In the green valley of the Dolo river: close to the Frignano area


42030 Villa Minozzo


Piazza della Pace, 1, 42030 Villa Minozzo (RE)
0522 801122, 0522 801359


Periods of Activity:

Tutto l' anno

The conduct:

In auto o bici


The Dolo is one of the most important "lesser" rivers (if we keep the title of "major" for the river Enza and the river Secchia) for its environment and beautiful scenery, for the wide stretches of the river (in its upper reaches) and for the fact that it lies on the boundary between the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena, from Civago up to the confluence with the Secchia at Cerredolo, quite a long stretch of water. The Dolo valley once acted as a crossroads for travellers, especially for the people living in the immediate surroundings who needed to go across into Tuscany for trading purposes. The many castles, strongholds and towers standing guard over the road are a sign of this latter's importance throughout the Middle Ages. Nowadays, only ruins or mere piles of rubble remain. The valley stretched up to the Forbici Pass, no longer used by normal road traffic but once a popular route taken by pilgrims, who could get a bed for the night at the hospices on both sides of the pass. The new road gradually took over, setting out from Modena's side of the valley and working its way up to San Pellegrino in Alpe, so the Forbici Pass soon became nothing more than a local track used by shepherds.

Tourist Area:

Nella verde valle del Dolo:ai confini col Frignano

Details of tour:

Detailed itinery: Length of the route: 91km Once you arrive at Villaminozzo, the road drops shortly after passing through the town and goes down towards Costabona after crossing the Secchiello Brook. Like many villages that originated in the Middle Ages, Costabona stands on the watershed separating the Secchiello and Dolo valleys, immersed in a lovely area of chestnut woods - the traditional source of food for the people in the mountains. The very layout of the village, in a straight line with the houses staggered up the hillside, is a sign of a very old village. Accordingly, there are many signs of an interesting past. The oldest buildings are from the Late Middle Ages and are clustered together below the parish church.
Costabona is one of the birthplaces of Maggio drama Plays. One of the few remaining troupes of Maggio actors is still based here, encouraged by the enthusiasm of Romolo Fioroni, who still continues to write new plays today and works to preserve the history of this fantastic and mysterious tradition that originated in medieval Tuscany and was imported across the Apennines to the mountains of Reggio (and the Frignano area, in the district of Modena) by transhumant shepherds. The Maggio are plays stripped of fancy scenery and props (so a signpost is used to stand for a town, a piece of blue fabric denotes a lake and a chair can be a mountain); the actors (local people - clerks and farmers!) wear embroidered clothes and helmets with feathers, jumping and dancing with ritual movements to repetitive music, in an almost hypnotic performance. Costabona has an open-air "theatre" at the old charcoal furnace and performances are held in summer; they start in the late afternoon and always last for some time (a volunteer wanders through the actors with the dual task of prompting forgotten lines and to refresh their vocal chords with a flask of wine). This is genuine folklore and should not be lost to modern times. Tourist information centres, Park Visitor Centres and Villaminozzo Town Hall offer details of scheduled performances.
The main road continues down towards the Dolo, past the village of Quara, still in the Toano area, an old spa town although there is no spa anymore. Anyone interested in visiting the smaller villages in the Apennines and the "less important" historical sites should turn off at Quara to have a look at the 17th century church (with an altar by Ceccati) and the nearby 16th century Palazzo dei Conti Sassi.
The next village is called Gova whose layout is similar to Costabona, with the houses staggered up the hillside. It is a very old village, once under the protection of a castle, ruins of which can still be seen. The castle was part of a set of defences standing guard over the Dolo, designed so that warning signals could be sent from tower to tower if enemy troops were seen approaching. More traces of the distant past can be seen at the foot of the church: segments in sandstone from an earlier Romanesque building. The village was originally home to a farming community, as you can see in the many barns and sheds built between the houses. Vineyards flourished here in the 19th century but they have completely disappeared nowadays.
Turn left shortly after you leave Gova, onto the narrow road (but passable) that goes to Gazzano through the villages of Morsiano and Costalta, both with some interesting, traditional buildings (including some rare houses with a "balchio"- a small porch: the covered stairs and walkway that was once common in the Apennines), several Maestà (especially at Morsiano) and 16th century decorated sandstone portals. The scenery over the Dolo valley in this part of the itinerary is absolutely gorgeous.
Gazzano looks across a reservoir and is also worth visiting, as the village is full of interesting signs of its history. Even if the individual buildings are not particularly interesting, the overall picture is very pretty. There is a college for professional chefs at Gazzano (a good sign if you are hungry and looking for a restaurant!) and there is a collection of Christmas Cribs at the church.
Last leg: Civago, often called "the Pearl of the Apennines". Civago is one of the most popular local tourist spots and has a good choice of hotels, restaurants and services for visitors who come here to enjoy the fresh climate in summer or for winter sports in winter. After visiting the town centre, especially the old stone mill at the southern perimeter of the town, you can drive up the last section of road taking you up the mountainside past Civago, but you will eventually find the road is closed to traffic. You park just past the barrier, when the road is already a gravel track, and walk down to the brook to have a look at the boulders and deep pools. It looks like a true paradise for anglers. But as to catching a trout: well, that's quite another story. You have to be good, and you have to be there at the right time of day. Just ahead of this, on the right and closer to the mountain, the road sets out taking you to the barrier where you have to park your car and continue on foot; at first the road is surfaced but it soon turns into a dirt road. Ahead, there are the  Segherie and Battistimountain refuge. If you like walking, the scenery here is simply spectacular and passes through the Abetina Reale.
You can take a different route back down on the main SP9 (then the 95), past Cervarolo and Novellano. The two towns you pass are both interesting and the scenery is lush and lovely; you will also go past the Amorotto Tower Cervarolo is known for a harsh reprisal carried out here by the Germans on March 20th, 1944 (claiming 24 innocent victims, including the parish priest). The town has always been a gateway to the Val d'Asta, and has some of the oldest architectural remains in the Apennines, including a portal from the 15th century.
A last note about the Amorotto Tower. Standing on top of the tunnel that made it possible to build a road to Civago after the second world war (before, mules had to be used as the means of transport!), the tower is all that remains of a small fortress that was home to Domenico Beretti, the legendary 16th century mountain bandit, whose nickname was "Amorotto". You then drive back to Villaminozzo.

Last update: April 11, 2022