The provincial road “strada provinciale 654” and the River Nure cut straight through this municipal territory, which has always been an area of transit, a place of hospitality, agriculture and commerce. It is at Bettola that the valley begins to narrow, as the road leaves the hills and begins to climb rapidly into ever more mountainous country, dotted with towers, castles, ancient churches, and villages with the traditional homes of the peasantry.
The origins of Bettola and of many of the hamlets and “ville” of the area are lost in the distant past. Under the rule of the Visconti family, the institution of the “Magnifica Università della Val Nure”, an organ of government granted various privileges and its own magistrates, guaranteed this district a certain autonomy from the Duke.
The cult of the Madonna della Quercia (Our Lady of the Oak Tree, today patron saint of the Nure valley) in Bettola goes back to 1496, when the Virgin appeared to a peasant woman.
The best time to go to the area of Bettola is between the beginning of spring and late autumn. In fact, most sporting events, festivals and food fairs take place during these months.
What to see in Bettola: Borgo San Bernardino, the old village with its tower-houses and the church of San Bernardino. Borgo San Giovanni with the large Piazza Colombo (Columbus Square), dominated by the statue of the great explorer whose family apparently came from the Bettola area, and the charming piazzetta Sant’Ambrogio.
The church of San Giovanni – Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Oak (della Quercia), consecrated at the end of the 19th century, with its richly decorated interior. The Chapel of the Apparition.
The Valley of the Perino with the celebrated Cascades or waterfalls on the Perino, which can be reached from Calenzano along a fairly easy trail.
The Valley of the Restano, wild, almost uninhabited, incredibly beautiful.
Local cured meats or salumi (coppa, salame, pancetta, cotechino, cooked salame) and cheeses, to taste ideally with the famous bortellina De.Co. of Bettola (prepared from flour, water and yeast, and then deep fried in lard so that they puff up), eaten while they are still hot or warm. Restaurants, inns and agriturismi offer the traditional dishes of Piacenza (tortelli, pissarei e fasö, anolini) and the mountains (polenta served with various garnishings, potato gnocchi, ravioli), potato cake, game, chestnut patties, honey and excellent organic produce.
CAI (Alpine Club) paths, trekking trails of various difficulty, routes to follow on foot, on horseback, bicycle or mountain bike along paths and mule-trails, to discover the splendid natural landscape of the main valley and those of the tributaries, frequently quite unspoilt, an ideal setting of castles and isolated towers, churches and quaint villages, where it is easy to discover traces of the old peasant culture.
Recently 8 new trails (“itinerari bettolesi”) have been created that cross the territory of Bettola and link up with a series of trails crossing the districts of Ponte dell’Olio, Farini and Ferriere, forming a network of paths of about 560 km.
The Festa della Bortellina in the second half of August.
The traditional Fiera di Settembre (September Fair).
In addition, every summer in the outlying villages there are fairs, festivals and gatherings celebrating food and wine.
There is also the live Nativity tableau every other year.
Just a few kilometres away are the Camminata of Bramaiano, the Farnese Tower, the rural villages of Vigolo, Rossoreggio, Spettine, Revigozzo, Groppo Ducale, Montoseo, Olmo, where there are remains of castles, towers and churches.
At Pradello you will find the "Columbus Tower," which popular tradition says is where the great explorer’s father came from – and some historians agree. Today the tower houses a small museum dedicated to the family.