One of the most popular routes for walking travelers of all ages is the Via Francigena, the Italian section covers over a thousand kilometres between the Great St Bernard Pass and Rome, crossing the heart of the Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza and Parma.
Declared a Cultural Itinerary of the Council of Europe in 1994, the route enters Piacenza with the Guado di Sigerico (Sigeric's Fork) and, after a short journey along the banks of the Po river and several stretches on provincial roads, arrives at the gates of the city of Piacenza, where the route touches Piazzale delle Crociate and the splendid Piazza Cavalli and then joins the Via Emilia.
Climbing the Nure river and going through woods and countryside we reach the Castle of Paderna and then the Cistercian Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, to arrive in Fidenza, a symbol of the arrive in Parma and a compulsory stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome, and nowadays for walkers who want to undertake the journey, perhaps after stocking up on 'anolini' enriched with a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. In this area there are many dairies to visit and cheese delicacies to taste.
Fidenza Cathedral, or 'Duomo' dedicated to San Donnino, is also an opportunity to catch your breath and feast your eyes, before setting off again towards Cabriolo and its church, the remains of the fortress of Noceto, Felegara and Fornovo, where the statue of the pilgrim in front of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta points the way.
The route then leads to Bardone and Cassio, whose ancient village is characterised by a stone-paved street. From Cassio the path runs parallel to the Strada Statale della Cisa and then creeps into Berceto, don't miss the dishes with the Porcino Mushroom, and then leave Emilia.
The Via degli Abati (Abbots' Way), also known as the Mountain Francigena, is an ancient early medieval route followed by the monks of the monastery of San Colombano di Bobbio to reach Rome, crossing part of the provincial territory of Pavia and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza, Parma and Massa Carrara.
The challenging route covers a total of 190 km, with a considerable overall height difference, and is divided between mule tracks, cart tracks and paths, which only in small sections give way to asphalt roads.
Travelling along this historic route, it is essential to start with an exploratory stop in Bobbio, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, which welcomes pilgrims with its suggestive Devil's Bridge and the Abbey of San Colombano, one of the most important monastic centres in Europe, but also with exquisite delicacies of Emilian gastronomy: Piacenza's PDO cured meats (Coppa Piacentina PDO, Pancetta Piacentina PDO, Salame Piacentino PDO) to be savoured on rich chopping boards paired with excellent Colli Piacentini DOP wines, such as red Barbera and Croatina, and white Malvasia di Candia Aromatica and Ortrugo.
There is no shortage of ways to recharge your batteries along the Via degli Abati, even for the marathon runners who participate every year in "The Abbots Way", one of the most important ultra-marathons in nature (with only about 10% asphalt).
The network of paths along ancient medieval routes forming the heart of the Via Matildica del Volto Santo (The Matildic Way of the Holy Face) is an opportunity to set in motion not only feet but also the imagination and relive the atmosphere of the feud of Matilda of Canossa, reaching the base of the castles of the Great Countess, crossing villages and the same venerable land travelled by pilgrims on their religious itineraries.
Manors towering over the Apennines in the province of Reggio Emilia and guarding fascinating past stories and majestic architecture, such as Carpineti Castle and Bianello Castle, home of his mother Beatrice of Lorraine, a princess of royal lineage, and the place where Matilda was crowned deputy queen of Italy by Emperor Henry V.
Then there are the ruins of Canossa Castle, Rossena Castle and Sarzano Castle.
From Mantua to Lucca, or rather from the blood of Christ in the Church of Sant'Andrea to the Volto Santo, passing through Reggio Emilia, the route is a slow walk through the history of Matilde di Canossa, the authentic female protagonist of the Middle Ages but also a chance to decide to deviate towards the UNESCO MaB Reserve of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines or immerse yourself in the scents of the ancient vinegar cellars, places of worship to discover the processing of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia PDO, the protagonist of the table together with Parmigiano Reggiano.
The horizontal and vertical signs along the route provide precise and useful information on the stages and destinations, in a changing scenery that goes from the cliff of Canossa to the Ospitale di San Pellegrino in Alpe, overlooking the Garfagnana.
The Via dei Linari originated as an ancient diversions of the Via Francigena, take the name frome the Abbey located on the border ridge between Emilia and Tuscany.
It was an alternative commercial and pilgrimage route to reach Rome and Lucca, and today it is a path rich in nature, art and fine food and wine.
It starts from Fidenza to reach Tuscany via the Lagastrello Pass, passing through Parma, Italian Capital of Culture 2020+2021, Torrechiara, Tizzano Val Parma, Ranzano, Palanzano, Rigoso, as far as San Bartolomeo near Reggio Emilia.
A path of moderate difficulty that crosses places of great naturalistic importance, such as the Unesco Biosphere Reserve of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, and of agri-food production of excellence and great tradition, such as Langhirano, the land of Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham) a stone's throw from the romantic Torrechiara Castle, the realm of the love story between Pier Maria Rossi and his beloved Bianca Pellegrini.