Porretta Terme is the largest town in the Bolognese Apennines famous for its thermal waters that since Roman times have made it a small oasis of well-being. The trail will start from the center of the town and climb steep roads leading to the ridge dirt gravel roads to Tre Croci Pass. We will follow the forest road from the Silla Valley into the Upper Reno, where we will ride among the villages of the Randaragna stream. Almost completely unknown by the average tourist, its waters take us to the most remote and southern point in the last true valley of this area.
In this little town we have two important happenings: the widespread Porretta Soul Festival attracting world-renowned artists and the Porretta Terme Film Festival. It can be reached by train from Bologna or Pistoia thanks to the legendary Porrettana railway, which has carried commuters, travelers and vacationers up and down the Apennines since 1864.
Its history is linked to thermal waters as much as to art: from the marvelous examples of Italian Art Nouveau we will move to an almost totally different, more rural and wild territory, firmly tied to a past of ironworks, chestnut wood and cool waters.
The first stage is in the village of Castelluccio, dominated by the Manservisi Castle and the beautiful view of the main peaks of the area. The village is served by a bar, a grocery store and two restaurants where you can enjoy the tasty and rich local mountain cuisine.
For those who want, you can detour to Monte Piella from which there is a fabulous view of the whole panorama. We arrive at the Monte Cavallo mountain hut: an old hospice that became a partisan refuge during World War II.
Before we follow all the way into the Randaragna valley, you will appreciate the fun descent to Granaglione, all on a path lined with centuries-old chestnut woods. We will be on a secondary dirt road that will increasingly give way to a rather neglected asphalt road. We will pass through small villages that seem to pop up from the brief moments of respite that the forest grants the land.
The trail continues through the very small (dis) towns that rest on the slopes of the Orsigna mountains, on a now-gone asphalt that gladly gives way to a bottom of path and scree of forest roads. We will continue to ride immersed in the unique charm of the chestnut forest with their characteristic hollow shape.
The return is all on a paved valley floor road that will lead back to Porretta. As we get closer to the end of the ruote, the villages will tend to be busier and better served. We will skirt the railroad, crossing the last villages, including Biagioni with its very old humpback bridge that in a handful of meters divides Emilia from Tuscany.
The whole ride is certainly tough, but it is really worth spending a day in the saddle to immerse yourself in a rich and enchanting landscape. However, there are several possible cuts that shorten the ride considerably, using the secondary paved road from Granaglione back to Porretta, or from Casa Boni directly to the valley floor towards Biagioni.