The Duchies Trail

A crown, a crested castle or, perhaps, the typical “skyline” of an Apennine village with its characteristic “tower houses”. Then two lines of different colors, as two are the Trails, for hikers and mountain bikers, and two are also the regions crossed, Emilia and Tuscany. In the new logo of Sentiero dei Ducati (the Duchies Trail) there is all the essence of this magnificent path, a long trekking conceived in the early 90s by two great experts of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, Giuliano Cervi and Daniele Canossini. The path was designed to retrace the ancient routes contouring the borders of the duchies, that – from the XVIth  to XIXth centuries – in turn, ruled over a vast territory comprised between the river Po and the Tirrenian sea: the Estensi’s duchies of Modena and Reggio, the duchy of Parma and Piacenza and the duchies of Tuscany. This land now crossed by the Sentiero dei Ducati is rich of superb places treasuring the traces of such past; a land still today known to few, very far from the crowds that too often flood the most traveled trails. The Sentiero dei Ducati is a trail that the Italian Alpine Club of Reggio Emilia, in collaboration with the CAI branches of Fivizzano and Sarzana, wanted to return to its original glory, dedicating to it – with passion and competence – an important project for its maintenance, promotion and most of all to make it known.

Origins of the Sentiero dei Ducati

“A trekking route from the Po Valley to the Tyrrhenian coast, from Quattro Castella to Luni, along the Enza and Magra valleys”. So recites the subtitle of the “Sentiero dei Ducati” guide published in 1993 by Giuliano Cervi and Daniele Canossini, who designed, founded and promoted the trail.

From the start, they received support from the departments of the provinces of Reggio Emilia Parma, La Spezia and Massa Carrara, all interested in creating new forms of interregional tourism, in their most inland, mountainous and sparsely populated territories, which already, at that time, showed all the signs of social and economic decline, typical of our mountains. They were also interested since it was not a simple hiking trail, but the “first trans-Apennine” and “trans-regional” itinerary” (ancestor of the many “paths”), a trail developed with a “didactic and educational character, chosen in such a way as to be able to approach the main historical, cultural and environmental attractions of that territory”.

The “New” Sentiero dei Ducati

At the beginning of 2019, a dedicated interdisciplinary team was set up within the Reggio Emilia’s Italian Alpine Club (CAI) with a very specific objective. Aware of the extraordinary beauty and uniqueness of the Sentiero dei Ducati and of the territory it crosses, CAI’s goals were relaunching this trail and introducing it to a wider public, national and international, including it in the circuit of trails. Over 25 years after its creation, and following the disappearance of the Provinces, the need for a new management structure for its maintenance has in fact become evident.

A very demanding enterprise began, soon involving not only municipalities and other local public bodies but also ther CAI branches of Fivizzano and Sarzana, that is surveying the path conditions, identifying critical issues and improvements, planning extraordinary maintenance work. Also the stages were redefined  both to adapt to the numerous changes occurred throughout the years on the land and to identify alternative routes that could be traveled on mountain bike, a new and increasingly used hiking means. Consequently, maps and especially sign posting along the route were updated, also adding to the famous white-red CAI trail signs, the brand-new sign of the Sentiero dei Ducati, with its unmistakable logo, the SD acronym towered by a crested castle. Fully aware of how nowadays  it is essential to exploit modern technologies, not only were developed the tracks for satellite navigators, but the Sentiero dei Ducati was also equipped with a website which allows to explore it beforehand, comfortably sat at a desk,  and to adequately prepare the hike before departure.

Today the Path of the Ducati is once again a reality that allows the traveler to hike in 11 stages almost 160 km of history and natural beauty through two regions, between the Po Valley and the sea, across the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park and the regional park of the Apuan Alps.


A trail designed to to promote the development of Responsible Tourism, which will than allow the traveler to exploit it in order to deepen knowledge of this splendid territory and of its environmental, landscape, historical and cultural value. Allowing the necessary time to feel the environment while crossing it, so – in the words of Lazzaro Spallanzani, illustrious Reggiano scientist –  responding to the “need to be in presence of nature while nature becomes”.

Bodies and Projects connected to the Sentiero dei Ducati


Central Emilia Park Authority

The Sentiero dei Ducati is one of the strategic projects that the Central Emilia Park Authority has adopted to obtain the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) which Europarc (organization that coordinates 400 protected areas of 35 European countries) issues to parks that have presented a concrete program of actions, linked to the principles of ecotourism and environmental sustainability, to be implemented in the next 5 years. The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in (ECST) protected areas, is an instrument comparable to a certification process, which allows a better management of protected areas for the development of sustainable tourism. The central element of ECST is the collaboration between all parties interested in developing a common strategy and an action plan for tourism development, based on an in-depth analysis of the local situation.

For further information: Emilia Central Parks – Sentiero dei Ducati

UNESCO MAB Reserve: 

The Sentiero dei Ducati is one of 70 projects implemented by the Biosphere Reserve of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines which covers 34 municipalities between Reggio, Parma, Modena, Lucca and Massa. Each project takes into account the recommendations of UNESCO and the United Nations, summarized in the 17 Global Goals for sustainable development with a main focus on human capital growth.

For further information: UNESCO MAB – Sentiero dei Ducati

IREN project

The Sentiero dei Ducati is one of the projects financed by the IREN Group (Reggio Emilia Territorial Committee) as part of the IREN Collabora Program, the digital platform of the Territorial Consultative Committees of the IREN Group. The Committees were established to create a dedicated channel for a continuous dialogue between the IREN Group and all those interested in the company’s services and in the issues of environmental and social sustainability.

For further information: IREN Sentiero dei Ducati.

The working group of CAI

The “Sentiero dei Ducati” Working Group of the Club Alpino Italiano is composed by:  


  • Davide Benedetti (President CAI Fivizzano)
  • Giuseppe Cavalchi (Excursions Commission)
  • Ugo Ferri (CAI Sarzana)
  • Giovanni Fiori (CAI RE; WG Sentiero dei Ducati)
  • Maurizio Franchi (Events Commission)
  • Giancarlo Gamberini (Scientific Committee)
  • Nilo Giannini (CAI Sarzana)
  • Elio Pelli (Path Commission)
  • Carlo Possa (President)
  • Claudio Torreggiani (MTB Group)
  • Fulvio Torreggiani (CAI Scandiano branch)
  • Luciano Turriani (Presidente Commissione Sentieri CAI Toscana)
  • Giuseppe Zannini (CAI Val d’Enza GEB branch)

with the collaboration of Enzo Martini e Mimmo Colonnata (Pro Loco Casola in Lunigiana)

Mantainers of Reggio Emilia’s CAI:  Paolo Bonatto, Roberto Ferretti, Claudio Leoni, Graziano Meglioli, Mario Soncini, Alberto Tinterri, Efrem Verona

“The world is not enough, what is needed is a place. Loving is building a place, that is a piece of world with God inside”

Franco Arminio

Share This