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Itineraries around Montale

From the plain to the mountains, from culture to motors

For those wishing to confine their trip to the immediate vicinity of Montale and the city of Modena, we suggest a visit to Formigine (7 km from Colombaro). Here, in the heart of the city, in Piazza Calcagnini, you can admire the recently restored medieval castle, where a fascinating multimedia presentation traces its history from the Middle Ages to the present day. Formigine’s archaeological background is also explained in depth. (For information: Comune di Formigine, tel. 059 416373-368).

Further along the Nuova Estense, past the Colombaro roundabout in the direction of Abetone, the first stage we recommend is Pozza (3 km on), where you will find the beautiful Parco Rangoni Machiavelli. Here the distinguished collector Umberto Severi placed many pieces of contemporary sculpture, including large-scale commissions by Pietro Cascella, Gio' Pomodoro and Yoshin Ogata.

From Pozza, it is a brief drive to the centre of Maranello (3 km), where you should visit the Galleria Ferrari.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Grand Prix fans from all over the world converge on the Mecca of Formula One motor racing.
From Maranello you can choose alternative routes towards the mountains. Driving up into the hills on the via Giardini in the direction of Abetone, after 10 km you come to the locality of Montagnana, where you can visit the Museo Giardino della Rosa Antica (tel. 0536 939010) dedicated to over 800 varieties of rose. You will be struck by the refined layout of the place, and will delight in the intensity of perfumes that await your arrival.
Continuing along the S.S. from Maranello, you come to Spezzano (about 4 km), where you can visit a fortress founded in the Middle Ages. The Rocca (castle) boasts an important collection of mid-15th century paintings featuring all the castles and fortified villages which belonged to the State of the Pio, both those in the plain and those in the mountains. The Museo della Ceramica di Fiorano (tel. 0536 833418), a permanent exhibition on ceramics, documents the peculiarity of an area whose destiny has been to model and fire clay from the Neolithic Period to the present day.

Taking the turn-off for Nirano, which climbs the hill following the Fossa torrent, you come to the Nature Reserve of the Salse di Nirano a singular geological phenomenon bound to impress: mud bubbles up from the bowels of the earth, forming a weird lunar landscape. Apart from a walk between the mud holes, we advise a visit to the Ca’ Tassi Environmental Education Centre (tel. 0536 833276).
When you get to Sassuolo, celebrated world-wide for its ceramic tiles, the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is well worth a visit. It is one of Europe’s finest examples of baroque art and architecture. The splendid frescoed rooms inside the Palace often play host to contemporary art shows.

For the more intrepid, we would recommend continuing into the mountains for a further 30 km along the S.S. 486 from Sassuolo as far as Monchio di Palagano. From here a road winds up into the peaks of the Parco della Resistenza Monte Santa Giulia, situated in the verdant landscape of the Valli del torrente Dragone, a mountain stream evocatively named the Dragon. The park extends over 28 hectares and includes the Pieve dei Monti (X-XI century), an ancient chapel that stands out against the surrounding peaks. Beneath the chapel’s apses, rich layers of archaeological remains have been unearthed that include a Bronze Age sword, now on display at the Museo Civico Archeologico Etnologico di Modena.

 

Through the Land of Castles

In April and May, there is a sight you really shouldn’t miss: grapevines and cherry blossom line the route of those who make their way from Montale towards Guiglia, passing through the Land of Castles, which stand on the banks of the Panaro river throughout the Province of Modena.
Leaving the Nuova Estense road at Colombaro, and driving left along the provincial road for Castelnuovo Rangone, you come to Spilamberto, famous for its Museum of Traditronal Balsamic Vinegar (tel. 059 781614).
This will be just the first stage in a gastronomic tour among the culinary delights of Emilia. A little way down the road, at Vignola, you should sample the renowned torta Barozzi, whose recipe is a secret jealously guarded by the Pasticceria Gollini (tel. 059 771079). The ancient fortified town of Vignola is dominated by its imposing Rocca medievale (Rocca), which looks out on the piazza dei Contrari.

From the centre of Vignola two alternative routes are available to the tourist.
The first takes you to the ancient hill town of Castelvetro, which can be reached by driving a few kilometres North West in the direction of Sassuolo. If lunchtime is approaching, it is well worth making a stop at the Ristorante Zoello , in the village of Settecani, where you can sample traditional Modenese cooking at its best.
The second alternative takes you to the splendidly preserved medieval hill town of Savignano, , which commands magnificent views over the valley of the river Panaro. It is also worth visiting the Museo dell'elefante - Museo della Venere di Savignano (the Museum of the Elephant - Museum of the Savignano Venus). Here you can see replicas of the dwarf elephant that lived here some 2 million years ago and the famous prehistoric female figure that was found in this locality.

If, finally, you want to continue further into the mountains, your courage will be rewarded by the natural beauty of the Parco dei Sassi di Roccamalatina at Guiglia. Here a stop can be scheduled at the Osteria del Borgo, a restaurant in the heart of the park (via Sassi n. 1983 - tel. 059 746098). Alternatively, a short distance away, at the Mulino delle Valecchie, there is La Quiete, located in the ancient restored water mill (via di Castellino n. 1768 - tel. 059 795534).