Details of tour:
The roads provide a natural loop for touring around the area, starting out on the road to Santonio and Monteorsaro and returning on the main SP9, through Asta and Governara, or vice versa. If you want to combine this itinerary with the previous one, you can simply turn off to Cervarolo and Civago when you reach Case Balocchi. In other words, there are plenty of good roads in and around Villaminozzo, especially as none of the other areas in the mountains has so many outlying villages, all with their own history and traditions. The network of local roads is essential for the local people and is an element that people do not take for granted in the mountains. The roads safeguard their livelihoods and make life in the mountains a little easier. The area is also interesting for the events that took place here during the World War Two linked to the Resistance. One such important site is Tapignola church. The building is just off the main road between Santonio and Coriano and was built after the earthquake of 1920 to replace the old parish church at Coriano that fell down, to service both communities. A brave priest from Lombardy, don Pasquino Borghi, met a newly formed underground movement on October 25th, 1943, led by the Cervi brothers and several Russian and English soldiers. Don Pasquino gave his life for the cause and he is a fine example of the fight for freedom guided by ethics and religion and the struggle for civil liberties during that dramatic period. The views from the road are extremely pretty and can be enjoyed to the full since the road is a slower drive than the busier SP 9 that runs alongside the Secchiello brook, making it a good alternative route from Villaminozzo to Civago. The village of Monteorsaro looks over the valley, at a respectable height of 1252 metres, beneath the summits of Mount Prampa andMount Cisa. Records dating back to 1184 have been found that mention the hamlet of Mons Orsarius, but the earthquake damage and the slapdash, unplanned rebuilding of the village means that traces of its original architecture are far and few between. The village has an interesting name that points to the bears that roamed the Apennines until quite recent times. Documents have been found mentioning a local custom whereby bears used to be sent regularly to the Duke of Modena as a gift (actually a form of taxation). Wolves have been recently reintroduced into the mountains (some have been spotted at daybreak but they are very elusive animals) whereas deer and wild boar have become so numerous that selective culling has become necessary. The delicate ecology and slow reproductive habits of bears means they will probably never come back. The drive takes you from Monteorsaro down to Febbio, the name of one of the most popular tourist spots in the Apennine Mountains of Reggio Emilia. Febbio itself is not particularly interesting. Again, the main reason is the rebuilding that went on after the earthquake. The surroundings, however, are very interesting. Febbio is famous for its ski lifts (although they are actually at Rescadore, a nearby location): some of the best in the entire region (and definitely the highest, as the chairlift goes to the top of Mount Cusna 2064 metres above sea level). The area is also popular in summer (the chairlift runs at weekends in July and daily throughout August). There is a modern campsitethat also has bungalows, a riding school that organises horseback rides through the woods, restaurants and (a few) hotels, a hostel, a tourist information centre in the Park, and a shop offering ski hire in winter and bicycle hire throughout the summer. The Piero Zambonini weather and astronomical observatory is also an interesting and unusual venue that has organised stargazing programmes for visitors for the last 10 years with A.R.A. experts from the Associazione Reggiana d'Astronomia based at Castelnovo di Sotto (for more details call Alessio Perini Mobile- +39 333 - 2904885). The excellent visibility of the sky in this part of the Apennines, its high altitude and its location within a protected area, guarantee optimum conditions for star gazing with no light pollution The observatory is a motorised dome housing a 32 cm catadioptric telescope. Make sure you leave time for a visit to the three mountain refuges in the area; they can all be reached by car, but some of the approach roads are dirt tracks and require careful driving. They are the new refuge at Monteorsaro, the Pescheria Zamboni, a curious, circular man-made lake built before the last war where you can fish for farmed trout (and eat them then and there), and the Pianvallese refuge, again with a fishing lake stocked with trout. You reach Pianvallese by carrying on past Rescadore, on the road running alongside the chairlift and then going into the beech woods. The others are sited on side roads. There are road signs with directions but you may find you have to stop and ask for the way. Roncopianigi, Riparotonda, Governara and Asta are other villages in the valley, surrounding Febbio. They are all interesting in their own right and visitors with a sense of curiosity will enjoy a sort of treasure hunt if they park their car and go exploring on foot. There are little gems waiting to be discovered, such as a sandstone portal, an old medieval window with decorative stonework, a carved figure or an apotropaic head with its long-lost symbolism. Guidebooks and magazines, some published quite recently, are available at tourist information centres or larger newspaper shops and stands, to help visitors explore and discover these architectural gems, which may be lacking in prestige but are attractive just the same.
The journey back to Villa takes the SP9, with the spectacular backdrop of Mount Torricella: a veritable natural encyclopaedia of the stratigraphy in the Apennines, showing how the mountains formed on the seabed as a result of the gradual accumulation of layers of sediment, and then were lifted by the drift that resulted in the mountains forming. Technically speaking, the mountain is a display of calcareous-marly flysch. Few other rock faces are quite as imposing and spectacular.