Imagine a path that seems to glisten under the sun as it passes through amazing, varied landscapes. The Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi is exactly this – a magnificent path that takes you from Bologna to Faenza, passing through Brisighella and the heart of Emilia-Romagna.
This 100-kilometre (62 mi) route is divided into seven well-balanced stages designed for anyone who enjoys hiking, regardless of level. The Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi has breathtaking beauty and explores the rich history of the places it passes through.
The area is made from gypsum which gradually settled here over millions of years. You may be surprised to learn that gypsum is not actually white, but transparent. The purer it is, the greater its transparency. Ancient Romans even quarried chalk to make glass for windows. That's why the paths here literally glisten under the sun.
Your walk begins in Bologna San Ruffillo and winds through two regional parks and a series of picturesque villages. You'll immerse yourself in amazing nature as you explore the striking gullies and unique geological formations.
Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to visit unique villages such as Dozza, famous for its murals on house facades, and Brisighella, a village suspended in time. You'll also explore the Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa Regional Park and the Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park.
I recommend trying the delicious local cuisine on your hike. The region of Emilia Romagna is renowned for its excellent gastronomy, and you'll find traditional osterias serving local specialties, as well as bars where you can taste fine wines.
This hike is suitable at any time of year, but it’s at its best during spring and autumn. In spring, you'll have the blossoms in bloom around you, fields are dotted with purple artichokes and green gullies, while the woods offer you shelter from the sun. In autumn, you'll find a myriad of warm colours, the scents of wild plants, and plenty of chestnuts to forage.
Accommodation is in ample supply along the way, but it’s still worth booking in advance. The arrival points are cosy villages where you can find hotels, B&Bs, farmhouses, and rental properties.
The public transport network is also convenient here. Most of the stage ends are well connected to local bus lines, while the cities of Bologna, Brisighella, and Faenza are easily accessible by train.
I recommend paying attention to weather conditions. If the weather is bad, you’ll need to be extra careful on the trail. The clay gullies and chalky soil become slippery and difficult to walk uphill after rain, so it’s best to avoid during wet weather.
You don’t need any special skills to tackle the Chalk and Gully Trail. However, as it’s a multi-day trail, it's best to have some hiking experience behind you.
My final tip is to make sure that you take time to see the Highlights en route. The gleaming chalk roads, the charming villages of Dozza and Brisighella, the local delicacies and the hospitality of the locals. There are also farms en route that produce oil and wine and where you can taste delicious food whilst admiring the surrounding hills.
The Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi is an unforgettable experience through breathtaking landscapes, history, and culture. Whether you harbour a passion for hiking or want to learn more about the natural areas of Emilia-Romagna, this trail is a continuous discovery of emotions. Be enchanted by the beauty of the area on the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi. Enjoy your walk!
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: July 20, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The first stage of the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi starts from the San Ruffillo station in Bologna. The route has a combination of dirt and asphalt sections up to Castel dei Britti. Along the way, there are sources of drinking water to replenish you. During the summer, you cannot miss the magnificent…
The second stage of the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi takes you from Settefonti to Dozza, offering a day full of adventures and natural beauties. The route continues inside the Regional Park of the Gessi Bolognesi and the Calanchi dell'Abbadessa, to then leave the park and immerse itself in the suggestive…
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
This stage of the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi offers a demanding day of excursion but full of unique characteristics. Leaving the charming village, you will cross the Sellestra valley and go up towards Pieve Sant'Andrea, admiring a splendid hilly landscape surrounded by majestic gully formations. Subsequently…
This stage offers a day of hiking with mixed characteristics in terms of difficulty and peculiarities of the route. You will start along the Via Bassa up to the suggestive Villa delle Banzole, to then take the path that leads to Passo della Prè and continue along the Via Alta, where you will enter the…
The fifth stage of the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi will take you to the heart of the Vena del Gesso Romagnola. This stretch of the route crosses the suggestive chalky banks that extend over the Senio river valley, the blind valley of the Rio Stella and the valley of the Sintria stream. It is a demanding…
The sixth stage is the least strenuous, despite the quite challenging climbs along the way. Less than ten kilometers long, it is the shortest stage and also offers unique and suggestive characteristics that make the Tour exciting and rewarding.
The route develops along the valley of the Sintria stream…
The last stage of the Via dei Gessi e dei Calanchi will be an exciting and fascinating experience. The route presents some challenges with steep climbs and narrow passages on gullies, but also breathtaking views and suggestive landscapes. I suggest you visit the estates that produce oil and wine, where…
Hiking Collection by adidas TERREX
Hiking Collection by PaulCamper
Hiking Collection by Claudia Aguilar González
Bike Touring Collection by Yulman