient times. Nowhere else outside of the Iberian Peninsula has a greater number of Roman quarries been found.

Here, everything speaks of chalk and Lapis specularis, of quarrying, and of materials found and immediately reused in buildings: Ca' di Sasso, Pietra di Luna and, in particular, Ca' Toresina, not far from this route, where there is a quarry, discovered in 2014 and opened to the public in 2020, showing many signs of chiselling and working of Lapis.

The route heads towards the ancient ‘Castrum Tiberiacis’ before turning into a path, a few metres after leaving the main road behind. Here, Mount Mauro is substantially an idea; a horizon to aim for following the longest route which forms an almost complete circle around it.

The path begins to rise once again on arrival in front of [[Mount Incisa]] and, from here, climbs steadily along the side of this kind of pre-peak and then the slopes of Mount Mauro, whose summit provides a constant landmark to the right. The route, almost without realising it, has crossed the brow from the Senio Valley to that of the Sintria, the river that passes through the hamlet of Zattaglia, resting in the shadow of Mount Mauro.

It is only on arriving at the [[Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco]], standing a few metres below the ruins of the castle, first documented in the year 932, that you appreciate the significance of this mountain in the everyday lives of the populations that have succeeded one another in possession of this peak, an important observation point over both valleys; indeed, the view extends from the plain, on one side, to the Apennine ridge, on the other. The route arrives back in Riolo at the [[thermal baths]].

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Mount Mauro and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco and castle ruins / Mount Mauro dolines / Ca' Toresina Lapis specularis quarry / Senio river park / Riolo Thermal Baths

“RIOLO TERME BH6 - VENA DEL GESSO RIDGE” EXPLORING LOOP


“Riolo Terme BH6 - Vena del Gesso Ridge” Exploring Loop 33 kilometres - Easy
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Things to see

Mount Mauro and Mount Rontana are the two obstacles in this route which, in 33 kilometres, gains nearly 800 metres in altitude, almost evenly divided between the first and second ascents.

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Mount Mauro and Mount Rontana, so similar and yet so different, are the two most famous and most popular peaks in the Apennines around Faenza.

The former is the highest peak of the Vena del Gesso ridge and has maintained its role as the final destination for anyone attempting an ascent on foot or by mountain bike. The latter remains primarily agricultural, covered with some 90 thousand olive trees – producing Brisighello, an oil whose very name tells the story of its marriage to the hamlet lying just below – which, thanks to the routes passing through them, have become a genuine [[open-air museum of Brisighella olive oil]].

Mount Mauro has long-since lost the castle that once dominated it, of which only a few ruins remain, and is most identifiable by the [[Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco]] standing a few metres below, while, on Mount Rontana, the balance is about to tip. Indeed, the peak is currently identifiable by the colossal concrete cross visible from the entire valley, yet Mount Rontana is gradually becoming once again synonymous with the fortress that used to dominate its peak: a castle surrounded by a genuine village which, in its heyday, when the hills were already populated by olive trees but clear of vegetation, must have stood out, with its pale tones, from many kilometres away, and which [[archaeological excavations]] are now bringing to light one metre at a time.

From the peak of Mount Mauro, Rontana is already clearly visible, and all that now remains is to descend along the south face and pass through the centre of Zattaglia, a hamlet on the River Sintria midway between the two mountains.

Having almost reaching the top of the Valletta Pass, the route leaves the main road and takes path 505 towards the [[Rifugio Ca' Carnè]] visitor centre, the original nucleus of the protected area which then became the Vena del Gesso Regional Park, in the shadow of the hills leading to [[Mount Rontana]]. This is by far the most visited part of the entire Park, and where everyone in Faenza has come for lunch at least once.

This place had been abandoned – Rontana parish church is now privately owned – but is undergoing a revival thanks to the archaeological excavations and the new path Alpini path leading to the summit.

The route only rejoins the surfaced road that descends from Rontana for a few kilometres, before running alongside the River Sintria and crossing two picturesque bridges over the Senio, on reaching Riolo once again.

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Mount Mauro and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco and castle ruins / Open-air museum of Brisighella olive oil hamlet of Zattaglia / Mount Rontana and the archaeological excavations / Rontana parish church / Rifugio Ca' Carnè visitor centre / Senio river

GRAVEL

“AMONG THE CHALKHILLS AND GULLIES” EXPLORING LOOP


“Among the Chalkhills and Gullies” Exploring Loop 28.6 kilometres – Medium difficulty
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Things to see

This route winds almost entirely in the vicinity of Mount Mauro, the highest peak of the Vena del Gesso ridge, approaching it from the south face and alternating between surfaced and gravel roads, as well as some unsurfaced sections.

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Dirt, gravel and tarmac. The paths and roads trodden by people visiting Mount Mauro since ancient times constitute an atlas on the relationship between mankind and nature.

Prior to the modern age, the few reasons people had for climbing the Apennine peaks included religious devotion and hunting but, mainly, seeking materials harder to find in the valleys.

The history of [[Mount Mauro]] is a story of chalk and Lapis specularis (gypsum crystals used by the ancient Romans used as a cheaper alternative to glass, excavated in places such as the nearby [[Ca' Toresina quarry]]) and of paths that climb the hillside, eventually requiring the use of gravel and surfacing. When tarmac arrived in these parts, Mount Mauro had already developed a vocation for hiking and was no longer the open-air quarry it had been for millennia.

The route leading here from [[Riolo Terme]] involves an initial section on the cycle track created on the banks of the [[Senio]], in the village of Isola. From there, it continues on the tarmac towards Riolo Terme and then Zattaglia.

Climbing the Sintria Valley, Mount Mauro becomes a constant presence on the right, silhouetted against the sky more than its 515 metres above sea level would suggest.

Its height commands respect among cyclists and hikers as well as cartographers, and the [[Alta Via dei Parchi]] trail deviates from the Apennine ridge especially to pass this way in a salute to the Vena del Gesso ridge and its highest peak.

The slopes up towards Ca' di Sasso rise along the mountainside, immediately after leaving behind the main road, and then take a narrow gravel road which runs alongside the stream, also named Sasso, before turning into a path.

This is a cycling environment where everything speaks of the Vena del Gesso and how its development has altered the surrounding environment. Indeed, the route skirts first Mount Incisa (a kind of pre-peak), to the north, and then the fascinating dolines of [[Mount Mauro]] (immediately to the west), bearing witness to the extent of the karst phenomena visible in this area.

From the Canovetta locality, the path descends alongside the Ferrato stream almost as far as Riolo.

The Thermal Baths are just beyond, after this relatively brief route offers a final opportunity to enjoy the track on the banks of the Senio before reaching its destination.

Places of interest

Riolo Terme / Riolo Thermal Baths / Mount Mauro and the Parish Church of Santa Maria in Tiberiaco / Mount Mauro dolines / Ca' Toresina quarry / Banks of the River Senio

"TEBANO AND THE SANGIOVESE WINE ROAD" EXPLORING LOOP


"Tebano and the Sangiovese Wine Road" Exploring Loop 57.4 kilometres – Medium difficulty
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Things to see

The ascents of Mount Rinaldo and Mount Ghebbio are the two highlights of the route, interspersed with the gentler climbs leading to the Pideura peak.

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It is precisely where the Apennines meet the plain that the climbs become shorter and sharper, the descents steeper and the surfaces more unpredictable, blending tarmac, gravel dirt and the remains of disused roads.

This is the natural habitat of gravel enthusiasts; a stone’s throw from the city yet fully immersed in nature.

This route, which includes a double ascent of the Pideura hill and the climbs almost to the summit of [[Mount Rinaldo]] and [[Mount Ghebbio]] require very hard work by the fingers to on the gear levers together with just the right grip on the handlebars: very firm during the climb on the barren earth and softer on the long, fast, tarmacked descent towards Brisighella.

Here, you are riding through the [[land of the Sangiovese grape]], a variety whose earliest record is a medieval document discovered in Casola Valsenio, and many people of Romagna are said to have actually been baptised with this wine!

Even in an area with such a strong bond between mankind and the environment, there are what cyclists call ‘unknown’ ascents. Indeed, unlike the slopes of the Pideura locality, which many could cycle with their eyes closed, Mount Ghebbio and Mount Rinaldo were ‘discovered’ more recently, partly thanks to the boom in mountain and gravel bikes.

Having completed the descent from Pideura, there is just enough time to catch catch your breath before beginning the climb towards the [[Montecchio]] hill in a genuine dive into history, back to the pre-Roman era, when this place was inhabited by Etruscans who left behind testimonies discovered a few years ago. Mount Rinaldo has not changed since then, and it is easy to imagine that it has remained the same solitary spur of chalk. The only difference between 2500 years ago and 50 years ago is that it can now be reached by pedalling. The descent towards [[Brisighella]], along Via Rio Chiè, is relatively fast and immersed in vegetation, for just the right distance before once again tackling the Pideura ascent, in the opposite direction, this time, however, descending not towards Pergola but in the direction of the [[Monti Coralli]].

The return to Riolo Terme is preceded by the ascent to Mount Ghebbio, a place into which few bikes yet venture. The scenery, interwoven with grapevines and [[gullies]], is a balance between the land that embraces people and that which fights to repel them. [[Riolo Terme]] is not far away, just at the end of the descent.

Places of interest

Historic centre of Brisighella / Venetian fortress / Hilltop village of Montecchio / Monti Coralli motocross circuit / Gullies of Mount Rinaldo / Gullies of Riolo Terme / Historic centre of Riolo Terme

“PIETRAMORA DI MARZEN” EXPLORING LOOP


“Pietramora di Marzeno” Exploring Loop 70.07 kilometres – Medium difficulty
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Things to see

The ascents of Mounts Campana and Pietramora are a succession of climbs amid changing scenery, ranging from the very first Apennine foothills to the Alpine-looking peak of Mount Castellaccio.

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Mounts Pietramora and Castellaccio are one and the same. The ascent to this mountain overlooking Faenza – recognisable from the entire valley floor thanks to its silhouette and the antenna towers rising from its summit, a few metres from the medieval [[Castellaccio]] castle – resembles a kind of Apennine Mont Ventoux where the difficulty of the ascent has less to do with the significant gradients more to do with the midday sun, the almost total absence of shade and the constant presence of the view just beyond the roadway.

[[Pietramora]] begins to take shape on the horizon from the second climb of the day, from Villa Gessi, on the road linking Faenza and Sarna, leading to the peak of Mount Campana. The ascent is for gravel enthusiasts and those who prefer roads with surprises in store, only revealing one bend at a time whether the surface they are about to ride on will be disused tarmac, gravel or merely a track carved out of the fields by many sets of wheels.

On reaching the summit of [[Mount Campana]], after leaving the Caibane Pass behind (immediately after departing from [[Riolo Terme]]), the scenery is distinguished by the gullies typical of the Apennines around Faenza. However, the gaze is quickly drawn elsewhere, to the dark-coloured peak of Pietramora.

This route chooses to tackle the opposite face to the one that rises from Marzeno, preferring to pass via another hill - that of Agello - in a series of very tight hairpin bends that rapidly lead to the top, notable because a small clump of trees acts as a boundary between the views over the Marzeno Valley and those of the side flanking Mount Lodolone.

It is this latter peak that leads to Pietramora in a 3.2-kilometre ascent featuring long sections at a gradient of 9%, interspersed by a 15% climb. The last hundred metres, at 11%, are a tribute to the geology of this part of the Apennines, so rugged compared to its surroundings. Indeed, we are on the Spungone, a limestone outcrop from the mid-Pliocene, whose form is what attracted the inhabitants of the area as early as the Middle Ages and led them to build a succession of castles including [[Ceparano castle]] and, case in point, the Castellaccio.

The ride down towards Marzeno is fast and marked by long straights. The return to Riolo Terme involves two more climbs: the Carla Pass (1.2 km at 9%, with highs of 12%) and the Caibane Pass once again, right after [[Brisighella]].

Places of interest

Brisighella / Grotta della Tanaccia cave / Monticino Sanctuary / Monticino geological museum / Gullies of the Carla Pass / Mount Castellaccio della Pietramora / Ceparano tower

"GRAVEL AND RIVERBANKS" EXPLORING LOOP


"Gravel and Riverbanks" Exploring Loop 58.9 kilometres – Easy
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Things to see

The ascent to Mount Ghebbio is the most significant obstacle in a route otherwise consisting of a series of gentle ups and downs where the hills border the plains and the countryside leaves the Via Aemilia road and gradually merges into the Apennines.

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To the people of [[Riolo Terme]], Mount Ghebbio is the definition of a peak; the untamed one that still commands respectful glances; a hill which, unlike Mount Mauro, still appears somewhat feral and poised to resist any misguided attempts at approaching it.

The peak is silhouetted directly northeast of Riolo Terme. This route chooses to tackle it from the opposite face, leaving the main Road from Riolo a few kilometres after Castel Bolognese and heading west, in the direction of the upward slopes that lead to the top of the Serra hill.

A series of three short climbs – the [[Serra]], Mount Querzola and, finally, [[Mount Ghebbio]] itself, at an altitude of 240 metres (the 3.1-kilometre ascent has an average gradient of 5.8% but with the long sections between 10% and 11%) – is rewarded with a panorama of the entire valley, unimaginable just a few kilometres earlier when pedalling through the plains.

The view over Riolo Terme is breathtaking and reveals its nature as a village born within a fortress, which is less perceivable when approaching from the main road.

The route to be undertaken is laid out below, including the zigzagging section on the banks of the Senio, a brief stretch of the Via Aemilia just beyond [[Castel Bolognese]], all the way to the hamlet of Ponte del Castello, then heading back into the countryside.

This is one of the many areas that have historically constituted a boundary between Romagna and Emilia. The origin of the name of Castel Bolognese lies here, in the decision of the people of Bologna to build a fortress to defend their property from the excesses of their neighbours in Romagna.

Castel Bolognese is one of the few municipalities situated along the Via Aemilia that does not have Roman or pre-Roman origins. The date enshrined in the notarial deed leading to the foundation of the castle (13 April 1389) makes it virtually unique; indeed, Castel Bolognese is among the Region’s few municipalities to remember their birth date.

From the village of Celle, the route heads once again towards the foothills, specifically those leading to the [[Monti Coralli]] motocross circuit and the steep Vernelli climb, which is short but challenging..

This is the final effort of the day, however: Riolo Terme is not far away, just a few kilometres past the bridge over the [[Senio]] in Tebano.

Places of interest

Historic centre of Riolo Terme / Angelo Biancini open-air museum in Castel Bolognese / Scodellino watermill / Banks of the Senio / Monti Coralli motocross circuit

"RIVERSIDE AND SCODELLINO WATERMILL" EXPLORING LOOP


"Riverside and Scodellino Watermill" Exploring Loop 36.5 kilometres – Easy
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Things to see

The stretch on the plain leading to the Scodellino watermill, in the countryside north of Castel Bolognese, is counterbalanced by the ascent to the Serra Pass and the sometimes rugged one to Mount Ghebbio.

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River, gullies, chalkhills and canals. This is one of the points where the Apennines come closest to the Via Aemilia, running just below the Serra Pass. Here, the dichotomy between the first rugged mountains and the waterways that criss-cross them becomes more marked and, at the same time, almost disappears.

It was here, indeed, a stone’s throw from an area strewn with gullies, that [[Castel Bolognese]] was founded more than six centuries ago at the wish of Bologna as a fortress to protect its territory, under constant threat from Romagna.

In order to build a castle, a constant flow of water was essential and so, at the same time, the [[Mulini Canal]] was created and still runs alongside Castel Bolognese where, some years ago, it once again began powering the Scodellino watermill with water from the River Senio.

This route, which passes the watermill, heads north of the Via Aemilia shortly after departing from Riolo Terme. For nearly five kilometres, it follows the [[banks of the Senio]], which it joins at Tebano. The zigzagging course of the river quickly leads to Castel Bolognese and, from there, to the [[Scodellino watermill]], the last of the similar 14th-century structures built to sustain the very first inhabitants. Although largely remodelled over the centuries (the granary is from the 18th century, the grain cleaning machine from the following century and the millstones from the 1930s), it retains its original layout from the time Castel Bolognese was founded, dating back to 1389 (April 13th, to be precise).

This was once the boundary between Romagna and the territory of Bologna, and the very name of Castel Bolognese preserves the legacy of that time, even if the more cautious now ideally place the ‘border’ a few kilometres further west.

From here, it a case of a few more turns of the pedals before the wheels begin to climb once more, after passing Castel Bolognese again. The ascent to the Serra Pass (2.7 km at an average gradient of 4.7%) is a prologue to that of Mount Querzola, complete with its final climb up to [[Mount Ghebbio]] (3.1 kilometres at an average incline of 5.8%, punctuated by three long highs between 10 and 11%).

From the summit, amid an intersection of gullies, the view encompasses the entire town of [[Riolo]] as far as the [[thermal baths]], just beyond the river, where the green shades of the hills accompany the gaze all the way to Mount Mauro.

Places of interest

Historic centre of Riolo Terme / Scodellino watermill / Angelo Biancini open-air museum in Castel Bolognese / Banks of the Senio / Riolo Thermal Baths / Mount Ghebbio and the view of Riolo Terme and Mount Mauro

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