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Sentiero dei Ducati

Discovering the “Sentiero dei Ducati”

(by Eduardo Lubrano). There is a route for those who want to take a holiday that is different from the usual, divided between three regions – Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Liguria – which starts in the plain, crosses the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and ends at the sea. It brings together all the best of Italy, of that Italy that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: nature, history, art, architecture, landscapes, gastronomy. All in 160 kilometres, at least for those who go on foot: the Sentiero dei Ducati.

This is because it can also be done by Mountain Bike or Gravel Bike, a type of bicycle without a suspension fork or shock absorber, which makes it “rigid” and therefore very efficient for long rides on gravel and dirt roads. It starts in the municipality of Quattro Castella in the province of Reggio Emilia and ends in Sarzana, an elegant fortified town in Lunigiana, Liguria.

It is called the Sentiero dei Ducati (Path of the Dukedoms) because the territories visited were those of the Estense dukes who ruled these areas from the 16th to the 19th century. The journey passes through Fosdinovo, which is in the province of Massa-Carrara in the Tuscan part of Lunigiana.

The Malaspina, an ancient noble family, were patrons of the arts and there is much to see in their former estates. In Fosdinovo, there is no doubt the Malaspina Theatre, the ancient Zecca Marchionale and the Malaspina Castle, just to give three references.  Also because in one of the rooms Dante Alighieri stayed, in the so-called Camera Gialla (Yellow Room) because of the drapes of that colour, and Gabriele D’Annunzio. The view from the castle, where today you can also sleep, is enchanting: from the Apuan Alps to the sea.

Among the most interesting areas you pass through is the Apuan Alps Regional Park in Tuscany, which includes Garfagnana. Here, among the many things to see and do, there is a visit to the Grotta del Vento, a natural handbook of rocks and minerals that offers – unique in Europe – three different routes in terms of length and duration.

Due to the particularity of the route, the best seasons to tackle it are autumn and spring, but given the climate changes that are also mitigating Italian winters, it is possible to try it until November and from the end of March.