On the highland of the Apennines near Reggio Emilia, the Bismantova Stone stands alone: it is not difficult to believe that Dante was inspired by the stunning view from below of its walls describing the mountain of Purgatory.
A huge number of enthusiastic visitors, climbing and hiking, attend this powerful place: the path to the top is easily accessible, because the route follows a constant slope that makes the ascent pleasant.
During the trip it is possible to watch closely a characteristic flora including shrubs and wooded areas that stretch till the top. Getting there, some of the most important peaks of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines loom on the horizon, such as Cimone, Ventasso, Cusna and Alpe di Succiso.
Do not miss the hermitage of Bismantova, located right at the foot of the Stone and nestled in the rock. It was built in the 17th cent. In the past, it was kept by the Benedictines and now it is a diocesan Marian sanctuary, with frescoes dating back to the 15th century that are kept in the sacristy. Among these, we find the Madonna of Bismantova, to whom the hermitage is dedicated. Around Castelnovo Monti you can meet several dairy farms producing the delicious Parmigiano Reggiano of the mountains.
The Reserve of Mount Prinzera preserves a mountain of volcanic rock at 736 meters above sea level that rises along the slopes of the Appennines between Val Taro and Val Baganza.
It is characterised by "lunar" conditions that preserve natural and environmental elements of exceptional interest, in particular for the specificity of the spontaneous flora, not found anywhere else.
Starting from the visitor centre inside the Reserve, you can enjoy numerous itineraries on foot, by bike, horseriding.
From the peak of the mount, your sight can embrace the padana lowland and the surrounding valleys.
Mount Prinzera stands as a bulwark to the Francigena Route, an ancient pilgrim road that led from Canterbury to Rome and nowadays has been rediscovered and proposed as a trekking route preserving its original devotional meaning.
In Fornovo di Taro and Bardone the Romanesque churches dedicated to the Assumption emphasise the two stops along Francigena Route at the foot of Mount Prinzera.
In Val Trebbia, the Parcellara and Perduca stones are a landscape of harsh beauty, connected to each other by a path on the southern slope.
On the border of the municipalities of Travo and Bobbio the Parcellara stone protrudes sharply from the hill, distinguished by its morphology and grandeur.
At the foot of the rocky boulder, the Madonna di Caravaggio chapel is located at the beginning of the path that leads to the top, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley.
With a similar shape, the Perduca stone is known for the hermit church and for the particular tanks of tritons carved into the rock.
The mystery surrounding the use and origin of these strange waterholes has originated many legends and the place is known as "beds of saints".
You cannot miss the Neolithic Village of Travo - with settlements dating back to 6000 years ago - and the Perino Waterfalls, a spectacular dip of the water of the stream in a limestone gorge, that is worth a trip in this corner of the Appennines near Piacenza.