This leg leads definitively out of the city, to dive into a very sparsely inhabited reality, the Val di Zena, where beautiful views abound, strongly related to the ancient presence of the sea in these areas. From the church of Rastignano, the path goes up towards Monte Calvo, passing alongside the ancient Furnace and the Cemetery. On the top of the hill, in the presence of the altar dedicated to Mater Pacis, there is an outstanding 360 ° panorama, where it is possible to have a view of the path that will be followed, the Contrafforte Pliocenico Natural Reserve and many Second World War clashes areas. From there, following in the footsteps of Fantini, a fundamental character in the history of the Bolognese Apennines, the trail heads towards the valley. Before the end of the stage, there is the suggestive abandoned village of Gorgognano and, near there, a view of the site where a Pliocene whale was found: a place today celebrated by a sculpture that depicts it.
NOT TO BE MISSED
Whale of the Val di Zena
In Val di Zena there is a monument, the work of the students of the Belle Arti Academy of Bologna: a sculpture of an ancient 9-meter whale, whose remains were found in those places by a farmer. Specimen of Balaenoptera Aucutorostrata, dating back to the Pliocene, between 2 and 5 million years ago.
The Via del Fantini
An idea of the Val di Zena Museum Park Association gave origin to the ‘Via del Fantini’ path, a cultural trail on the foothills of Bologna (about 50 km), starting from San Lazzaro di Savena to arrive to San Benedetto del Querceto (Monterenzio), crossing the whole Zena Valley, joining places of significant importance in the life of Luigi Fantini (1895-1978). Wonderful sites, both from landscaped and geological point of view, but also for archaeology, history and environment.
Fantini was a truly extraordinary character, a self-taught scholar, curious, tireless, a great lover of speleology, archaeology, geology, an excellent photographer and writer as well, he dedicated most of his life to explore the Bolognese Apennine territory, searching for geological "treasures". He liked to joke, calling himself the ’Ricercaro Appenninico’ (neologism for ‘Apennine Researcher’), while local people used to call him 'al mat di sas' (dialect for 'the madman of the stones').
In 1932, together with some friends, he founded the Bolognese Speleological Group, and with them he discovered and explored the Grotta della Spipola (Spipola Cave), which will prove to be one of the major European cavities in the gypsum, today one of the main attractions of the Parco dei Gessi Bolognesi e dei Calanchi dell'Abbadessa. With his studies and his research, he reconstructed the history and prehistory of the area. Zena Valley was his favourite place, and he was able to protect it from speculation linked to the quarries’ exploitation.
The Via del Fantini project aims to give the right emphasis to his history and to the places that were the scene of his activities, from the Parco dei Gessi and its caves, to his birthplace, to the enchanting landscapes of the Val di Zena and more. The Via Mater Dei runs along a stretch of this path, but it is really worth returning to these areas and walk it in its entirety.
For more information:
via di Riosto (Pianoro)
Enchanting hills embroidered with rows of vines and evocative gullies. Since the time of the Papal States the history of Riosto has been linked to a surprising wine production. The passionate Luigi Fantini also investigated the fruits of Bacchus and in 1961 discovered a centenary vine variety, later called "La Vite del Fantini". This variety is grown today in these areas for winemaking. Among the orderly cypresses and oak woods the remains of a church appear: an altar and the entrance portal hidden by nature.
Altare Mater Pacis
“… A prayer for the dead of all wars”. This is written on the commemorative plaque on the Mater Pacis Altar, on top of the hill of Monte Calvo di Rastignano.
Here the 360-degree panorama embraces the Po Valley to the north with the Alps and the Adriatic Sea in the background, and the entire Tuscan-Emilian Apennine arc to the south, between the Shrine of the Beata Vergine di San Luca to the west and the Shrine of the Madonna del Monte delle Formtiche to the east. The view dominates the Savena Valley and the Contrafforte Pliocenico, right where the Second World War ‘Winter Line’ was. A part of the more famous Gothic Line, place of fierce fighting and bombing for the entire winter between 1944 and 1945: there were so many, that Pianoro earned the nickname of ‘Montecassino del Nord’ while the 98% of the buildings was completely destroyed.
An altar was placed in this extraordinary place, a stone brought from the nearby quarries of the Parco dei Gessi, to commemorate the dead of all wars, to entrust ourselves to Virgin Mary protection, She, the Mother of Him who "is our Peace" (Eph 2:14). This place was consecrated by Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, on June 29 2020: it is the culminating point of the second leg of the Via Mater Dei and inspires the walker and pilgrim to reflect and pray, so that the heart of man, free from war barbarism, can harmonize with the beauty of nature and learn to gaze at the Sky first, and then look to the brother, with that maternal love which is always a source of life and never of hate and destruction.
Il Museo di Arti e Mestieri Pietro Lazzarini
The Museum studies and collects material evidence of the past peasant and artisan civilization of the Savena, Idice and Setta valleys. Housed inside the ancient Gualando barn (late nineteenth century), it hosts the collection of the Pianorese Pietro Lazzarini (more than 1800 pieces), supplemented by other donations.
The exhibition, organized in historical reconstruction of the environments, proposes an interpretation of the objects, aimed at transmitting traditions, ways of life and language of the Pianorese community, the dialect.
This is a not particularly difficult leg, but quite wild, with many sun exposed parts and little water available along the route, so it is essential to begin the walk well equipped to be protected from the sun and the heat. A short diversion from Brinello leads to Botteghino di Zocca, where it is possible to take refreshment.
In Val di Zena area, there is quite a big hunting reserve, so it is advisable to pay attention during the hunting season, from the end of September to the end of January. The CAI paths 815 and 815A can be alternatively followed in case of need. Also beware of grazing animals that may be accompanied by shepherd dogs.