The Vena del Gesso, a unique landscape for both its history and nature

The Vena del Gesso, a unique landscape for both its history and nature

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On the UNESCO World Heritage List: “Karst in the Evaporites and Caves of the Northern Apennines”

Extending from the Sillaro Valley to Brisighella in the Lamone Valley lies a natural area of extraordinary geological, biological, archaeological, historical, and cultural value. This serial site was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in September 2023 as “Karst in the Evaporites and Caves of the Northern Apennines”: the Vena del Gesso Romagnola, the longest and most imposing gypsum ridge in Italy. It develops for 25 km with a variable width of up to 1 km, abruptly cutting through the gentle silhouette of the hills giving a unique appearance to the landscape.

Its genesis can be traced back approximately six million years when climatic and geological causes transformed the Mediterranean basin into a vast salt pan. As the sea water progressively evaporated thick layers of chalk selenite were deposited during arid periods, alternating with thin layers of bituminous clays that were characteristic of more humid periods.

Whether you walk or cycle by mountain bike along the paths of varying length and difficulty that cross the park, at every turn you will catch sight of striking chalky outcrops and karst features above and below ground such as sinkholes, pits and caves.

Some of the over two hundred caves present can be explored in the company of expert speleological guides. These include the Cave of King Tiberius in Riolo Terme, which also has an interesting Visitor Centre on Karst and Speleology nearby, and the Tanaccia and Ca’ Toresina caves in Brisighella. When arriving from Brisighella, it is worth stopping at the Ca’ Carnè Mountain Hut and Visitor Centre as well as visiting the Open-air Geological Museum of Monticino and the peak of Mount Mauro, which at 515 m above sea level is the highest mountain in the Vena del Gesso. Its three summits are set into a wild system of crags and sinkholes covered by thick vegetation.

The “Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni” Herb Garden lies inside the Park in Casola Valsenio and has over 480 species of medicinal plants used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics since the late Middle Ages.

Photo credits

1. Olive trees and Mt. Mauro, Francesco Grazioli, arch. Ente Parchi e Biodiversità Romagna
2. Brisighella PDO extra virgin olive oil, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina
3. The “Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni” Herb Garden, Luca Casadei, arch. Strada del Sangiovese
4. Tourists at the Cave of King Tiberius, Luca Casadei, arch. Strada del Sangiovese
5. The Vena del Gesso Romagnola, Luca Casadei, arch. Strada del Sangiovese

Food – Brisighella PDO extra virgin olive oil

Appreciated also in haute cuisine, in 1996 “Brisighella” was the first Italian extra virgin oil to be awarded a Protected Designation of Origin. It is emerald-green with golden hues and has a fruity olive scent with notes of artichoke, freshly cut grass and tomato and an unmistakably aromatic flavour with light spicy and bitter notes.

It is obtained from olives of the Nostrana di Brisighella variety and harvested directly from the tree in the period between the beginning of veraison, when the fruit changes colour, and December 20th. The administrative production area includes the municipalities of Brisighella, Faenza, Riolo Terme, Casola Valsenio and Modigliana.

Olives have been cultivated in the Brisighella area since ancient Roman times. Today you can follow the Sentiero dell’Olio, or Oil Route, an outdoor itinerary that winds along the roads of the area through hills where olive trees mix with vines.

Wine – Pignoletto DOC

Pignoletto DOC is a wine as sparkling and versatile as the people of Emilia-Romagna. It is produced from the Grechetto Gentile grape, which with its thick skin and compact bunches adapts to multiple types of soil.

The territory for Pignoletto DOC includes the hills of Faenza, Imola, Bologna and Modena as well as extending from Faenza to the area between the Panaro and Reno rivers in the plain. The denomination area includes three sub-areas: Colli di Imola, Modena and Reno. Its light, fresh and often sparkling versions produced in the plains are very pleasant while the more robust versions typical of hilly areas are equally fascinating but more structured and with a persistent flavour. The fresh and aromatic profile, characterized by aromas of flowers and white fruits, and the exuberant mouth make it particularly suitable as an aperitif wine, but it is also excellent with fish dishes, white meats, and cheeses.

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