Bologna Road Trip Through Small Towns in the Bologna Apennines

Have you been longing to discover northern Italy off-the-beaten-path with plenty of breathtaking sites and scenery but few tourists? Take a Bologna road trip through the small Italian towns and borgos in the stunning Apennine mountains.

We’ve loved our many trips to Bologna and Emilia Romagna in recent years, falling deeper in love with the region with every trip since our first visit. Bologna really took our breath away. We stood slack-jawed beneath Bologna’s medieval porticoes and discovered the city’s incredible charms, not the least of which is the food.

With each visit, we’ve explored beyond the initial must-sees to lesser-known neighborhoods and historic sites, and taking day trips to surrounding cities to help put more of Emilia Romagna into context for us.

But we had never explored the Bologna Apennines mountains, also known as the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. We spent a full week immersed in their beauty, and it was one of the best Italian road trips we’ve ever done!

It’s not just the stunning architecture or historic sites like Borgo La Scola or Rochetta Mattei that keep you enchanted. The beautiful scenery of the Apennines changes around every bend making the area so compelling to visit and easy to visit independently, on your own. No tour group needed.

And (sorry) spoiler alert — this is slow travel Bologna at its best!

The colorful hamlet of Grizzana Morandi in the Bologna Apennines

The colorful hamlet of Grizzana Morandi in the Bologna Apennines

Bologna Apennine Villages — Table of Contents

(click to jump ahead)

Lama di RenoMarzabottoRiola Grizzana MorandiBorgo La ScolaPorretta TermeLake Suviana and BadiCastel d’AianoToléSavignoVignolaMonteveglio

Why Take a Bologna Road Trip?

The towns of the Bologna Apennines make easy day trips from Bologna, where you’ll find charming small towns (borgos) to wander, quiet forests, waterfalls, and nature preserves to hike, and some incredible gems you’d never expect to find — from sparsely-populated cobblestone hamlets from the 13th century to medieval castles and modern churches — randomly scattered in the countryside and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But all just an hour from Bologna.

In a week, we stopped at countless places and overlooks to take photos, sit and chat with local folks over a coffee or a plate of pasta, and slow travel the pretty towns of the Bologna Appenines. Granted, while some locals speak limited English, many speak only Italian — yet we found ways to communicate.

Through food, music, a few basic Italian food phrases and the magic of Google Translate, going the extra step was all it took to invite them to participate in our quest to explore and learn more about their home. It was honestly one of the most relaxing ways we’ve ever seen Italy!

If Bologna is on your Italy Bucket List (and it should be wayyyy at the top!), we highly recommend combining it with a few days spent finding these smaller towns in the Appenines.

You’ll need a car to get around, and a GPS on your phone or in the car if you don’t want to use your data. But with a little help planning your trip, we promise you an authentic travel experience of Italy and Emilia Romagna in return!

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Where Are the Apennine Mountains

The Italian Apennines are a collection of mountains which run north to south stretching nearly 750 miles down the peninsula of Italy. Often referred to as just the Apennines, the mountains are home to many of Italy’s residents in many provinces.

To narrow the focus, the Apennines are referred to based on where they’re situated: the Bologna Apennines are south of the city of Bologna, the Tuscan Apennines south of Florence, and so on. The Bologna Apennines separate the Emilia Romagna region from the Tuscan regions of Florence, Prato and Pistoia.

Getting Around the Bologna Apennine Mountains

When it comes to getting around the Apennine mountains around Bologna, we have one word for you: DRIVE! Don’t be alarmed. Renting a car and driving this same route through the Bologna countryside is very easy.

Frankly, the hardest part of driving was getting out of Bologna — specifically, staying out of the Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL) of the historic center. With a GPS on our phone, and two of us piloting/co-piloting, it took us exactly 8 minutes to get from our Bologna Airbnb out of town and on the road.

TIP: We have always found it easiest and most convenient to prebook and pick-up a rental car upon our arrival at the airport (BLQ). If you’re already in Bologna, it’s an easy 9 km (5.5 miles) taxi ride from the city center, and you’ll be dropped off right at the rental desks in the terminal.

Lama di Reno

Murals painted by the Rebel Brushes of Pennelli Ribelli in Lama di Reno, Italy

Murals painted by the Rebel Brushes of Pennelli Ribelli in Lama di Reno, Italy

We headed out from Bologna and it was an easy drive to our first stop in Lama di Reno near Marzabotto, home to a former paper factory that’s been painted with incredible, and very moving exterior murals.

If the WWII history of Bologna, Marzabotto, and Italy’s Gothic Line tug at you, be sure and add this place to your itinerary.

There are a great many tragic events that occurred in Italy during the second World War. Sadly the small village of Marzabotto didn’t escape untouched.

The Marzabotto massacre, also known as the Monte Sole massacre, occurred in 1944 when 770 civilians (some estimates are as high as 1300) were murdered en masse by Nazi troops in response to the resistance and partisan attacks on German soldiers.

In 2018, to commemorate the first urban art festival Pennelli Ribelli (Rebel Brushes), local artists painted the outside walls of the abandoned factory with poignant murals.

With the blessing of the village, renowned Italian street artists Ericailcane, Nemo’s, Kipi Skipi, Collettivo Fx, Gorilla Spam, and Andrea Casciu along with several others painted these huge murals in just five days. There was no set theme for the murals although several emerged organically.

The local organization Associazione Pennelli Ribelli founded by local residents Alex Sabattini, Andrea Casciu, and Giulio Campana organize a now annual event as a constant reminder and stirring protest to stand against racism in Italy and around the world, resist the overreach of government, and support freedom.


Regional Park of Monte Sole

This enormous historic park covers approximately 6,300 hectares (over 15,500 acres), and the municipalities of Marzabotto, Monzuno and Grizzana Morandi all lie within its boundaries. Monte Sole is a quiet and beautiful place and claims one third of the floral diversity in Emilia Romagna.

Sadly it also holds a tragic historical significance — it was here between September 29 and October 5, 1944 in the peaceful Apennines near Marzabotto that Nazi SS troops massacred 770 civilians, many of whom were women and children. Although the exact number will never be known, it is thought to be much higher, and was the largest massacre of civilians in western Europe during World War II.

Some would argue that this was a military operation meant to intimidate and discourage the formation of resistance groups. A more accepted possibility is that it appears to be a reprisal against the population for attacks on Nazi soldiers by local partisan groups, and is today appropriately remembered as the “Monte Sole Massacre”.

The Il Poggiolo Visitor Centre inside the park is along the path of the “Il Memoriale” itinerary which includes the most symbolic places of the massacre. The route will take you to the top of Monte Sole to the stone placed in memory of those who were murdered here and in the surrounding hills and valleys.

Pompeo Aria National Etruscan Museum

Located a half an hour south of Bologna in the town of Marzabotto, this museum features artifacts from a 6th century BC Etruscan settlement. In about the middle of the 19th century excavators began to uncover the remains of buildings and tomb markers. The collection is an impressive look into Etruscan life, and the original owners of the collection, the Aria family, donated it all and the land on which the artifacts were found to the state.

The first museum was destroyed during World War II and this newer museum contains what remains of the original collection and findings from newer excavations. Besides the museum, you can visit the excavation site to see the settlement with its roads and the remains of what are believed to be five sacred buildings from around the 5th century BC.

It will take you about an hour or so to visit the museum and tour the archaeological area. Entrance fee is €3.00, €2.00 if you’re between 18 and 25, free for under 18 and over 65.


Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta

Just a short drive from Lama di Reno is the small borgo Riola di Vergato, or Riola for short. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, the Church of the Assumption of Mary, is the main attraction here. What an incredible modern design and feat of engineering!

The building is unlike anything we would have imagined as a church, let alone find in a small town like Riola. Designed by Finnish architect Alvar Alto (his only work in Italy) the structure is all a pale yellow with a modern style free standing campanile or bell tower.

The inside of the church is all white with a modern design. The only other color is the warm soft brown wood used in the pews and the muted red/orangish floor tiles.

The church is constructed of prefabricated panels and huge irregular arches that support a series of what are called light scoops. These give the church roof its unique look and illuminate the white interior with a subtle soft light.

It may be different than most churches in the area that are more traditional, but that’s no doubt part of its charm. Definitely worth seeing!

Grizzana Morandi

Rocchetta Mattei

Just past Riola and 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Bologna is the mysterious fortress of Rocchetta Mattei in Grizzana Morandi. Looking up at the fortress as you approach the main gate it’s easy to pick out a few of the several architectural styles — Gothic, Moorish, and onion domes — all welded together to form a huge jumble of connected structures.

It gets even wilder inside.

Construction on the castle was started in 1850 by the eccentric Count Cesare Mattei, on top of the ruins of what was once a medieval fortress. He wanted the fortress to be the site of the alternative healing practice he invented called electrohomeopathy.

In theory he wanted to cure diseases by using the energy of plants and botanicals with electrical fluid to neutralize the electrical imbalance in the body caused by disease.

At the entrance is a statue of a mythical hippogriff whose front is that of an eagle and the back half is the hind end of a horse (There’s one in the movie 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’).

We were only able to tour the part of the fortress that’s been restored with our guide taking us to a few not yet open rooms. There are astrological and religious symbols everywhere along with beautiful woodwork, spiral staircases, battlements, and towers.

As we went from room to room the labyrinth connecting rooms became a little confusing. I don’t think we could have found our way back to where we started if we weren’t on a tour.

There are so many strange and quirky areas in the castle.

Mattei’s bedroom has a ceiling covered with downward pointing pyramids, one of which is said to hide a magical life-prolonging diamond. The chapel was built to resemble the Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain, and The Lions’ Courtyard mimics the courtyard of the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain.

Mattei lived in the Rocchetta from 1859 until his death in 1896, and for the last twenty years of his life never went outside the walls. Maybe, like us, he couldn’t find his way out

Rocchetta Mattei is open to tours on Saturday and Sunday only. Admission is €10, or it’s included with the purchase of the Card Musei Metropolitani di Bologna. Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month. Reservations are required.

Where to Eat and Stay in Grizzana Morandi

Locanda dei Fienili del Campiaro

The Locanda dei Fienili del Campiaro is a quaint Italian country B&B that’s perfect for those looking for peace and quiet. The inn is actually a B&B with guest rooms, a lounge, and a wonderful restaurant. What’s more, the site is the former summer residence of the famous Bolognese painter Giorgio Morandi and there is a separate building where his artwork is displayed.

It was here that he painted local landscapes and farm buildings. Because it’s so close to Bologna, the inn is usually booked solid on weekends as is the restaurant so make reservations well in advance.

We had been told that the restaurant was famous for preparing locally sourced ingredients in Bolognese style. Everything on the menu is mouth watering.

Lucky us, porcini mushrooms were in season.

Owner Guiseppe is also the creative Chef and his house specialties include crispy polenta with creamy cheese and porcini mushrooms, tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, ravioli stuffed with ricotta and potato, and balanzoni stuffed with ricotta and mortadella. This is a cozy romantic restaurant with excellent food, a great wine list, and service to match.

If you stay overnight, breakfast is equally as good. Be sure to make a reservation.

Località Campiaro, 112/C, 40030 Grizzana Morandi B

Antica Trattoria Hotel Dolores di Benito

After our visit to Rocchetta Mattei we wanted to have a late lunch at a local place. We didn’t drive for very long when saw this cafe tucked away on a hillside. Their sign said they specialize in fungi (mushrooms), tartufo (truffles), and cacciagione (game meat). Sounded good to us and luckily the kitchen was open.

We were seated in the main dining room right next to the windows with a great view of the surrounding mountains.

Porcini mushrooms were in season so we ordered the housemade tagliatelle (an egg pasta) with porcini mushrooms and sliced chianina (steak) sautéed with porcini mushrooms over fresh greens. Both were excellent.

Good local food with very good service make this a good place to stop when you’re in the area.

Via Chiesa 40032 Camugnano BO

Borgo La Scola

Not far from Grizzana Morandi is Borgo La Scola close to Vimignano.

Time seems to have forgotten this small and well-preserved medieval village. Despite a few power lines and porch lights, the village likely still looks as it must have back in the 13th century.

It doesn’t take long to walk the narrow cobbled streets although we did spend a bit of time for photos and views of the surrounding fields — all in all about an hour.

Residents still live here though we didn’t see anyone during our walk, let alone other tourists.

We did hear two ladies chatting in a building through an open back door, and a dog in a walled yard barked at us, but other than that it was a lovely quiet stroll through town.

There’s an interesting restored sundial on the side of one of the buildings, and on a nearby door there appeared to be a cultural office with a schedule of events held in the village. Sadly, none that fit our itinerary.

La Scola is a pretty and serene place that feels almost mystical. There is a guesthouse or two but no restaurants. Be sure to wear good walking shoes to safely walk the uneven cobblestones.

Lake Suviana and Badi

Lake Suviana, Italy

Lake Suviana, Italy


Its formal name is Parco Regionale dei Laghi di Suviana e Brasimone, the Regional Park of the Lakes Suviana and Brasimore. At 500 meters (1640 ft) above sea level, Lake Suviana is an impoundment or artificial lake formed by a dam constructed in 1932. It’s about an hour’s drive from Bologna and just a short distance from Porretta Terme.

We spent two days here exploring the area around the lake in mid-September. The weather wasn’t warm enough for us to take advantage of the many water sports available around the lake, but the views from the surrounding mountains more then made up for it.

Where to Eat near Lake Suviana

Cafe La Piaza da Erica e Fabio, Camugnano

The small John F. Kennedy piazza in the small town of Camugnano on the way to Lake Suviana is bordered by the Court House, police station, a small fountain and this excellent small oasis of good food.

We were hungry and just happened upon it — one of the benefits of slow travel is never knowing what you’ll discover.

This small family run cafe/coffee shop served us one of the best charcuterie boards I think we’ve ever had. The homemade tigelle (small round flatbreads) were fresh that morning, made by the owner Erica herself.

I wish we could have gone back two days later for their weekly Friday special.

Piazza Kennedy, 6, 40032 Camugnano BO

Hotel Bar Ristorante Luana, Lake Suviana

At Ristorante Luana you’re in for not just great food but also a fun meal. Chef/owner Luana Di Cherici leaves the kitchen to chat with guests and suggest what they should have to eat.

And she’s not quiet about it — she’ll tell you if there’s something she wants you to try, and well, you might as well order it. She’ll smile then and head to the kitchen.

In fact, the food here was so good that we went back the next night to try some of her other specialties as she suggested. The appetizer platters with crispy polenta and fresh figs and her homemade pasta like the tagliatelle were excellent, but the pièce de résistance is her Bistecca Fiorentina (Steak Florentine), a 40-ounce (2.5 pound) cut of meat cooked over coals.

We were surprised to find the traditional Florentine specialty on the menu, until we realized just how close we were (just a few miles) to the Tuscany border. Our service was excellent and so was the wine. This is a relaxed and fun place to eat, and if you like steak, you’ll love Luana’s.

Via Tramonti Suviana, 32, 40030 Suviana BO

Where To Stay in Badi

B&B Borgo Massovrana

In the small village of Badi overlooking Lake Suviana is this gem of a B&B. Eleonora, owner and resident artist at B&B Borgo Massovrana, couldn’t have been more gracious and offered us a choice of the smaller apartment with outdoor terrace or the larger 3rd floor suite.

We always go for the outdoor terrace and this one was so charming!

Our apartment had a small eat-in kitchen, private bath, a comfy queen bed and of course, the spacious balcony overlooking the lake from one end to the other. It was warm, cozy, and easy to relax here.

There was a bottle of fresh crystal clear spring water waiting for us from the spring in the village, and even more fun to take just a short walk to refill it again.

The yummy breakfast is served in an outside covered area which also overlooks the lake, and had fresh pastries and coffee, cold meats and cheeses, eggs, and way more than we were hungry for. We would easily stay here again.

NOTE: Accessibility for wheelchairs and for those with difficulty walking, getting up the steep cobblestone hill to the front door may be an issue.

Via Massovrana, 57, 40030 Badi BO


Porretta Terme

60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Bologna on the edge of the Bologna Apennines is the town of Porretta Terme. Since Roman times it has been a favorite spa destination for visitors seeking to enjoy the warm mineral waters of the nearby healing thermal springs.

For outdoor enthusiasts the Corne alle Scale Regional Park is nearby with plenty of hiking and outdoor opportunities and skiing in the winter at the park’s ski resort.

In the third week in July the Porretta Soul Festival is held here. It’s not a religious event unless of course American ‘soul’ music tends to stir your soul. No, the Porretta Soul Festival, A Tribute to Otis Redding is the most important event for soul and R&B music in Europe.

The town has its share of historic monuments and holds cultural events throughout the year. Being only one hour from Bologna, a visit here to luxuriate in the waters at a spa is a great day trip from Bologna.

What to See Near Porretta Terme

Corno alle Scale Regional Park and Dardagna Falls

Trekking Bologna is one of the most popular things to do in the scenic hills around Bologna, and the Corno alle Scala is a great place to do it. A vast park of 5,000 hectares (over 12,000 acres), the Park includes small towns, hiking trails, horse back riding, mountain bike trails, a ski school, chair lift, and plenty of skiing all winter long.

It was the wrong time of year for skiing, and we weren’t equipped to do some of the heavy trekking for which Bologna and the Apennines are known.

Our goal was simply to hike from the parking lot next to the Sanctuary of Madonna dell’Acero to Dardagna Falls. The Sanctuary was erected in the 15th century on the spot of a purported actual miracle.

The original maple tree on which a print of the Virgin Mary was found witnessed the miraculous event and is considered sacred and still stands next to the shrine protected by a wooden fence.

There’s a small historic church that pays tribute to the Virgin attached to the shrine building that’s worth taking a moment to peek inside or sit in the silent calm where you can feel the centuries of ancient history.

There are several trails that start in the area around the shrine, but we chose the trail to Dardagna Falls. With several uphill and downhill segments through the beautiful forest, the trail is groomed and well-marked. At one point our elevation app read 4,020 feet above sea level.

We met a few other hikers along the way who greeted us with a smile and ‘Salve’ as we passed. The only other sounds were the songs of birds and the rustle of leaves caused by a spotted wild pig which crossed our path, running from something that had him spooked. He didn’t pay us any attention.

After thirty minutes or so we started to hear the gentle sound of the falls.

There’s a series of small rapids and a wooden bridge to get to the other side of the river for excellent photo ops. From there it was a short distance to the falls. Dardagna Falls are a series of rock ledges over which water is cascading.

You can literally walk on boulders close to the center of the falls for photos or continue along the trail to hike above the falls.

Either way it’s an easy and peaceful walk. Because we stop for photos often, it took us at least an hour to get from the Sanctuary to the falls.

Gaggio Montano Lighthouse

About 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Bologna in Gaggio Montano is Italy’s only land based lighthouse. We could see the lighthouse from below but it took us a bit of time to find the way up from the small town.

The lighthouse, which is not exactly designed the way we think of lighthouses, was built in 1952 and overlooks Gaggio Montano at the base of the Sasso di Rocca mountain. The designer, Giuseppe Rinaldi, designed the lighthouse as a memorial to the victims of war.

The village of Gaggio Montano itself deserves a visit. It dates to the 8th century and still has some of its original medieval charms including historic buildings.

We stopped to check out a display of people dressed up in period attire along with farm animals all made from straw and hay bails. We love these small and local attractions. Things like this remind us why we promote our philosophy of slow travel.

Castel D'Aiano

Labante Caves and Waterfall

Labante Caves and Waterfall

Labante Caves and Waterfall

Are you familiar with travertine tile? Slabs of travertine are mined from caves in certain parts of Europe and the caves near Labante produce some of the best travertine in Italy and in Europe. So much so that they are classified as a European Site of Community Importance or SCI.

There’s no mining that goes on near this cave, so it’s a fun and quiet place to visit.

There are several caverns and, if open, you can enter the Grotta dei Tedeschi to see the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Just plan on getting wet. The largest cavern is the most interesting.

A waterfall flows over the front edge of the cavern and splashes into a pond that is crystal clear. With the bright green vegetation all around the waterfall, the waterfall and curved rock resemble some kind of large creature when viewed from the side.

Presentations are given to groups in the covered outdoor education center showing how the travertine is formed and how it is mined. We suggest packing a small picnic to have lunch on the lawn. The setting is perfect.


We were told that there are some murals in the village of Tolé painted on the walls of buildings by people who live there, and it wouldn’t take much time to check them out. We had no idea how cute it would be.

Once we found the right neighborhood there were colorful paintings, clay and ceramic figures, fairytale scenes, whimsical artwork, and painted alleyways nearly everywhere we looked. Most all were playful and a little quirky.

There was a large Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and a winding alley dedicated to all things cats.

Alley Cats, in the town of Tolé

Alley Cats, in the town of Tolé

One small lane featured figurines on the walls depicting bible stories that led to a large Magi scene. Tolé was an absolute delight and we spent a couple of hours wandering the narrow lanes and side streets not knowing what we’d see around the next corner. “Oh look, there’s more.”

We never get tired of discovering.


About 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southwest of Bologna in Valsamoggia is the small charming village of Savigno, known by foodies around the world as the epicenter of truffles in Italy. Savigno is famous for its white and black truffles and home to the Sagra del Tartufo, or Truffle Festival, held each year during the first three weekends in November. Truffles are revered here and vital to the local economy.

We know the earthy aroma and taste of truffles are not for everyone, but if you love truffles as much as we do, Savigno is a great day trip when visiting Bologna.

Where to Eat in Savigno

Trattoria Amerigo 1934

Where there are truffles, there are talented Chefs working magic with them, so it’s no surprise Savigno is home to the renowned Michelin rated restaurant, Trattoria da Amerigo 1934. Chef and owner Alberto Bettini is masterful at his craft.

As the name implies, the restaurant was started in 1934 by Alberto’s grandparents, Amerigo and Agnese. Much has happened over the years, but traditional recipes using locally sourced ingredients remain unchanged. Even newer innovative recipes that are expressions of the local cuisine remain simple and delicious.

Not everything on the menu has truffles, but if you love them, this is the place to indulge your palate. We enjoyed some of the best food we’ve ever had anywhere. No mater what else you enjoyed, be sure to leave room for desert especially the egg yolk gelato or the Fiordilatte Bolognese with amaretto foam, both are rich and decadent.

Yup you’ll need reservations well in advance of your visit, but it is so worth the wait.

We also had breakfast here the next morning — a typical Italian breakfast of fresh local fruits, natural yogurt, fresh pastries and a great cappuccino. Molto bene. We loved starting our day Italian-style, slow and not the least bit rushed.

Via Guglielmo Marconi, 14/16, 40053 Savigno BO

Where to Stay in Savigno

Locanda Amerigo

Why not treat yourself and stay overnight after indulging at the restaurant.

Locanda Amerigo is a two minute walk from the restaurant and one of the most charming and luxurious places that we stayed. they describe themselves as “not a hotel, but our home at your disposal” and it feels that way. The inn is on a narrow lane in a quiet neighborhood.

It was at one time a barn and is now five rooms, all different. The decor of our room on the top floor was sumptuous with antiques with luxurious, modern accents, plush towels and elegant toiletries. It was spacious with the most gorgeous brass and cut glass doors between the bathroom and bedroom, and a huge claw foot tub.

Our room even had a loft with a comfy sofa and chair along with a TV if you’re so inclined, and the wifi was very good. We could have stayed longer.

Via Guglielmo Marconi, 14/16, 40053 Savigno BO


Rocca di Vignola (Fortress of Vignola)

This incredible fortress of Rocca di Vignola is the biggest historic site in the region and traces its beginnings to the 12th century. This is another great day trip from Bologna and takes only one hour by train or bus. Entrance to the Rocca is free as are the guided tours.

We recommend making a reservation, especially if you need an English speaking guide.

The structure is overwhelming in its sheer size and all that was integrated into the structure to make it a very formidable fortress.

Attention to details for defense are everywhere from the massive towers, ramparts, and walkways to a narrow cul de sac to trap attackers just inside the outer wall. It was so well engineered and designed that it was never taken by invaders.

Over the centuries the Rocca has changed hands several times. In the 15th century a fortress wasn’t quite as necessary and it became an opulent luxurious residence with huge frescoes depicting life at court decorating great halls and the wings that were the apartments of the wealthy residents.

More recently parts of the fortress have served as a municipal building for the town hall and library. Since 1998 the Rocca has been in the care of the Fondazione di Vignola, Foundation of Vignola.

Much of the structure has been restored and the tedious work of accurately restoring the amazing frescoes with their intended historical significance is underway. This is apparent in the Chapel of the Rocca with its late Gothic frescoes, the Lion and Leopard room, and the Dove room to name but a few.

The docent who guided us throughout the Rocca was excellent at giving detailed historical accounts and answering our many questions.

Be sure to wear good walking shoes when you visit. There are a lot of up and down steep stone steps in the towers and places where it’s a bit narrow going up and down.

Piazza dei Contrari, 4, 41058 Vignola MO

Must-See in Vignola

Foodies should absolutely not miss the birthplace of one of the most iconic local foods — the original flourless Torta Barozzi. This decadent sweet treat was first invented by Eugenio Gollini in 1886 and the recipe remains a closely guarded secret.

Today the Pasticceria Gollini is a must stop when you’re in town to try the Torta — think dark chocolate, almonds, and peanuts, all together in one dense chocolate cake!

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 1/N, 41058 Vignola MO

Where to Eat in Vignola

Trattoria Canarino

After our tour of Rocca di Vignola, it was time for a late lunch. Luckily for us, right around the corner from Rocca di Vignola and the Pasticceria Gollini, the Trattoria Canarino was open.

Our lunch of fried polenta and soft cheese, grilled zucchini, housemade pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil and a Ragú pasta dish were all delicious. We love it when we find a place that serves really good local cuisine.

Via Pietro Antonio Bernardoni, 7, 41058 Vignola MO



What to See and Do in Monteveglio

Abbazia di Monteveglio (Abbey of Monteveglio)

The Abbey in Monteveglio was built mainly between the 11th and 12th centuries and originally belonged to the Augustinian order. It’s had various owners through time and now belongs to the Franciscans.

Between 1925 and 1934 the abbey was restored keeping much of its Romanesque appearance. The main historic architectural site here is the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

We visit many cathedrals and churches in our travels, and the church here is not nearly as lush with gold, religious paintings and statuary as many. It has the simplicity that goes with most monastic orders.

Above the main altar hangs a wooden crucifix dating to the 15th century. There is a crypt that dates to the 10th century under a section of the church that is of great historical significance, but it was not open to visitors. Living within the confines of the abbey are not just the Franciscans.

There is also a small community of residents who have chosen to live here, and an excellent restaurant as well — Trattoria del Borgo.

It doesn’t take long to visit the Abbey but we think it’s worth a stop.

Destinazione Umana

Monteveglio is also the home of Destinazione Umana, an innovative tourism project that seeks to prescribe travel and human connection as an antedote in the age of mass tourism. Travelers can not only find the authentic culture and people of Italy, but rediscover themselves in the process.

We met owner and founder Silvia Salmeri and spent the evening at their local headquarters (the Court of Human Destination) in Monteveglio, eating great food prepared by Nicola, and chatting with Federica and Daniela, all of whom make up the Human Destination team.

The transformative journeys behind their tour company are inspiring. One of their most popular journeys is an all-female version of the Way of the Gods (Via Degli Dei), the historic path along the Tuscan Emilian Apennines which becomes the "Via delle Dee", a journey on foot aimed exclusively at women.

We can’t think of a better way to explore the beautiful Apennines than on foot, with the inspiration of this awesome team behind you.

Via Cassola, 15 – 40053 Valsamoggia, Loc. Monteveglio

Who Should Visit the Bologna Towns in the Apennine Mountains?

  • Slow travelers and slow foodies

  • Italian wine lovers

  • Culture and history hounds

  • Adventurous hikers and trekkers

  • Travelers looking for a rural and authentic experience of Italy

Grazie mille to Bologna Welcome! We were their guests during our stay. As always, all opinions are ours alone based on our firsthand experience.

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