Within a stone’s throw from Castelnovo Monti, the hearth of our mountains, this incredible limestone rock (1047 mt) stands out against the rounded hills nearby. Pietra di Bismantova was mentioned by Dante in his Divina Commedia, Purgatorio, IV canto. This area was inhabited in ancient times, as testified by archaeological findings in Campo Pianelli, displaied in the Civic Museums in Reggio Emilia. Under the south-east face there is a Benedictine hermitage built before the 14th century around a preexistent chapel.
Here starts an easy path that leads to the top in around 30 minutes. From there one can enjoy a wonderful 360° view of the entire Apennine. A very well marked path goes around the Pietra, while the overhanging faces host one of the best practice wall for rock-climbing of northern Italy. One can admire the free climbers engaged in difficult ascents to the top along the overhanging smooth faces. To descend, one can chose the north-west side, cut by the unique ancient road that in two switchbacks leads to the foot of the rock. In this stretch the path is placed on the Spallanzani Path, the long trekking in many stages which links Ventoso di Scandiano and San Pellegrino in Alpe, in Garfagnana.
When the pilgrim came up along the “fiera sponda” of “selvoso Appenin”, quoting the poet Ludovico Ariosto, overlooking the high passes of Pradarena or Ospedalaccio, he could see the unmistakable profile of Bismantova. For many centuries this rock has been used by prelates, soldiers, sheperds, merchants and kings as a natural landmark to find the right direction in the middle of the difficult Apennine paths. The main old paths in this region were the Verabolense in the Secchia river valley and the Matildica da Canossa, both converging towards Bismantova. Today the easy excursion paths allows the exploration of an interesting naturalistic area and its beautiful landscape to the Secchia river where there is a “Nature path” dedicated to the Triassic Gypsums.