A slow tour from Riomaggiore to Manarola and Monesteroli
The NP of Casentino Forests and the village of Santa Sofia
Look for the small free libraries scattered around the reading village
What is a little free library? A little free library – literally a small free library – is a publicly owned place where free books are exhibited, available to everyone without timetables. The idea of sprinkling the world with books accessible to all started from the USA, where Todd Bol and Rick Brooks built in 2009 the first “Little Free Library” and the first network that catalogs and associates all those existing in the world, which now there are thousands.
In Italy, in the village of Santa Sofia, – the first reading’s village in Emilia Romagna – there is the Sophia in libris Association, which aims to promote and spread the pleasure of reading and writing. The association for some years has created many little free libraries in different and significant places of the village, for example instead along the River Park “Parco fluviale” and during the summer a little van (ape in libris) goes around the village with books.
Santa Sofia was a popular location in the past, in the Middle Ages the territory featured a number of castles and religious and monastic settlements. Outstanding private buildings were built next to the religious ones, and some of them are still visible from the exterior such as Palazzo Giorgi (17th century) and Palazzo Bianchini Mortani, in the old district of Mortano. From the 16th century and a few centuries onward, the town was dominated by Florence. Today Santa Sofia is a lively town offering plenty of things to see and do all year round, with its good living, nature and contemporary art. The town is indeed home to the Contemporary Art Gallery “Vero Stoppioni” where many works by the artist Mattia Moreni are on display.
The local specialty of the High Valley of the Bidente river is the tortello cooked on stone slabs and stuffed with pumpkin and potatoes (and other ingredients). The name comes from the “lastra”, a rough sandstone slab used to cook tortelli. Santa Sofia is a village of the National Park of the Casentino Forests, Monte Falterona, Campigna, covers an area of about 36,000 ha, equally divided between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, including the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Arezzo, and Florence. The Romagna side includes the territories of the municipalities of Bagno di Romagna, Santa Sofia, Premilcuore, Portico-San Benedetto and Tredozio.
The biodiversity of the Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi is a complex thing, made up of thousands of animal and plant species that interact with each other, environments that evolve, and others that are perpetuated for hundreds of years. Recognizing biodiversity should not be just for naturalists and specialized biologists, we want more and more people to enjoy the beauty of nature and the pleasure of discovery. Over the years, the park has developed various tools to recognize biodiversity: from classic publications to interactive recognition tools that can also become apps for tablets and mobile phones, and online tools such as Webgis to browse updated data on species distribution and the naturalistic emergencies of the Park territory.
The National Park has long been programming its activities according to the natural rhythm of seasons, which reveal different and often surprising aspects of nature and forests in the Park. Starting from winter and the “Snow & Nature” program, full of excursions on the snow with the help of snowshoes, we move on spring which, thanks to the “Spring Wild” program, offers many occasions to deepen the themes of biodiversity and scientific culture, such as excursions, events and workshops.
While summer represents the holiday season for the park, dedicated to trekking on foot, by MTB, on horseback or with donkeys, it is autumn that reveals the beauty of the forests in their most spectacular aspect. Thanks to the “Autumn slow” program, this season is able to involve all the senses: from the colors of the forest at the end of October, to the exciting bellow of the deer at the end of September, to the richness of flavors from the undergrowth. Near Santa Sofia there is the Ridracoli dam, a perfect example of the balance between human engineering and the natural environment. A beautiful place that combines utility with the beauty of a place to visit. The artificial dam of the Bidente di Ridracoli river and the shorter Rio Celluzze which, since the 1980s, has supplied water to over a million people on the Riviera Romagnola and the plain of the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna and Rimini.
Lake Ridracoli is located in the municipality of Bagno di Romagna, at a height of 557 meters above sea level and represents a small corner of paradise with a strong tourist and environmental impact with numerous opportunities of leisure. The Ca’ di Sopra Refuge, completely renovated, surrounded by meadows and woods, enjoys a breathtaking view of Lake Ridracoli. The refuge can be reached from the dam, 40-minute walk on a path through the woods, or by boat when it is active.
“Borghi della lettura” (i.e. reading villages) is a network counting more than 50 Italian historical villages engaged in the promotion of literature and reading, enhancing the places through cultural events to book and stories lovers.