The road running parallel to the busy SS 63 offers a chance to discover some interesting places off the beaten track: the volcanic salses at Regnano
, the little towns around Carpineti and its famous castle
built at the time of Countess Matilda of Canossa, the mountain villages with their backdrop of spectacular scenery culminating at the Pradarena Pass and the Apuan Alps. The Byzantines made their mark on Carpineti, leaving behind some classic mutton dishes that you will only find here in Italy.
Leave the motorway at the Reggio Emilia exit with its three beautiful bridges designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava, and follow directions for the Cerreto Pass (brown signs). At the roundabout, continue looking out for signs to Passo del Cerreto, then turn right onto the ring road, towards Montecchio – Parma. Keep in the same direction, until you arrive at the next roundabout and then take the right turning for Montecchio-Parma. 1 Km after the roundabout you will turn off towards the Cerreto pass (brown signpost). Continue following the same signpost at the next roundabouts until you arrive at the large roundabout with a water tower in the middle. Take the turnoff indicating the Cerreto Pass
. Continue looking out for directions to the Cerreto Pass – SS63; if you are in any doubt as to the direction to take, you can also follow the signs for Castelnovo Monti – La Spezia. The SS63 passes through Rivalta
; 100 metres after the roundabout, turn left towards Albinea
and then right at the first junction. When you reach Albinea
, drive straight up to the roundabout and go straight across towards Regnano; you will find yourself opposite a square. Go around the square, with the modern clock tower (made of red metal pipes) in front of you, and continue straight on, up a narrow road with a very nice view of the hills. After about 5 km, you will see an impressive house on the right, surrounded by grounds complete with statues and a lovely gazebo. At Regnano, take the road to Casina. If you want to stretch your legs, you can park at the Restaurant "Locanda Il Vulcanetto del Querciola"
on the right hand side of the road and take a stroll down the path (marked with metal arrows) starting out opposite the restaurant, between a semi-abandoned house and several new buildings. In a few minutes, you will find yourself at a sort of "muddy volcano".
The drive continues en route for Casina. About 2 km after the "salse" there is a fresh water drinking fountain on the right with a picnic area. Go past San Giovanni Q.la (Querciola) and La Strada. The route now becomes a little tricky and you will have to be careful not to miss any turnoffs. Signposts are few and far between and tend to be a little worse for wear, but don’t be put off, this has always been the sign of an interesting route for motorcyclists! Turn left after La Strada
, following the signs for Giandeto
and the brown signs for the medieval village of Croveglia
disregarding any signs you see pointing to Casina. Turn right about 1 km after the turnoff to Giandeto, up towards Canicchia – Pantano.
But be careful! The sign for the turnoff is straight after the bend! Just over 1 kilometre later, immediately after the white Canicchia sign, you will arrive at a fork in the road where you should take the road up towards Pantano (the signs are old and may be a little worse for wear). Continue straight on to Casa Poldo
and then Ansagna
(Be careful! About 1 km past Casa Poldo, the road sign for Ansagna is off-centre: Don’t continue straight on as this takes you to a no-through road; instead, take the right fork). Shortly afterwards (after about 1 km), you will reach a little crossroads: continue straight on down the road, past two houses, and then turn left, basically immediately after the sign indicating the end of Pantano village (about 100 metres after it). Once you have passed throughGiavello
and then Cigarello
(where there is an excellent cheese dairy selling its Parmiggiano Reggiano directly to the public), a tiny village built of local stone and several tower houses, you start to take directions to Carpineti.
At Carpineti, go through the town (follow the “centro” signs) until you reach a junction. Go straight across, up the hill, and follow the brown road signs for Castello delle Carpinete
Follow the brown road signs, pointing left at the junction. If you take the road towards the castle, you will find the car park on your right where you can park and go up to the castle on foot. After visiting the castle, continue in the same direction until you reach a bend going down the hill after about 1 km: but instead of taking this bend, turn right following the signs for Pontone
(the road to the left goes towards Colombaia). Immediately after the turnoff, you will see the little church dedicated to Saint Peter
on the left (blue road sign). Just over 1 kilometre later, turn left and take the road down the hill, following the signs for Velucciana
, on a narrow road running alongside a series of spectacular ravines on its way down to the river Secchia. Cross the river and turn right after the bridge at the Stop sign, towards Castelnovo Monti. Be careful here because you only need to go about 100 metres before turning left following the signs for Cavola
(without carrying on towards Castelnovo Monti). Go through Cavola and turn right after the square, near a children’s playground with the church of San Michele Arcangelo
opposite you (the bottom part of the stone wall and the pillar supporting the baptismal font feature some elegantly carved foliage by Antonio Ceccati; Ceccati was also the author of the portal, the round window in the church and the three-light window in the vestry), following the signs for Cerrè Marabino
. You ride past the cemetery as you leave Cavola. Turn left at the crossroads at Cerrè Marabino towards Toano
and be careful because you will be turning right 100 metres down the road, towards Vogno
(near the cemetery), along a lovely tree-lined country lane. Continue towards Vogno (be careful because the signposts are not always easy to spot); the road is a lovely ride, through “uncultivated” countryside, sometimes under canopies of trees where the only other traffic is the occasional deer or a tractor! Just after the white signpost informing you of your arrival at Vogno, you come to a junction with little Saint Peter’s
church on your right (with a lovely altarpiece by F.D. Ceccati, first mentioned in an inventory compiled by the churchwarden on December 1st, 1690. The simple style of the building is embellished with decorative features, gargoyles, cupids and swags of fruit, carved by "maestro" Ceccati). Turn left here and turn immediately again down to the right at the little junction (don’t take the road on the left leading up the hill towards Quara!). Go past Sassatello and through the woods; turn left when you reach the crossroads without any signpost, and take the road going up the hill. Turn right after about 3 km, following directions for Secchio
(be careful because the signpost is not easy to spot, as it is just after the bend!). When you reach Secchio, go through the village, actually more a group of houses with a little church and hens pecking away on the ground. There is a freshwater fountain on the left, after the last house. Once you have gone through the village you see the road flanks some sheer, rocky hillsides and you get a glimpse of the different layers of rock on the ridge of Mount Torricella nearby. The scenery is gorgeous but if you decide to stop for a better look, watch where you park and keep your helmet on! In some areas, falling rocks are a common occurrence (cast your eye at the dents on the crash barrier!). Be wary on the road for the same reason. When you meet up with the main road (you will see the white signpost indicating "Governara
" opposite you), turn left at the junction and follow the signs for Civago
. The road is the SP9. At the fork, 2 km down the road, with a café and petrol station on the left. Turn right at this junction towards Monteorsaro
. This is the SP99. Continue following signposts first for Febbio and then Monteorsaro. About 500 metres after the white Monteorsaro roadsign (if you follow the signposts pointing to the mountain refuge, you will come to a nice mountain refuge
continue on this road. Note: at the time of writing, a 1-km stretch of this was very rough. Carry on (without turning off to the left to the Prati di Sara – Mountain refuge). You will go past Coriano
and then Santonio
. The panorama here is spectacular. At the first junction past Santonio, turn left for Monte Felecchio
and take the road up the hill (careful! Do not take the road to Vabucciana but go towards Monte Felecchio, indicated on a signpost). Go past Monte Felecchio and continue straight on. Turn left shortly afterwards, at the junction where you have to give way (towards the church you can see in the distance). Go through Minozzo
but you will not actually reach the church you could see earlier. You will now start to see the brown signposts indicating the way to the Pradarena Pass.
As you leave Minozzo, you may notice up on your right, the remains of the castle.
As you continue, the magnificent and mysterious Pietra di Bismantova
comes into view on the horizon. Go past Sologno
(where there is a nice hostel
) and take a right turn about 2 km further on, following the signs for Carù
and a panoramic detour around the mountain, which brings you back on the road leading straight up to the Pass. Continue following signs for Carù, and turn left after about one kilometre. You will pass the church of San Michele at Carù below you on your right. Go through Cerrè Sologno, on a narrow road passing through the houses, then turn right (about 4 km later) following the signs for Ligonchio and the brown signs for the Pradarena Pass
. You go through Ospitaletto
before you reach the pass, a small ski resort (there is a lovely bell tower built at the time of Countess Matilda on the left, next to Sant'Anna’s church and its holiday accommodation) on the SP18 and SP32. The route finishes with some hairpin bends. At the Pass, there is a nice hotel
- restaurant offering comfortable hotel rooms and more spartan dorms in true mountain hut style. The Pass is on the border with the province of Lucca (Tuscany).