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Emilia Romagna cycling between art and culture

Cities of art, villages and countryside dotted with historic manors and museums - five delightful itineraries in Emilia Romagna cycling around art and culture.

19 July 2022

Discover the rich artistic heritage of Emilia Romagna - cities of art, villages and countryside dotted with historic manors and museums. Here are five of the finest cycling routes in the region, one of which follows the footsteps of Dante Alighieri after his exile from Florence. A hugely interesting territory which will also host four stages of the Giro d'Italia.

1. Along the River Po in the Emilian countryside

A slow tour along the River Po from Piacenza to Reggio Emilia set among poplar groves and nature oases, churches and castles, riverside beaches and villages. The route sets off from Soprarivo, where Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, forded the river in 990 while travelling along the Via Francigena. Many historical sites include Busseto, where everything recalls Giuseppe Verdi (there is also his birthplace in Roncole), Colorno with the XVIII century Royal Palace now home to Gualtiero Marchesi's Alma School of Haute Cuisine, and Guastalla, the regal seat of the Gonzaga family. Other visits should include the Museum of Culatello in Polesine Parmense, the Distillery Museum in Castello di Roccabianca with balsamic vinegar and rare liqueurs, the Don Camillo and Peppone Museum in Brescello and the Antonio Ligabue Museum in Gualtieri. You can even embark your bike for a cruise along the River Po at the river port of Boretto.

2. Ferrara & Ravenna: cities of art

The cycling route discovering the two cities of art starts from Ferrara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site also known as the City of Bicycles. Cycling along the Mediaeval Via delle Volte, through the historic centre, takes us to the Estense Castle, the symbol of the city, the Cathedral and the Palazzo dei Diamanti. Nor should you miss the 9 km cycle path along the imposing Renaissance walls surrounding the city. Ravenna boasts several UNESCO World Heritage monuments. The itinerary takes in famous basilicas and baptisteries and their precious Byzantine mosaics, such as the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica of San Vitale and, just outside city, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe.

3. The Borgia Circuit around the Delizie Estensi

This route winds through the flat countryside south of Ferrara dotted with the historic villas of the Dukes of Este, UNESCO World Heritage Sites known as the Delizie Estensi. The circular itinerary takes in three of the most prestigious and important in the history of the ducal family, and even Lucrezia Borgia: the Delizia di Belriguardo, a favourite summer residence today home to the Civic Museum, the Delizia del Verginese with its "brolo", a typical Renaissance garden, and the Delizia di Benvignante, where Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ludovico il Moro, also stayed. The itinerary alternates paved and unpaved roads and is suitable for everyone; it also crosses the Via Romea Germanica.

4. The villages of Valmarecchia

A cycling itinerary in Valmarecchia, in the hinterland of Romagna, with start & finish in Rimini, the ancient feud of the Malatesta Lords. The route is often demanding with steep gradients since it reveals splendid historic villages perched on hilltops such as Santarcangelo, Poggio Torriana and Verucchio (member of the Association “I Borghi più belli d’Italia”). The final stretch climbs up to the fascinating Republic of San Marino, on Mount Titano, which still retains its ancient triple walls and the three defence and watchtowers. You can freshen up at the end at the Terme di Riccione health spa complete with sensory paths, mud baths and massages.

5. Dante's Way

A circular route almost 400 km long to places associated with Dante, from Ravenna to Florence and back. You can visit the Poet's tomb in Ravenna, while Florence (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) boasts his birthplace, now home to the museum dedicated to him, and the cenotaph in the Church of Santa Croce, a monument to Poetry in mourning. The route passes through wonderful historic villages, such as Poppi with its walls, enrolled in the Association “I Borghi più belli d’Italia”, Portico di Romagna where Beatrice, Brisighella and Premilcuore originally came from. Spectacular beauty spots include the majestic Acquacheta waterfall and the Casentino valley with the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests. You can ride your MTBs on mainly wooded and at times demanding roads, cart tracks and paths or, alternatively, on road bikes along scenic secondary roads. The best time is from March to November, since snow may be found in winter.