Passes, passages, views and refuges: let be surprised by high-altitude hidden treasures between Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.
Alpine Refuge (Reggio Emilia)
With about a thousand years of history, it can be said that the San Leonardo al Dolo Hospital has more experience than any starred hotel. On foot, immersing yourself in the nature of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park, in half an hour you can reach the refuge from the town of Civago. The ancient Via delle Forbici has given way to a path that runs along this small alpine stone jewel, where you can wash up, sleep and, above all, have something to eat . Not far away, between the beech woods and those that were once pastures, you find the Battisti Refuge, a stop on the Alta Via dei Parchi, from which you can enjoy majestic views and set off to conquer the peaks of Prado and Cusna.
Do not miss: 30 minutes from Battisti and 15 from the Bargetana alpine refuge, at 1740 meters in the municipality of Ligonchio, the enchanting lake that gives its name to the latter is a liquid postcard to be contemplated preferably after enjoying homemade cakes and tarts with berries.
Pradarena and Cerreto Passes (Reggio Emilia)
The Spalla del Gendarme (literally: the policeman's shoulder) is an impressing work of nature, that dominates the rocks and the woods that characterize the landscape between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany and ditinguishes the path between the Pradarena Pass and the Cerreto Pass (RE).
Here, we find both state nature reserves and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park, where motorbikes and bicycles may follow the shores of the beautiful lake Cerreto, of glacial origin.
For those who prefer walking, you can enjoy an even deeper state of calm along the paths that run through the forests and end up in spectacular high-altitude grasslands. The Cerreto Pass is considered to be one of the most amazing in Italy, and offers a breathtaking view over the Nuda Mountain, the mouth of the Secchia river and the wooded descent that surrounds the landscape. In this gorgeous place, you can also enjoy a tasty meal with porcini mushrooms, fried or as a souce for fresh pasta.
Mount Moria Park Refuge (Piacenza)
The refuge is reachable by car, in the heart of the Provincial Park of Monte Moria, but once arrived, you can even forget to have a car.
The charm of the environment, spread over an area of about 1000 hectares in the municipalities of Morfasso and Lugagnano, naturally casts a spell that imprisons in the eyes and hearts a wooded heritage dominated by the curious shapes of the centenary specimens of fruit chestnut trees.
Gorse, junipers and beech trees are dispersed in the area, famous for an undergrowth rich in mushrooms.
An unmissable stop at the end or in the middle of every naturalistic excursion between the soft lines of Monte Croce dei Segni and the panoramas given by the ridge of Monastero, is obviously the refuge, a comfortable place where you can rest for a while at before leaving.
Do not miss: if the badlands of the Piacenziano area (Stirone and Piacenziano Regional Park) are a pleasure for the sight, not to mention the fossil finds including the whale preserved at the Cortesi Geological Museum of Castell'Arquato, your palate may be more interested in a tour discovering fresh pasta from Piacenza, which has in the anolino of the Valdardese version (of only cheese without meat) one of its maximum countless expressions.
Passo Santa Barbara (Piacenza)
There is no exaggeration in stating that all roads lead to Santa Barbara Pass (PC). The statue of the Angelone (literally "big angel") can be reached from three sides of the hills, following routes that lead to a point which, among the fans of bikes and motorcycles, is unanimously considered one of the most stunning climbs in the Piacenza area.
Both smooth and demanding stretches characterize the ascent along Perino stream: a sweet landscape plunges into the woods following the path that starts from Pradovera.
Also from Bobbio, a rather easy beginning is followed by a challenging increase in the slope, up to 17%. In this case, the arrival is not Santa Barbara Pass but the nearby Sella dei Generali (literally "pass of the general officers"), a fabulous spot that strucks for a sort of alpine charm, apparently out of context in the middle of the Apennines.
Those who have a stop at the town Grazzano Visconti (PC) get involved in the fascinating culture that comes to life among the main highlights, such as the Castle and the Cortevecchia. Walking in the town, many churches are located along the streets and the rustle of fountains spreads through the little squares. If you want to stop for a meal, here the typical potato pie is the undisputed queen of the table, mainly in the Nure Valley.
Mariotti Refuge at Lake Santo (Parma)
Dedicated to a historical figure of the city of Parma, the Mariotti Refuge in Corniglio (PR) is a stone construction that is a perfect place for anyone who wants to be in close contact with the largest glacial pool of water in the region. Due to its position at 1,507 meters above sea level in the western part of the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, Lake Santo exerts an irresistible appeal to those who are looking for a place of the heart where to laze, fish (with license) and even dive under ice in winter. But the refuge, also reachable by chairlift from Lagdei, with kitchen service, 2 reception rooms, 4 bathrooms and 42 places for overnight stays, is in itself a point of reference for hikers, who can reach Mount Marmagna from here and Mount Orsaro. The Lagdei refuge also offers catering and overnight accommodation as well as an information point in the park. A short distance away, the Lagoni Refuge, on the banks of the lakes that bear the same name, completes the triad of hospitality in the refuges of the upper Val Parma.
Do not miss: a stop is a must to try the fried potato and leek tortelloni, a true legend among high-altitude gourmets.
Passo Cento Croci (Parma)
Bends, hairpin bends, climbs and descents, set in a natural location that alternates green lowlands with sandstone, make the road that leads to Passo Cento Croci (literally "a hundred crosses pass") a route beloved by cyclists and motorbike tourists, and also by families looking for a trip by car off the beaten tracks. Surrounded by the scents of typical food and wine, and by the legends of the Val Taro (Parma), the route offers many ideas to discover the area.
In the surroundings of the pass that, at 1055 meters a.s.l., creates a link between the province of La Spezia and the municipality of Albareto (PR), we find Tarsogno (with the curious ship-shaped building that once was a dancing), Bardi and Bedonia, in a crossroads of paths and highways suitable for every hiker.
Curiosity: at the pass we find an impressive wind turbine.