The Enza river, which marks the border between the territories of Parma and Reggio Emilia, forms a valley rich in ancient villages, extensive forage fields and woods.
To explore it, an itinerary can be planned in one or more days, following one of the most evocative trails in Emilia-Romagna, the Sentiero dei Ducati, which traces the ancient border between the Este Duchy and the Duchy of Parma.
The new hiking path of the Sentiero dei Ducati, conceived and managed by the Reggio Emilia’s Italian Alpine Club (CAI) in cooperation with the local branches of Fivizzano and Sarzana, mostly retraces the original route of 1993, except for few segments – changes due to either current viability conditions or to improvements to its usability. Among these, the new stage 1 that directly connects the city of Reggio Emilia (very well served by public transports) to the matildic village of Quattro Castella.
The whole route has been marked by CAI volunteers who have also affixed special symbols (turreted crown with the initials “SD” or simple initials “SD”) in addition to the classic red and white landmarks on stones and trees.
12 stages, no less than 201 km, more than 7400 metres of ascent and about as much descent, from the little more than 50 m altitude of the city of Reggio Emilia to the more than 1200 m of the Lagastrello Pass. Of these stages, 7 are in Emilian territory (from Reggio Emilia to Rigoso, in the Province of Parma). The Sentiero dei Ducati allows for a journey through the landscape of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine Unesco MaB Reserve, through places rich in history and scenic natural landscapes that are still little known: from the Matildic castles perched on the gentle hills of Reggio Emilia, to the passes of the high Apennines.
All the cartographic routes of the stages are available in detail on the official site, where you can also find all the gps tracks.
In some locations there are some Bed & Breakfasts or agritourisms that can accommodate the walker for overnight stays: consult the interactive map on the site to locate them. It is recommended to always book in advance.
This is the 'new' first stage of the Sentiero dei Ducati (Ducati Trail), which departs from Reggio Emilia and can be reached by train. The first part of the route is in the plain, between the city and the countryside, touching on some monuments that date back to the Este Dukedom of Modena and Reggio, and then climbing the beautiful Reggio hills that overlook the Po Valley.
The first stage begins in the city centre of Reggio Emilia, at the Civic Museums, where the Spallanzani Path also starts. Having crossed Piazza Martiri del 7 luglio, we continue along Via Crispi to Piazza Cesare Battisti, or 'Piazza del Monte': from here we take Via Emilia Santo Stefano to reach Piazza Gioberti, with its characteristic obelisk. Take Corso Garibaldi on the left to reach Piazza Roversi. From here continue along the picturesque viale Umberto I to the San Pellegrino bridge over the Crostolo stream. Once over the bridge, take the "Passeggiata del Crostolo" to the left. The main route continues south along the Crostolo stream. After crossing the small bridge, we approach the hilly area, crossing the countryside. From here, we reach via Valentini (Cai 646A path), which on the left begins to climb towards the Mucciatella hill, where the church overlooking the Crostolo valley stands. Still following the ridge, with an evocative route, we come to a small road that leads to the village of Ca' Nuova from where we descend briefly, on trail Cai 642G, to Salvarano, in the valley of the Modolena stream. We begin to climb to the Hermitage of San Michele, where the mysterious rock of the Bercemme stream is located. We climb further up to the locality of Cerro. From here begins a splendid route through vineyards, olive groves and rows of cypresses that leads to the edge of the Roncolo provincial park. We cross it until we reach Monte Biliano: at a crossroads, we continue westwards and then climb uphill to Monte Airone (trail Cai 642F). Shortly before arriving on an asphalt road, you begin to descend to the right (Cai path 642D), with a magnificent view of Bianello Castle. At the end of the descent, we reach the first houses of Quattro Castella. Proceed along via Veneto and past a group of stone houses to reach via Don Gherardini and then turn right onto via Pasteur, which leads to the church of Sant'Antonio Martire, the end of the stage.
The stage starts leaving Quattro Castella’s village (162m) close to the local parish church located at the foot of the famous four Matildici hills, take the dirt road that climbs to Castello di Bianello. At Corte degli Ulivi you reach first the pass under Monte Lucio, then Monte Zane and then descend with a steep stretch (be very careful in case of mud) to the narrow Moja valley, which you intercept near a fountain and the remains of an old clay quarry, now transformed into badlands, rich in marine fossils. You then go up a steep path until you reach the village of Caverzana (400 m) and the suggestive church of the Madonna della Battaglia and then descend up to a comfortable ford on the Modolena stream (270 m) and then the path climbs to the abandoned, maybe spectral, hamlet of Reverbera (340 m). Now take the right along the mule track coasting the ridge of Monte Covra, continuing until the track becomes asphalted and right after leads to Pietre di Grassano (510 m). You, then, descend to the characteristic hamlet of Grassano Basso (400 m) in the narrow valley, almost a furrow dug by the Rio Vico, between the cliffs crowned by the castles of Rossena and Canossa. After passing Riverzana (406 m), where you will find a countryside guest house, the trail finally reaches Canossa Castle (600 m), from here you can enjoy a spectacular view in the four cardinal points and the wild hills around the Campola stream.
Leaving behind Canossa's Castle, the eye is immediately attracted by the impressive gullies. After crossing the provincial road (SP73) with caution, the wide meadow plain of Mount Tesa is reached and from it, it's possible to see the Alpine cloister to the North. Going down the opposite side, the SD overlaps the SM (Matilde Path) for about one km. Resuming the SD path, you reach the other beautiful village of Vercallo and then Barazzone (tavern). Following the ridge and then descending towards North, you reach the suggestive and ancient Church of Pianzo, and afterwards the village of Trinità, where you continue to Monte Cavaliere. Remaining at the same altitude, ascend to Monte Staffola, destination of the stage and then head towards the place chosen for your overnight stay.
You will reconnect to SD near Mount Staffola or in its vicinity, to continue your journey to the village of Borzano (which has remarkable church, a beautiful tower-house with a "stone face") and reach the charming hamlet of Crognolo. Leave the hamlet and go down a comfortable road that, after passing the beautiful tower-house of Lesignola, leads to the famous Mulino di Chichino still operating for demonstration. Crossing the bridge over the Tassobbio stream, the path tends to climb more and more until it hits Crovara, a repository of history (Church of San Giorgio, ruins of the Rocca) and present time (La Rupe di San Giorgio Hostell). The path penetrate the most naturalistic heart of the stage, the wood valleys of Rio Tassaro and Riolco stream (Protected Site), with the unique and mysterious stone of Monte Lulseto, an ancient place of cult linked to the veneration of rocks. The path then continues through a succession of villages, each with its own characteristics: Legoreccio (with the Corte dei Da Palude and the monument in memory of 1944 massacre), Pineto (another Corte dei Da Palude and house-tower) and Spigone (narrow paths between stone arches and Locanda del Rebecco). Then the stage resumes its crossing at a stable altitude up to Costa from which the descent towards Vetto begins. In Vetto, the third stage ends.
Leaving the village of Vetto, you immediately face a short climb that leads to the villages of Sole di Sopra and di Sotto, then you descend to the Lonza stream; beyond the bridge, take the dirt road on the left and go through the valley passing by the Gli Oppi mill (completely abandoned for some time); then continue uphill through the villages of Gottano di Sotto and Gottano di Sopra (the latter much more interesting), until you reach the curious site of the church “Beata Vergine delle Formiche” (dedicated to the Vergin of the ants!) beyond which you enter the long path, parallel to the asphalted road and up to Cereggio, another typical pretty village. Beyond Cereggio, continue for a short stretch on a panoramic asphalted road up to a crossroads on the right which with an easy mule track leads to the village of Taviano. Afterward, you will continue to the village of Camporella and to the next village of Montedello, until you reach Castagneto, the stage destination.
Leaving the town of Castagneto, take a stretch of paved road for about 800 m and take the SD on the left, immediately uphill. Continue for slight ups and downs, until you pass above the village of Lugolo. Continue along a beautiful cart track up to an altitude of 821 meters. Then go down to the right and, after passing a stone building, reach the conglomerate of the former Mulino Adani and then Ponte Andrella (650 m). From the bridge, with a short stretch on asphalt, immediately after it, resume on the left the SD and uphill reach the hamlet of Fornolo (810 m). Then, continue slightly uphill for about 2 km, until you reach a sort of saddle (1000 meters), near a rural building with rustic poems written on the walls. Paying attention to several crossroads, keeping to the right and following the signs of the SD, downhill, you will get to the characteristic village of Succiso Superiore (970 m). Afterwards proceed for about 1 hour, in a very suggestive landscape among meadows, woods and rocky outcrops, until you reach the road that descends from Passo della Scalucchia; here turn right on asphalt up to Succiso Nuovo (1000 meters), the destination of our stage, on the slopes of Alpe di Succiso. Slight difficulty in orienting immediately after Succiso Superiore (along a cultivated area).
Leave Succiso Nuovo from the stopping point located at the "Valle dei Cavalieri" farmhouse, descending on the paved road for about 1 km up to a bend (930 m) from which the path starts. The ford on the Liocca stream immediately appears, after which the route continues with a sharp bend and slightly uphill (980 m) and then descends to the easier ford of the Rio Scuro. You then reach the provincial road (SP15), follow it for about mt. 500 to resume the path on the right entering Miscoso (915 m) near the church. Cross the village and in front of the "La Montanara" restaurant and bar you find the path and follow it on the panoramic Costa Magnano up to the Costalta ridges (1172 m) at the foot of Mount Fugacciaro. Leave the path 657B on the left and continue straight on the SD up to the Lagastrello pastures, passing by a shepherds' shelter erected on the plain of Spiaggia Bella. Cross the Rio Canalaccio, climb until you cross path 659 and follow it to the right, descend and cross the Rio Garzoli reaching a nineteenth-century “Maestà” and finally reach Lake Paduli. Arriving at the dam (1160 m), follow it on a paved road to the opposite side, then at the crossroads, turn left towards the Lagastrello Pass and after about 100 meters, take path 703C on the right which climbs to Lake Squincio (1240 m), continuing slightly downhill on 703 to reach the village of Rigoso, where the Via dei Linari is intercepted.
From Rigoso (PR) it is possible to leave the Sentiero dei Ducati and return to Reggio Emilia by going backwards through the approximately 7 stages of the Via dei Linari or, much faster, reaching Parma by public transport of the TEP bus lines and then by train to Reggio. By bike, easy but long return by asphalted roads to Quattro Castella (62 km) or Reggio (84 km).