Stage 01: From Quattro Castella to Canossa
The first and an extraordinary stage of the Sentiero dei Ducati, which introduces to the real trail’s essence: ancient hamlets, tower-houses and castles, rough gullies and shady ravines weaved together to form the typical landscape tapestry of Emilian hills and Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. A landscape that is not only an aesthetic object, but rather the direct expression of a reality evolved over time, a complex interaction between geology, botany, and man’s intervention. Grand panoramas unfold as the wayfarer climbs altitudes, leaving behind the great plain and its Alpine range that embraces it in the North, perfectly visible on clear days. The ascent towards new wide mountainous horizons, will be accompanied by the Enza’s river waters that will remain trusted companions throughout the Emilian section of the path.
- Due to mostly clayey soil, after rainy periods mud can develop making stretches slippery, especially in the Bianello Oasis (climb Monte Lucio, descent Fontanina della Moja) and between Cà Reverbera and Grassano;
- Stage without intermediate food and rest spots, except for a local diner (trattoria) in Grassano Alta.
Description 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 the heart of the natural oasis by the same name. Just before reaching the castle, which is definitely worth visiting, the trail leaves the dirt road and at Corte degli Ulivi, a location with a splendid view on Bergonzano’s ravin basin, shifts towards left. From there, with pleasant, though at times strenuous ups and downs, you reach first the pass under Monte Lucio (ruins of the medieval tower; splendid view of the Bianello castle and the Po valley), then Monte Zane (ruins of the medieval tower; remains of a settlement agricultural; a small pond) 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) with a gradually widening splendid view of the plain and the badlands and hills of Quattro Castella. From Caverzana continue for a short stretch of flat asphalt to the suggestive church of the Madonna della Battaglia, of historical relevance and then descend (carriage road with barrier) 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), just across the restaurant and B&B by the same name. 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. Towards South, the Reggio Emilia and Parma Apennines; towards West, the Enza valley, the Rossena Castle and its tower; towards North the Po valley, and towards East the wild hills around the Campola stream.
In case of rain and very muddy ground, the ups and downs of the four hills of Quattro Castella can be avoided by bypassing them to the west ( CAI trail sign 640 and later 640C ), that is by reaching the Moia valley via a pleasant municipal road directly from the start, passing through the village of Monticelli (seat of the LIPU Oasis of Bianello). Besides, once you reach Pietre di Canossa you can avoid the descent and ascent into the Rio Vico valley by following, instead, the very panoramic asphalted road which from Pietre di Grassano much more directly leads to Castello di Canossa.
- In Canossa and Grassano or nearby, there are some Bed & Breakfasts or countryside guest-houses that can accommodate the traveler for the overnight stay: consult the interactive map on this website to find them. It is recommended to always book in advance.
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