When to go
The Sentiero dei Ducati can be travelled all seasons of the year, taking into account possible heavy snowfalls during winter and taking care of avoiding rainy periods and the ones immediately afterwards. In fact, especially in its first stages, the trail crosses vast clayey outcrops, where the path can become very muddy, making walking difficult and tiring and it can be sometimes completely impossible to cycle (“sticky” mud that blocks the wheels in the fork). Due to the limited altitude, in Summer high temperatures and humidity can become annoying especially in the initial and final stages, however they can still offer cool evenings and wonderful starry nights. Starting at dawn and resting in some shady shelter during the hottest hours, the trail is certainly enjoyable even in the hottest months, from June to August. The best times to travel the Sentiero dei Ducati are undoubtedly Spring and Fall in which nature’s colors, the days’ brightness and their length allow you to fully enjoy the landscapes beauty while the mild temperatures favor the journey. The whole route winds through wide stretches of broad-leaved trees which, therefore, become spectacularly colored in fall, attracting “foliage” lovers. Along the way are encountered also many fords, some of which, such as the one on the Liocca stream (immediately after Succiso) or the Mommio stream (between Sassalbo and Casola), can become difficult or impossible in the event of heavy rainfall or melting snow. Even Winter (nowadays sadly very dry and with unseasonable relatively mild temperatures) can offer pleasant walking experiences. Clear and bright days that allow the gaze to wander with a view on one side over the entire Alpine range and on the other up to the Tyrrhenian sea and its islands. The high Apennines in winter offers fascinating atmospheres, with thousands of silvery and bare trunks standing as columns of a nature’s immense cathedral. A winter trek must, however, be approached with the needed precautions and the proper equipment, especially in case of ice and snow (sometimes also very abundant), anyway and always paying close attention when traveling the muddy stretches.
How to get to the Sentiero dei Ducati
The departure of the Sentiero dei Ducati, traditionally set at the Matildic village of Quattro Castella, can be easily reached on foot, through a beautiful additional stage, or by bicycle (20 km mostly on cycling paths and low-traffic roads), starting from the center of Reggio Emilia, a delightful city full of hidden treasures perfectly connected to the main airports of Northern Italy thanks to the “Mediopadana” high-speed railway station, an architectural jewel by the architect Santiago Calatrava.
through the A1 Milano-Roma highway. If coming from North, exit at “Terre di Canossa-Campegine”. If arriving from South, exit at “Reggio Emilia”. both cases about 20 km / 20 minutes from Quattro Castella (hotel, B&B, bar, pharmacy, shops, ample unattended parking facilities).
the nearest airports to Reggio Emilia are Parma (few national flights) and Bologna (international airport). Even those of Milan (Linate, Malpensa, Bergamo-Orio al Serio) and Rome (Fiumicino) are however connected to Reggio by comfortable coach bus or rail service.
By Train and Coach Bus:
Reggio Emilia can easily be reached by train either taking the traditional line or the faster and more modern High Speed (“Alta Velocità – AV”) line from Bologna or Milan, stopping at the “Mediopadana-AV” station. Regular city buses then connect both railway stations to the city center and to the coach bus station, from where daily runs leave for Quattro Castella (around 45 minutes from the city center; around 1.30 from “Mediopadana AV” station).
On foot or by bicycle:
If you want to start on foot or by bicycle directly from Reggio Emilia, after crossing the pretty historic city center, take the Crostolo stream cycling / pedestrian path (which is also Via Matildica dal Volto Santo – CAI path 646) until you reach Rivalta from where you can connect to Quattro Castella tanks to different alternative routes.
Cycling Tour Itinerary: Once in the city of Reggio Emilia by your own or public means of transport, reach the San Pellegrino Bridge and from there take the Crostolo stream cycling-pedestrian path (which is also Via Matildica dal Volto Santo – CAI 646 path) until you reach Rivalta (bars, shops), right near the remains of the eighteenth-century Estense Palace.
Continue on the VMVS up to the scenic Villa d’Este known as Vasca di Corbelli (park with pond) from which having left VMVS/CAI 646 take the CAI 646A alternative route, and you will first reach Boschi and then the town of Puianello (bar, pharmacy, food stores). From Puianello, through long stretches of cycling path, continue to Montecavolo and Roncolo, after that you will get to Quattro Castella Difficulty: TC Distance: 20 km
MTB Alternative route: If you want to ride off-road from Puianello, follow the longer and more challenging routes described here in the hiking section. All these routes can be pedaled only when there is no mud.
Difficulty: MC / BC with short downhill stretch OC Distance: 25 Km
Once in the city of Reggio Emilia, by your own or public means of transport reach the small town of Rivalta (bar, pharmacy, food shops; direct connections by SETA Line 5 city bus every 30 minutes, both from Mediopadana station, from Central Station and from Porta Castello).
In Rivalta, near the remains of the eighteenth-century Estense Palace, you can take the Via Matildica dal Volto Santo (path CAI 646) to the scenic Villa d’Este or Vasca di Corbelli (park with pond) and then continue to the town of Puianello (bar, pharmacy, food shops). From Piazza Gramsci in Puianello, first follow path 646A and 642G (Mucciatella – Monte Leone – Cà Nuova – Salvarano – Hermitage of San Michele) and then join the path 642F coming from Montecavolo at the locality of Cerro. Follow the first ridge with a splendid view of the Po valley (Pianura Padana) and the Apennines. After passing the Roncolo park and Monte Airone, take path 642D which quickly (20 minutes) leads to Quattro Castella (hotel, B&B, bar, pharmacy, shops). Difficulty: “T” (Touristic) up to Puianello. “E” (Excursion) from Puianello to Quattro Castella. Duration: about 4 hours from Rivalta; 3 hours from Puianello.
On Foot – Short Alternative Itinerary
From Rivalta to Puianello, take Via Menozzi (SP21) first by sidewalk and then cycling path to Montecavolo (bar, pharmacy, food shops) where it crosses Via Firenze. From here, first on Via Giovanni XXXIII then on Via IV Novembre, reach Via XXV Aprile and Via Toscanini (Strada del Cerro) and follow it until the main itinerary. This alternative route, almost all on asphalt, avoids much difference in altitude and very quickly leads to the ridge path that leads to Quattro Castella. Duration: about 3 hours from Rivalta; 2 hours from Puianello.
On Foot – Long Alternative Itinerary
If you want to start on foot directly from the “Mediopadana AV” railway station, follow Via Matildica dal Volto Santo (CAI 646) which crosses near the East side of the station and follow it to the center of Reggio Emilia (it is actually a stretch of little interest that can be more suitably traveled by public transport). After crossing the pretty historic city center, then reach the San Pellegrino bridge and from there take the Crostolo stream cycling / pedestrian path (which is also Via Matildica dal Volto Santo – CAI path 646) until you reach Rivalta where you can connect to the main itinerary. Duration: approximately 2.5 hours from “Mediopadana AV” railway station to Rivalta.
How to personalize your own trekking
The Sentiero dei Ducati is a long trek, of “E” (excursion) difficulty, divided into 11 suggested stages, some of which vary significantly for length and height difference. However, it also lends itself to be interpreted as a more general “direction for your journey”, with the freedom to travel even just for a few stages, grouping them or breaking them up, according to your own “style” of walking. You can then adapt your trek to your own time availability, whether a long weekend, a whole week, or a long vacation. Some of the Sentiero dei Ducati stages, are reached by public transport (coach buses) that allow you to get back to the departure point (more or less fast and directly, based on the number of changes). We suggest, though, to be aware of low frequency service and to carefully check schedules which can vary depending on the season of the year. In particular, the towns and villages of Ciano D’Enza, Vetto, Castagneto, Andrella, Miscoso, Succiso and the Passo del Cerreto can become possible final destinations for walkers who, having less time available, plan an early return to the starting point, rather than arriving up to Sarzana. In the Useful Section Links and Contacts of this site, the contact details of the public bus companies are provided, as well as that of some private transport agencies that provide taxi / minibus service and coach hire (for groups). We also highlight that the Sentiero dei Ducati is literally “immersed” in a wider CAI trail network (only in the Reggio Emilia province more than 1,200 km of trails, all marked and mapped) which allows hikers with adequate experience to design rewarding ring paths, where exploring the surrounding territories, equally rich in historical and naturalistic features. This long crossing from the Po valley to the Tyrrhenian sea can so be turned into a series of shorter excursions, to be enjoyed even on simple weekends. We suggest then, that you carefully design your journey, before leaving taking advantage of the rich information and links contained on this website, also taking into considerations the exciting features of the territory surrounding the Sentiero dei Ducati.
How to get back on Sentiero dei Ducati
You have covered all the stages of the Sentiero dei Ducati Path and you have come to Sarzana (or Luni), perhaps tired, but certainly happy for the extraordinary experience just had. How can you go back to pick up your car, parked in Quattro Castella or Reggio Emilia? Well, if you have reached Sarzana there are no big problems. Sarzana is in fact well connected with Reggio Emilia through numerous daily runs of Regional and Regional Fast trains of the State Railways. With a few Euros and a maximum of 3 hours of travel (including train changes in Vezzano Ligure or Pontremoli and then in Parma or Fidenza) you will magically find yourself at the starting point … after 11 days of walking! If, instead, you have chosen to reach the archaeological area of Luni (Via Appia 9, 19034 Ortonovo- SP) there are various possibilities to end the trip and return home:
- By Public Transport: In Luni there is a small railway station (in the locality of Luni, 19033 Colombiera-Molicciara – SP, about 30 minutes walking from the archaeological area) with some daily services both in the direction of Sarzana–La Spezia and Carrara-Avenza. Alternatively, there are scheduled coach buses, particularly frequent in the summer tourist season. From these locations there are various combinations of regional and interregional trains that lead either to Reggio Emilia (via Parma) or to Bologna (through Parma or Prato-Florence). Consider about 5 hours of travel in both cases.
- By Bicycle: It is advisable to reach Sarzana, possibly passing through Marinella di Sarzana and Fiumaretta (asphalted road and cycle path).
How to shorten the trail
Do you have fewer days available or do you intend to cover only a specific segment of the Sentiero dei Ducati? Here’s how to do it…
From Vetto and other locations along the Enza Valley
Although by rare daily service, some of the villages crossed are connected to Reggio Emilia by bus lines of the SETA company. Ciano d’Enza, easily reachable on foot from Canossa (and with several hours’ walk from Trinità via Selvapiana and Cerezzola) is also connected to the city by the Reggio-Ciano railway line.
- By public transport: Once in Rigoso from Succiso (sixth stage of the Sentiero dei Ducati), you can get back to your base point, through Parma, taking public transport of the TEP coach bus lines.
- By bycicle: On paved roads from Rigoso to Neviano degli Arduini and Traversetolo or (passing through Compiano) through San Polo D’Enza to Quattro Castella (cycling path from Cerezzola to San Polo). In both cases about 62 km, mainly downhill.
From Lagastrello Pass
By bycicle: Once at the Passo of Lagastrello from Succiso (sixth stage) or from Rigoso (beginning of the seventh stage), by bicycle you can get back to Quattro Castella following the paved road along the right bank of the Enza River, through Vetto (62 Km). Uphill section before Vetto, the rest mainly downhill (cycling path from Cerezzola to San Polo). Alternatively, you can go down the paved road to Aulla (27 km) and then return by train through Parma. In this case, you will pass by the ancient ruins of the Linari Abbey.
From Camporaghena or Sassalbo
- On foor or by public transport: From Camporaghena (via path CAI 102 and then CAI 00) or from Sassalbo (via path CAI 98 and then SS63) it is possible to leave the Sentiero dei Ducati and return to Reggio Emilia reaching the Cerreto Pass (bars, restaurants, hotels). Passo del Cerreto can also be reached from Sassalbo by public transport (about 10 minutes) along the State Road 63 (bus Sassalbo – Passo del Cerreto on the CCT North taking line 23 from Massa Carrara or the line from Aulla). From Passo del Cerreto continue on the SETA bus to Castelnuovo nei Monti and then to Rivalta and Reggio Emilia. From Puianello, if you left from Quattro Castella, you can get back there following the itinerary described in the section “How to get to the Sentiero dei Ducati”.
- By bycicle: Up to the Passo del Cerreto then downhill on paved roads up to Castelnuovo Monti (with a splendid view of the Bismantova Rock) up to Puianello (about 60 km mainly downhill). From Puianello continue to Rivalta and Reggio Emilia or deviate to Quattro Castella. The “Puianello – Reggio” and “Puianello-Quattro Castella” sections are all on an excellent cycling path. Alternatively, before reaching Castelnuovo Monti, after passing Cervarezza and upon reaching Sparavalle, deviate for Vetto and return to Quattro Castella (about 70 km mainly downhill) along the Enza River valley (cycling path from Cerezzola to San Polo.
From Casola in Lunigiana
Follow the itinerary of the Sentiero dei Ducati up to Pieve San Lorenzo (about 1 hour walk) from where you can take the train of the Aulla – Lucca line at the “Minucciano-Pieve-Casola” station reaching in less than 30 minutes Aulla, from which to continue towards Reggio via Parma or Fidenza.
From Equi Terme or Ponte Monzone
Both villages are served by the Aulla-Lucca railway which allows you to reach Aulla in less than 30 minutes. From there you can continue towards Reggio, via Parma or Fidenza.
Useful Links and Contacts
Italian Alpine Club of Reggio Emilia:
Via Caduti delle Reggiane 1 H
Tel. +39 0522 436685
Club Alpino Italiano di Fivizzano:
Legal head office: Via Stretta, 5 54013 Fivizzano (MS) Administrative office: at Struttura COC-Protezione Civile Via Variante Nord 50, 54013 Fivizzano (MS)
Davide +39 329 3856169
Andrea +39 333 7161477
Club Alpino Italiano di Sarzana:
Piazza Firmafede 13 – 19038 Sarzana (SP)
Tel. e Fax. +39 0187 625154
Reggio Emilia Tourist Information Office:
Via Farini, 1 / A Tel. +39 0522 451152
Associazione Operatori Turistici Lunigianesi:
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, 19 Fivizzano – MS – Italy Mobile:+39.377 103 1033
For the segment from Quattro Castella a Sassalbo (stages 1-6), we suggest topographic maps scale 1:25,000 published by Geomedia:
- Sheet 1: La Collina Reggiana (from Puianello and Quattro Castella to Crovara)
- Sheet 2: Apennino Reggiano (from Crovara to Fornolo)
- Sheet 3: L’Alto Appennino Reggiano (from Fornolo to Sassalbo)
which in the 2020 edition already show the track of the Sentiero dei Ducati. For those leaving on foot from the Mediopadana High Speed Railway station of Reggio, also Sheet 8 (Alta Pianura Reggiana) could be useful. For the segment in Lunigiana we suggest the topographic maps scale 1:25,000 published by 4Land ( www.4land.it ) where the Sentiero dei Ducati (SD) does not appear by its name but it is shown as Trekking della Lunigiana (TL) These maps are also available in digital format for the Avenza Maps app.
- Sheet 203E “Appennino Ligure e Tosco Emiliano” (from Passo del Lagastrello to Casola and Pieve San Lorenzo)
- Sheet 200 “Alpi Apuane” (from Pieve San Lorenzo to Marciaso)
- Sheet 141 “Bassa Val di Magra” (from Marciaso to Sarzana)
In addition you can also use the Geomedia Map (www.geomedia.re.it ): sheet 5 “Lunigiana Orientale” (from Passo del Lagastrello to Ponte Monzone) Also worthy of note is the excellent App “Paths of the Apennines” by Geomedia (also operating off-line) which covers the entire Reggio area of the Sentiero dei Ducati and part of that of Lunigiana. Free download from the Apple Store and Google Play. For info: www.geomedia.re.it/sentieriappennino/
- Province of Reggio Emilia (urban and extra-urban service): SETA, Tel +39 059 416711;
- Province of Parma (Urban and Extra-urban service): TEP, Tel +39 0521 2141;
- Province of La Spezia (Urban and Extra-urban service): ATC, Tel +39 0187 522588;
- Province of Massa Carrara (urban and extra-urban service): CTT NORD, TEL +39 050 884000;
Private transport agencies
Taxi / minibus service and coach hire (for groups):
From Reggio Emilia:
TIL: 8, 40 and 54 seat coaches.
Tel. +39 0522/927813 – 927654
G.A.M. TRANSPORTATION: taxis and buses with 9, 17, 30 and 54 seats.
Tel. +39 0522 806560
Mobile +39 346 2663117
From Ramiseto: Franceschini Viaggi has a taxi service and buses with 9 and 20 seats.
Tel. +39 0522/817120
Cel. +39 339/3965087
From Castelnuovo nei Monti: Luca Ferretti’s Bismantour has buses with 8, 16, 24, 50 seats (no taxi).
Tel. +39 0522 810458
Mobile: +39 349 1030044 – +39 334 3770187