Hiking near Bologna: A country stroll on CAI 801 in Parco dei Gessi Bolognesi

cait 801 sign

It seems like only yesterday that it was October and I was heading back to the States wistfully saying goodbye to Bologna, knowing that hiking season would be over by the time I returned.  Now, March is here teasing us with some Spring-like, blue sky days (interspersed by frigid, rainy days albeit); and Bologna’s trekking program Trekking col Treno kicked off their 2013 hiking season last weekend.  Could it be?!  Is it time to hike again?

We set out on Saturday to find out.  We headed to Parco dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell’Abbadessa where the farm, Dulcamara, where I WWOOFed last summer is located.  We walked a portion of the CAI 801 trail from the Dulcamara parking lot to the town Castel de Britti, and then looped back to Dulcamara.  The hike is a pretty stroll through the countryside (not mountain trekking if that’s what you’re looking for); and it offers views of the park’s famous gullies, the Calanchi dell’Abbadessa.  Dulcamara is a destination in itself: it’s a teaching farm, agriturismo, and vegetarian restaurant rolled into one, where you can greet horses, pigs, donkeys, goats and catch a view of the stellar surrounding countryside.

In hindsight, it seems we may have jumped the gun on the hiking season.  We managed to complete the hike, which had several parts still under snow; but ended up with mud almost everywhere imaginable: on our butts, our arms, our phones, and our camera.  (Luke justly pointed out, “Not on my face.” Yes, luckily we did not end up with mud on our faces).  At times, it felt like we were on one of those cruel game shows like “Wipe Out”, like we were racing on a track covered in slippery mud.  For an experienced hiker, someone who owns good hiking boots, hiking poles, and knows what gaiters are, the hike is certainly doable at this time of year.  But if you’re a fair-weather hiker, best to wait until it’s officially Spring.  I know the trail gets better, much better; I used to jog along part of this trail during our afternoon breaks while I was WWOOFing last June.  It’s lovely.

This was our view from the hike this last weekend.


Here is the same shot taken last June.

CAI 801 June


Distance: About 10km or 6miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Level: Easy
Distance from BO: 30 mins by car

Directions: Park at Dulcamara at Tolara Via di Sopra 78.  Turn right out of the parking lot and then right onto Via Piombarola to follow CAI 801.  Alternatively, you can first visit the scenic viewpoint at Dulcamara by walking to the top of the hill found next to the horse pens.  Enjoy the view and then continue onward (not turning back the way you came), descending down the hill to the left, walking past the fruit trees.  Eventually you will reach a road, which is Via Piombarola.  Turn right onto the road and continue to follow CAI 801.  Follow the trail marked with red/white CAI makers until you reach the town Castel de Britti.  Then turn around and return to Dulcamara the same way you came.  We deviated from the trail a little; instead of walking all the way to Castel de Britti, we turned right up the hill when we reached via Castel de Britti to check out the church San Biagio (pic).  We continued up the hill from the church and turned right on Via Piombarola, which eventually brought us back to the trail.

Tip: Bring a bagged lunch and eat at Dulcamara’s scenic viewpoint, found by walking to the top of the hill next to the horse pens.  Or time your hike so you can dine at Dulcamara’s vegetarian restaurant (open Fri/Sat for dinner, Sat/Sun for lunch, reservations recommended).

No car? You can take the bus from Bologna to and from Castel de Britti and do our hike in reverse. Or do something like this itinerary from Trekking col Treno, where they take the bus to Maggio (Ozzano), hike 13km to Castel de Britti (S. Lazzardo di Savena), and then return to Bologna by bus from there. Plan a trip on the bus here.

Buon trekking!


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