As you leave the city of Reggio Emilia, you’ll head south, towards the gentle slopes of the Reggio hills to reach the heart of the Via Matildica at the Canossa crag, a symbol of the Italian Middle Ages.
This leg is not to be underestimated, as it contains the first real slopes of the Via Matildica. It is a leg that, particularly in the second part, is fully exposed to the sun. Keep this in mind during summer, and plan your departure times and stops well.
The reference point for taking the Via Matildica coming from the city centre or the old station (not the high-speed one) is the San Pellegrino Bridge, which can be reached by passing through Porta Castello and continuing along Viale Umberto I. From here, on the left side, you’ll be able to the first signs of the Via Matildica.
Once you’ve passed over the bridge, on the left you’ll see the start of the route, with signs also indicating the distance to San Pellegrino in Alpe. This is an easy cycle/pedestrian path that runs along the Crostolo stream and will take you to Villa d’Este, also known as the Vasca di Corbelli. You can visit the grounds by taking a short detour from the trail.
Once you’re back on the track, on the embankment of the dam on the stream, you’ll come to a steep but brief downhill slope, which leads to the path that runs alongside the watercourse, first through the middle of a reforested area, then among cultivated fields as far as the Puianello bridge, where the path turns back into a cycle/pedestrian path to Vezzano.
Once on the outskirts of Vezzano sul Crostolo, you can pass under the bridge that crosses the Campola stream, and head back up onto State Road 63 (Statale 63) to cross a wooden bridge that leads to a pedestrian crossing (take caution). Continue along as far as the centre of Vezzano where you can re-join the cycle/pedestrian path to reach the Vezzano EcoPark.
When you get to the EcoPark, cross the state road (Statale 63) again (take care as there are some clayey stretches) and take the dirt road that climbs up alongside the park and leads to the summit of Monte Grafagnana, in the direction of Pecorile.
From Monte Grafagnana, walk back down the hill following the signs for Pecorile (watch out for some clayey stretches). Once you arrive in the old part of the town, you’ll reach the crossroads with the provincial road that leads up from Vezzano. Turn left, passing a fountain, the church and a bar-trattoria. Continuing on, you’ll come to a crossroads, where you should follow the signs for Canossa and Votigno.
This is a stretch of paved road that leads to another detour, towards Casola Canossa and the church you’ll see on your right. Once in Casola, continue up the paved road to the village of Casola di Mezzo.
Shortly after the houses, on the left, is the beginning of the path that leads to the crest of the hill, where you can follow the signs for the path to Canossa. It’s three kilometres of uphill and downhill stretches, some of them tiring, that will take you to the junction with provincial road 73 (Strada Provinciale 73 or SP73).
The castle of Canossa should be there on your left, 1 km away, which you can reach by walking along the side of the provincial road on a now flat stretch.
Rest areas (water and food): the first part of the trail from Reggio to Vezzano has numerous rest areas in the localities of Rivalta, Puianello and Vezzano.
Here, in the sports area just a stone’s throw from the route, you’ll also find public water distributor or casetta dell’acqua, equipped with taps supplying still, sparkling and refrigerated fresh water.
From Vezzano, the route ascends into less inhabited hilly terrain. A good place to stop is the small village of Pecorile.
Public transport access: the route runs parallel to State Road 63 (Statale 63), an important communication route towards the Reggio Emilia Apennines. Public transport stops can be found at Rivalta, Puianello, Vezzano and Pecorile (here services are less frequent).
Pharmacies: there are pharmacies in Rivalta, Puianello and Vezzano.
There are some B&Bs near the finish of the leg, at the Castello di Canossa:
- Villa Marconi
- La Casa di Paglia
- Il Tempo Ritrovato
- Le Pietre di Canossa
- Casa del Tibet
- Casa della Musica
Shortly after Pecorile is the Agriturismo Ca’ del Ciuco.
While a solution for larger groups can be represented by the Castello di Rossena hostel a few kilometers away.
What to visit
- Canossa Castle
- Church of Casola Canossa
- Borgo of Votigno
- Rossena Castle
Along the way:
- Reggia di Rivalta
- Vezzano Ecopark