Hight Valley of Secchia: toward Cerreto Pass


42037 Collagna


Piazza Primo Maggio, 3, Loc. Cervarezza, 42032 Ventasso (RE)
0522/891911, 0522 891520


Periods of Activity:

All year round.

The conduct:

By car or bike


The road up to the Cerreto Pass (which is still the only national trunk road in the province of Reggio together with the via Emilia) is the main thoroughfare across the Apennines. The main roads in the mountains generally run north to south, because they follow the line of the valleys and work their way up to the passes before crossing into Liguria and Tuscany. So things become quite complicated if your destination demands a route east to west, or vice versa. For example, even if it's just a short distance from Civago to Ramiseto as the crow flies, getting from one to the other is quite a challenge. The road to Cerreto was built with the intention of linking the plains with La Spezia and the Mediterranean. It was originally planned during the time of Napoleon but construction started in 1828 and was only completed in 1843. It originally took a slightly different route, especially in its initial section, but not so much to merit discussion. We just have to say that the same Cerreto road is still the main link between Reggio Emilia and Castelnovo Monti, the largest town and shopping centre in the mountains above Reggio.

Tourist Area:

L'alta valle del Secchia: verso il passo del Cerreto

Details of tour:

Detailed itineray: Castelnovo ne' Monti - Passo del Cerreto Km 32
Castelnovo is the starting point for our itinerary. It's difficult to stress the importance of the role of Castelnovo for all of the people who live and work in the mountains from a point of view of services, culture and local government. As far as tourism is concerned, there are several hotels at Castelnovo with plans to build more. The restaurants are good and the services and shops are of a high-level standard. There is also a renowned hospital in town for ease of mind of visitors, especially those over a certain age. The hospital's cardiology unit is specialised in assisting patients during the gradual recovery after a heart attack. There is a range of sports facilities, including a modern athletics track, although there is no proper public swimming pool. Most of all, tourists link the name of Castelnovo with the Pietra di Bismantova, an extraordinary sandstone monolith featuring a very popular practice ground for rock climbers but also attracts tourists who come simply to admire the spectacular scenery and surroundings.
After Castelnovo, the road to Cerreto veers south and climbs up through the woods and forests to a sort of "halfway" pass, known as Sparavalle. On the right, just before the Ramiseto junction, there are the remains of a redoubt built at the same time as the road (but you need to stop the car and have a look around if you want to see it). Cervarezzais a little further on, another popular town for tourists and one of the most popular in the mountains. The temporary offices of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park'sVisitor Centre are located here. It is worth stopping to have a look around the town and take advantage of the town's hospitality. The old town centre has several examples of 18th century houses with finely-carved sandstone portals and windows lining the narrow, repaved roads. For those interested in a local campsite, Cervarezza has a fully-equipped  campsite with a swimming pool set under a canopy of chestnut trees. There is also the Cerwood Adventure Park nearby, the largest acrobatic park in Italy.
There is yet another opportunity to visit a partially conserved historic town centre at Busana, the main town in the area. Leave the car in the car park next to the town hall and go for a stroll through the oldest part of the town, down to the east. If you stay in the car, you will not see much of the town at all. Many of the houses have been renovated, some unfortunately with debatable results. Nevertheless, the tight maze of narrow streets hides a variety of 18th and 19th century treasures including a characteristic Apennine house with a "balchio": a covered flight of stairs and walkway.
Nismozza is a few kilometres further on, set under a pretty canopy of chestnut trees. It is also a nice place to stop and stretch your legs if you want to have a look around the parish church where the oldest houses are to be found. On the right of the roadside, before you enter the village, there is the pretty Fontana dell'Amore - the Fountain of Love – if you are interested in taking advantage of its potentially beneficial properties. If you just want a drink of water, there are plenty of other drinking fountains nearby. The locals say that the best water is at the fountain at Collagna (it is close to the road but not directly in view, so ask for directions).
Collagna comes next after Acquabona (with its picturesque yellowish houses built in the local stone), and is the next leg in our itinerary. Known in ancient times under the less elegant name of Culagna (Tassoni wrote ironically about Count Brusantini of Culagna in his work "La Secchia Rapita"), its points of interest are similar to the towns and villages you already visited. After Collagna, the road leads off to Valbona and to Vallisnera: a detour that is well worth taking considering the history and lovely surroundings of the two towns. Their isolated location, high up in the mountains and off the main Cerreto road, has resulted in them becoming quite marginal. But they were important towns in ancient times; Vallisnera in particular still has signs pointing to the splendour of its past. Vallisnera was the powerhouse of the local Vallisnera family who lived in a castle here, sadly no longer standing, and its members were major figures in the events that took place in the mountains.
Back on the main road, the panorama becomes more and more spectacular as you approach Cerreto. The scenery is one of the reasons why many tourists from abroad, those with time to spare, opt for the Cerreto road instead of the motorway when crossing the Apennines.
Between Collagna and the pass, the only village you will encounter is Cerreto Alpi, and it is certainly worth taking the detour to visit it. "The winter there is extremely long and hard" wrote Filippo Re two hundred years ago. Now, many of the locals actually make a living out the snow and the winter weather thanks to the ski resort at Cerreto Laghi (which is further up and is reached along the road that starts out at the pass ). The few remaining residents at Cerreto Alpi are envied the cool weather in summer and the fabulous location in the Apennines. Have a look at the Park's Visitor Centre in the recently renovated watermill. Actually, the whole village is interesting, especially the first and oldest of the three clusters of buildings in the village. It is interesting to see how the buildings were designed to accommodate the harsh weather here. A stroll through the village is a pleasant experience, along the paved road past houses dating back to various eras (look out for the 17th century inn).
It only remains for you to drive up to the pass and turn left to Cerreto Laghi, the winter sports centre sitting on the shore of a glacial lake. A lot of building has gone on here but the fresh and natural aura of the mountains is still just a short walk away from the ski resort (where there are some good restaurants, hotels, shops and an Ice Rink) among the beech woods and mountain lakes.

Last update: April 11, 2022