The Senio Valley
Just past Faenza, an old street which begins from the bottom of the valley of the Senio River crosses over the via Emilia; today this road is the SS 306 Casolana Riolese. At the crossroads, the town of Castel Bolognese marks the farthest point reached in Romagna by the inhabitants of the city of Bologna in the early part of the second millennium.
Despite the destruction by bombardments during World War II, the urban structure of the town has an interesting feature: six square blocks that correspond to the old medieval centre designed in 1389 by the Bologna architect Lorenzo di Bagno Marino. On the Canal of Mills there were once 14th an 15th century mills all along it, of which the Mulino Scodellino is still standing and has its original fittings and equipment; it is located about one kilometer from the train station.
Leaving Castel Bolognese, one arrived in Riolo Terme by taking the route which ran along the Senio Valley, which even today goes through the Apennines and reaches Tuscany.
The fame of this town is mostly due to its natural hot springs: for their therapeutic properties, they have been frequented since the Roman era and the Middle Ages, and they became very crowded from the Napoleonic era on, but Riolo Terme and the areas that surround it have ancient historic roots (Neolithic).
The fall of the Roman Empire and the following economic crisis caused the valley to become very poor and depopulate. Signs of recovery occurred only beginning in the 9th century, thanks to the activity of Benedictine monks. The construction of the important Benedictine Abbey San Pietro in Sala dates back to that time, and its remains are now incorporated into a farm house in the town of Laderchio.
As with most of the medieval settlements in the hills, also the town of Riolo was built up on a plateau around a fort. Enlarged in 1388 by Mastino della Colla who was commissioned by the Municipality of Bologna, it was once again expanded about a century later by Caterina Sforza.
An interesting feature of the natural landscape in this area is the Vena del Gesso, a long rocky ridge of gypsum, which includes the King Tiberus grotto – which in antiquity was believed to be a sacred place – and the gorges of Rio Basino.
Continuing along the Senio Valley, there is the colorful landscape scented with the smell of lavender and medicinal plants all the way up to Casola Valsenio.
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