A self-guided walking holiday in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, from Modena to the Tyrrhenian sea. Highlights include the beautiful city of Modena, a historic route with interesting towns en route, and marvellous scenery.
The Duke’s Road (also known as the Vandelli road) was built by the Duke of Modena, Francesco III d’Este, to ensure safe access to the sea through his territory. The mathematician Domenico Vandelli was asked to design a carriage route across the Apennines, which was completed in 1751. Unfortunately, as the route became overrun by bandits, and was difficult in winter, it was soon abandoned.
Today, it is a magnificent walking route taking you from the historic city centre of Modena, with its wonderful Romanesque Cathedral, via the ancient forest of the Fignola; the pilgrimage sanctuary of San Pellegrino in Alpe; the Garfagnana with its medieval villages and Romanesque parish churches; the Apuan Alps and their marble quarries; and the Tyrrhenian Sea at Marina di Massa. This holiday can be taken as a 7 or 9 night option.
Based on two people sharing:
7 nights: £710 per person. High season price £775 (17 July-22 August)
Single supplement: £115
9 nights: £850 per person. High season price £959 (17 July-22 August)
Single supplement: £135
Extra nights – please ask.
9 night version on Fridays from 30 April to 8 October.
7 night version on Sundays from 02 May to 10 October.
Departures on other days possible for a supplement and according to accommodation availability.
Arrival in Modena
Fascinating old centre and strong associations with Italian motor industry. Stay overnight.
Pavullo – La Santona
Transfer by public bus to Pavullo. Walk via Montecuccoli Castle, the fulcrum of the Frignano area’s ancient system of defences, first documented in 1027, and Monzone, with its 12th century castle. Arrival and overnight at La Santona.
Height differences: +770m -300m. Distance: 25 kms/15.6 miles. Approx. time: 6h 40
La Santona – S. Annapelago
Today walk to Sasso Tignoso, a rock formation formed 80 million years ago, when this region was covered with water. The magma, which escaped from the seabed and solidified immediately, acquired its distinctive “pillow” shape. Pass by the Giovannoni chapel, with its portico topped by a single arch, and enter the Frignano Regional Park. Arrival and overnight in S. Annapelago.
Height differences: +175m -280m. Distance: 18 kms/11.25 miles. Approx. time: 4h 10.
S. Annapelago – S. Pellegrino-in-Alpe
Walk with wonderful views of the valleys of the Appennines between Tuscany and Emilia. The ridge is characterized by accumulations of rocks and moraine deposits known as rock glaciers, caused by glacial erosion during the last Ice Age. The last part of the stage leads you to San Pellegrino in Alpe, a beautiful hamlet whose first mention dates back from 1110. The city states of Modena and Lucca fought for years for the possession of this hamlet, where the mummified bodies of San Pellegrino and San Bianco are preserved. Overnight in San Pellegrino in Alpe.
Height differences: +280m -250m. Distance: 14 kms/8 miles. Approx. time: 4h
S. Pellegrino in Alpe – Castelnuovo Garfagnana
The route drops down towards the valley of Castiglione. Pass the “metati” (traditional chestnut drying barns) to reach Castiglione Garfagnana, an important defensive stronghold for the Duchy of Lucca in Este territory and which stands within its XIV century walls. Pass an 18th century mill (the Mulino di Sotto), and the town of Pieve Fosciana, with its ancient Church dedicated to San Giovanni the Baptist and San Cassiano, to Castelnuovo Garfagnana, the capital of Garfagnana, in a hollow between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines and with a XIII century castle. The Renaissance writer Ludovico Ariosto lived here as Governor of the Garfagnana from 1522 to 1525.
Height differences: +0m -1300m. Distance: 14 kms/8.75 miles. Approx. time: 4h 45.
Castelnuovo Garfagnana – Vagli
Continue to the Mount Alfonso fortress, built by the Duke Alfonso II of the Este family in the second half of the XVI century and then on to Vagli with its interesting church. Overnight in Vagli.
Height differences: +690m -310m. Distance: 16 kms/10 miles. Approx. time: 5h 40.
Vagli – Apuan Alps – Resceto, transfer to Marina di Massa
Enter the Apuan Alps regional reserve, close to the old shepherds’ village of Campocatino. The area is famous for its marble quarries – whenever the sculptor Michelangelo received a new commission, he came here to choose the perfect block of marble for his work. Reach the town of Resceto, which exists purely because of the Via Vandelli. Transfer to Marina di Massa and the Tyrrhenian Sea for overnight.
Height differences: +1030m -1140m. Distance: 13 kms/8 miles. Approx. time: 5h 40.
Breakfast and departure
The nine night version would insert the following extra days:
Modena – Serramazzoni – Pavullo
Transfer by public bus from Modena to Serramazzoni, a well-preserved old castle and hamlet standing on a panoramic outcrop. Continue toPavullo, and its Ducal Park, created by Duke Francesco IV d’Este in 1830, with its impressive old trees, including the “pinone” [“greatpine”]. Overnight in Pavullo.
Height differences: +50m -170m. Distance: 18 kms/11.25 miles. Approx. time: 4h 50.
S. Annapelago – Lago Santo
Upon leaving Annapelago you reach Lago Santo (Sacred Lake), and Lago Baccio, nestling in a ridge, and surrounded by a glacial basin. Overnight at the refuge at Lago Santo.
Height differences: +530m -80m. Distance: 9 kms/5.6 miles. Approx. time: 3h 20.
The 8 night version skips Day 2 (Serramazzoni – Pavullo)