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Home Apennines and Nature Natural parks Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park

Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park

This park safeguards the largest gypsum ridge in Italy. From the Sillaro valley up to Brisighella, in the Lamone valley, the hills of Romagna are marked by a spectacular silvery grey gypsum ridge, easily recognizable at first glance, which abruptly interrupts the gentle rolling hills creating a unique landscape. This outcrop is 25 km long and on average about one and a half kilometres wide.


The best view of the sequence of magnificent rocky sides is looking down from the mountains; instead the northern side of the ridge is steep but mostly covered by vegetation.  Like the not so distant Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell'Abbadessa, this area is characterised by particular karst formations which include dolines, blind valleys and more than 200 caves, including many “abysses” (vertical hollows in the area of record breaking lengths) as well as the Tanaccia grotto, with a majestic entry cavern, which can be visited, and the Re Tiberio grotto which is very important in terms of archeology.

The name “Vena” (vein) assigned by the surveyors of the Istituto Geografico Militare is related to the mineral exploitation of the rocky mass from which gypsum has always been extracted. In many areas the signs of past extractions are visible, but even more impressing is the huge tear in Mount Tondo where a quarry is still active and modern technologies rapidly extend the front of the quarry to the detriment of the landscape, caves and delicate gypsum environments.


Vena del Gesso Romagnola



The mosaic of meadows, scrubs and woods that outline the vegetative landscape of the Vena hosts typical hillside plants as well as particular plants which grow here thanks to the influence of the warm currents from the Adriatic coast. The woods and maquis on sunny sides host juniper, broom, wild asparagus and manna ash as well as typical Mediterranean plants such as holm-oak, Italian buckthorn, lantana verbena and terebinth. The more structured woods are mainly made up of downy oak, Turkey oak and field maple, while the undergrowth is filled with the flowers of the white helleborine and other orchids as well as the hardy cyclamen in autumn. Of particular interest is the rare bladdernut. The northern sides and the bottom of the dolines are covered mainly by mesophyll woods, where downy oak grows alongside common and hop hornbeam, hazelnut and the wild service tree; at the end of winter the undergrowth comes to life with the beautiful flowers of the wood anemone, dogtooth violet, lungwort, larkspur and primrose, while the cooler areas are dotted with snowdrops. In some areas there are stretches of chestnut groves, while the more intense green areas are recent conifer reforestation areas.

The botanical symbol of the Vena del Gesso is a very rare, small fern, the Cheilanthes persica, which grows along the coasts of Anatolia, in Caucasus and very few other places very distant from each other; in 1980, when this plant was already considered extinct in Italy, a limited population was found on the sides of Mount Mauro. This species grows in the fissures of the gypsum cliffs together with the common rustyback fern, yellow germander and other herbaceous plants that grow in extremely arid conditions, such as helichrysum, fumana, stiff hedgenettle, white rock rose, white sage, thyme and various mosses and saxifrages.

The herb garden of Casola Valsenio and the Cardello park

This famous garden overlooking the Senio valley south of the Vena del Gesso has more than 400 medicinal and aromatic plants and is an important point of reference for research, experimentation and education. It is the most important medicinal herb garden in Europe. Near the garden there is the Parco del Cardello, which surrounds the Cardello building of medieval origin, once residence of the writer Alfredo Oriani. The large green area with beautiful imposing and lush trees stretches to the ridge which is underlined by rows of cypresses and umbrella pines. Around the park there are rustic hill lands of a marked Mediterranean type with olive groves, vineyards and broom.

Fauna: the animals of the caves and hills

The hypogeal habitat is of great importance as it hosts particular fauna mainly made up of invertebrates and bats, such as the mouse-eared bat, lesser mouse-eared bat, greater horseshoe bat, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat and long-fingered bat, which sometimes form colonies in the caves. Amphibians include the rare cave salamander which can be seen at the entrance of caves, while the rare yellow-bellied toad lives at the bottom of dolines and small valleys. The rest of the area is populated with animals that typically live on the hills, with a large presence of crested porcupines and garden dormice thanks to the thick maquis and many holes that can be used as burrows. Among the birds of this park, the eagle owl is of particular interest since it is not very common in Italy as it likes to nest on sheltered ledges on undisturbed rocky walls; it is also worth mentioning  the presence Peregrine falcons, the European nightjar and other typically Mediterranean birds such as the Subalpine warbler, the Sardinia warbler and the Dartford warbler.


Parco Regionale Vena del Gesso Romagnola

Park Headquarters
C/o Union of the Townships of Brisighella, Casola Valsenio and Riolo Terme

Via Saffi, 2
Locality Fognano 48013 Brisighella (RA)
Tel. +39 0546 81066

Casella P.E.C.:

Visitor Centres and Museums

Visitors Centre Rifugio Carné
Via Rontana, 42
48013 Brisighella (RA)
Tel. +39 0546 80628
This place is a popular destination for hikers and schools for its underground and surface karst formations and rich vegetation on the northern side of the outcroppings; the area is equipped with a classroom and mountain lodge which serves food and drinks.


Palazzo Baronale Visitors Centre

Piazza Andrea Costa, 9
40021 Tossignano
Tel. +39 0542 628143
Housed in the 16th century Palazzo Baronale is both the information point and an exhibition dedicated to the geological features of the Vena del Gesso in Romagna, as well as a classroom and a conference room.


For tourist information

Tourist Information Office Riolo Terme

Corso Matteotti, 40

48025 Riolo Terme RA
Tel. +39 0546 71044




Ermes Ambiente


How to get here

To reach the visitor centre "Palazzo Baronale" in Tossignano, follow the Strada statale Selice Montanara Imolese from Imola for about 15 km.
From the A14 motorway exit at Faenza (northbound or southbound) or the SS9 Via Emilia: follow directions for Castel Bolognese and then for Riolo Terme and Casola Valsenio.
From the A14 motorway exit at Faenza (northbound or southbound): follow directions for Brisighella (100m after the toll there is Via San Silvestro on the right with directions for Brisighella). SS Roads - SS 9 Via Emilia (northbound and southbound), on the Faenza ring road there are directions for Brisighella-Marradi-Florence); then follow the SS 302 towards Florence for 10 km.

Last modified Jun 29, 2017

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