Via Mater Dei connects Bologna to the most important Marian shrines of the Bolognese Apennines. The Cammino is about 140 km in length and can be travelled in six stages, as suggested by this hiker map and short guidebook. But only you can decide how to plan your journey. There is both private and parish accommodation near all the paths for all the stages, offering hospitality. To get help to organize your trip, you can call the Cooperativa di Comunità Foiatonda (+39 389.6409004), which will contact the various parish organizations for you.
The official Cammino ends with a visit to the sanctuary of Madonna di Ripoli, near the railway station of San Benedetto Val di Sambro, on the direct Bologna–Florence line, which offers a daily connection with the two cities.
The route is mostly along CAI – Italian Alpine Club – paths, with their white-red markers, and also with specific markers bearing the Via Mater Dei logo. The path winds its way along mid-slope mountain ridges but do not underestimate overall distances and height differences. Unless you have experience, orientation skills and preparation, you should rely on expert guides.
At the moment not all the sanctuaries are able to greet pilgrims every day of the week, but they are planning to open for a few hours every day.
For organized groups, Foiatonda can provide a baggage service and help you plan your journey.
APPAREL AND EQUIPMENT
A 35/40-litre backpack depending on the season; shoes, trousers and trekking poles; microfibre socks; 2 or 3 microfibre t-shirts and one cotton for nighttime; a sweatshirt; a breathable windproof and water-repellent jacket; clean underwear and toiletries. Gloves, gaiters and beanie hat in winter; sun cream, sunhat and extra water in summer.