Just cross the threshold of Brisighella, a splendid medieval village in the province of Ravenna, to feel transported back in time.
Set in the lower Lamone valley, just over an hour’s drive from Bologna, this ancient village in the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines is a true refuge for lovers of nature and lost traditions.
Things to see in Brisighella
There are many things to see and savor in what is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The Fortress "Rocca Manfrediana"
Located on top of one of the three hills that protect the city, the fortress known as Rocca Manfrediana stands out imposingly over the town below. This medieval fortress takes its name from the Manfredi family, Lords of Faenza, who built it in the 1300s and owned it until the 1500s.
It then passed from hand to hand, first to Cesare Borgia, then to the Venetians to whom we owe the presence of the massive keep. Finally, it became part of the Papal state, and the roofs were added to the two imposing towers in this period.
Today it surprises us with its ancient charm, thanks to a careful restoration that took place in the first decade of the 2000s, which mainly concerned the walkways and walls. In the same years, a museum dedicated to the bond between man and gypsum was set up throughout the Rocca.
The museum makes a visit to this fortress even more interesting, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in its history thanks to the exhibition of finds.
The route is designed to totally involve the visitor through the use of music and narrative voice, the icing on the cake is the magnificent panorama that can be admired by completing the route and reaching the top of the fortress.
Hours and entrance fee:
- Friday 15-19
- Holidays and the day before holidays 10.00 – 12.30 and in the afternoon from 15 – 19.
- Cost €3.00 including a visit to the Giuseppe Ugonia civic museum.
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower is positioned on another of the three pinnacles, a short distance from the Rocca.
This historic building was built in 1290 by the leader Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana as a fortress made of gypsum boulders for defensive purposes.
What we have before us now is a totally new tower. In fact, over the years it has undergone various damages and renovations: it was totally rebuilt in the mid-1800s, the same period in which the clock with the six-hour dial, to which it owes its current name, was also placed on it.
We recommend a tour outside its walls during sunset, to fully enjoy the splendid view of the Rocca and the gullies.
Hours and entrance fee:
The interior can be visited free of charge on the day before and on public holidays from 15:30 to 18:30.
La Via degli Asini (The Way of the Donkeys)
Via Degli Asini is not a simple road, it is a fascinating elevated road hidden at first glance, whose history is linked to the evolution of the village.
Born for defensive purposes and as an important communication route in the fourteenth century, over time it was completely swallowed up by houses and was mainly used by gypsum carriers, the Birocciai.
These workers owe their name to the carts called “birocce” which were once used to transport the precious material from the nearby quarries.
The biroccai lived in the houses above and usually walked along this covered road so as to save their donkeys from the harsh sun.
Today the arched windows overlooking the main square offer a fabulous glimpse.
The historical center
The heart of the city retains the charm of the past with its maze of narrow streets, the old houses with bright colors and historic buildings.
The Fontana Vecchia was a popular stop to refresh during hard work, this ancient public source also called “of the three puffs” dates back to 1490. It was once fed by water from the Vena Del Gesso but for some decades the flow has been interrupted .
Going up towards the main square of the city you come across the Palazzo Comunale founded in the 1820s which is striking for its suggestive neoclassical facade.
Piazza Marconi has always been the hub of the city, now it is surrounded by wine bars and typical restaurants.
Towards the end of the square you will come across Porta Delle Dame, so called because it is said that in the past the village maidens used to welcome foreigners in front of this entrance.
In the historic center there is also the museum “G. Ugonia”. By visiting it, you can discover the city through the eyes of the famous twentieth-century painter Giuseppe Ugonia.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monticino
The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monticino awaits us on the last rocky pinnacle that faces the medieval village. With a simple and at the same time suggestive appearance, this religious building welcomes us with a 19th-century facade, surrounded by statuary cypresses.
Built in 1758 on the remains of a 17th century chapel, it preserves inside a splendid Sacred Image of the Virgin of small dimensions and in polychrome terracotta dating back to 1626.
The Geological Museum
The interesting and evocative geological museum of the Monticino extends at the foot of the church of the same name. This open-air museum was built in 2006 inside an old gypsum quarry that had not been used for decades. Forget the classic museum rooms, the visit here is dynamic and totally immersive.
Several billboards accompany the explorer during the tour, which extends between various glittering chalky stones in complete safety, and allow us to fully understand the peculiarities of the Vena del Gesso Romagnola regional park and its history. The site is also interesting from a palaeontological point of view, being rich in fossil finds dating back more than 5 million years ago and mostly concerning exotic animals such as crocodiles, mastodons, rhinos, monkeys and hyenas.
One of the most fascinating parts of the visit is certainly the descent into the blind valley, where the cave called “Tana della Volpe” is located.
A few years ago, explanatory posters dedicated to the blind and a path dedicated to them were also added to this great educational offer.
La Grotta Tanaccia (Tanaccia Cave)
Just 2 km from the historic center of this beautiful village, at an altitude of 200 meters, one of the most spectacular places is hidden, and it is nothing less than a splendid cave.
We are talking about the Tanaccia cave, one of the most interesting karst cavities of the Vena Del Gesso, easily passable thanks to the help of expert guides.
The first explorations of this cavity began in the 1930s and led to the discovery of very important finds dating back to the Iron Age and the Neolithic.
The cave extends for about 2 km but the part reserved for tourist visits is about 500 meters. To venture into the depths of this mysterious cavity and feel like a true speleologist, just book a paid guided tour, available from April.
In winter the cave is closed to the public to preserve the bats that inhabit it.
San Giovanni in Ottavo, the church of Pieve Tho
Just one kilometer from Brisighella it is possible to visit one of the oldest churches in the area, the Church of Pieve Tho also called Pieve di San Giovanni in Ottavo, it owes this name to the fact that it is located on what was once the ancient Roman road Faventina, right at the eighth mile.
Legend has it that this ancient Roman temple was wanted by the daughter of Emperor Theodosius, Galla Placidia and built on the remains of a building consecrated to Jupiter Ammon. However, the time of its construction is uncertain and the first documents attesting the presence of the building are prior to the year one thousand.
Inside you are greeted by a division into three naves, with marble columns surmounted by arches. The importance and ancient roots of this sacred place are testified by various architectural and artistic elements relating to different eras, among which a fourth-century Roman milestone immediately stands out with inscriptions of emperors, a capital from the first century and a funerary stone from the VII century.
Then just go into the crypt to discover the many other finds that have surfaced in the various restorations of this building with an ancient history.
- From 15 April to 15 October: Sundays and holidays from 3.00 to 6.00 pm
- From 16 October to 14 April: Sundays and public holidays from 2.30pm to 4.30pm
Parco del Carnè (Carnè Park)
The Carnè park represents an important point of reference for trekking enthusiasts.
The fulcrum of the Park which extends for about 45 hectares is represented by the Visitor Centre. Here it is possible to discover the numerous paths that enter the park, among sinkholes, woods and splendid views, plan your own excursions, as well as book visits, such as the one to the Tanaccia cave.
The refuge also houses the naturalistic museum dedicated to the fauna that populates the park and boasts classrooms and conference rooms.
In the center it is also possible to refresh oneself and stay overnight.
For hungry hikers, the Carnè visitor center offers tasty local dishes that can be savored every day at lunchtime, except on Thursdays. While for dinners the service is available by reservation only. If you feel sleepy after a nice hike in the park, don’t worry, the refuge offers up to 20 beds.
Parco Regionale della Vena Del Gesso Romagnola (Regional park)
The Vena del Gesso Romagnola Regional Park extends for about 20 kilometers between the regions of Bologna and Ravenna.
The recognizable feature of this mountain ridge is certainly that it is formed entirely of selenite chalk which stands out imposingly on the placid hills of the area to form a sort of wall with crystalline reflections.
From the village of Brisighella to that of Riolo Terme there are many paths that cross this unique protected area, characterized by sinkholes, blind valleys and numerous karst cavities.
Of the approximately 200 caves hidden in the natural park, two are easily accessible and can be visited with the help of expert guides, the Grotta Del Re Tiberio, near Riolo Terme and the Grotta Tanaccia which we have already told you about.
If you happen to cross the park, in addition to letting yourself be enchanted by the beauty of the area, sharpen your eyes in search of a particular fern, the Cheilanthes persica also called “Persian fern“, in fact it only grows here in Italy.
To fully enjoy the view of this unique ridge, it is possible to climb 515 meters to the top of Monte Mauro, the highest peak in the Park.
The best way to visit the Vena del Gypsum park is certainly to do it together with a guide, there are many trekking proposals in the area.
The area is full of typical local products which can be savored in the traditional restaurants that crowd the small streets and squares of the historic centre.
Before recommending our favorites, let’s find out exactly what these specialties are!
Extra virgin olive oil
Brisighella DOP extra virgin olive oil characterized by an emerald green color with golden reflections finds its maximum exaltation used raw, perfect for seasoning various dishes from fish to vegetables and for creating sauces, thanks to its slightly spicy and bitter taste.
To have the PDO designation, it must be obtained with at least 90% of olives of the “Nostrana di Brisighella” variety and the oil must be extracted only through mechanical and physical processes.
The result of a further selection is the “Brisighello” oil which represents the best of the production.
Another variety of olives called “Ghiacciola” is present in very limited quantities in the area, the cold milling of which leads to the creation of the “Nobil Drupa” extra virgin olive oil.
Il carciofo Moretto (The Moretto artichoke)
The Moretto artichoke has a purplish color and a slightly bitter and fresh flavour. Rich in iron, it can be eaten both raw and slightly boiled.
This rustic and native variety of artichoke grows spontaneously in the Vena del Gypsum area, thanks to the clayey soil typical of these areas. On one of your excursions to the suggestive gullies you might come across the bush that grows there and is one and a half meters tall!
I frutti dimenticati (The Forgotten Fruits)
The forgotten fruits are ancient and succulent small fruits, grown in the Valle Del Lamone area since the Middle Ages.
Today they are considered rare products, taken care of by the farmers of this area, they are mainly used to create jams or to be eaten cooked. The typical “e’ savor” Romagna jam is created using some of these fruits combined with grape must.
The Volpina pear is certainly the most famous of these ancient products, to which Brisighella has also dedicated a festival which takes place in November and which envisages its exaltation by accompanying it with aged cheese.
Other forgotten fruits are:
Strawberry tree, carnelian, quince, medlar, rowan and jujube, the latter used to create the renowned “Brodo Di Giuggiole”.
The Spoja Lorda
Spoja Lorda is a type of handmade pasta that is traditionally born in Brisighella. What makes it different from traditional Romagna pastas, such as tagliatelle and tortellini, is the peculiarity of being cut into small squares left as joined together. These little squares are usually filled with tasty squacquerone cheese and parmesan.
Among the wines that we often find accompanying local specialties, Sangiovese Di Romagna and Albana Di Romagna stand out.
The first with its ruby red color tending towards purplish and dry, slightly bitter and astringent flavour. It is perfect to accompany rich cold cuts and cheeses from the lower Lamone valley area, as well as tasty roasted and grilled meats.
The second, with an almost golden appearance, in its dry version is often offered together with soups and fish-based dishes.
To better savor tarts, desserts and dried fruit, we find Albana Dolce and Albana Passito.
Restaurants to eat in Brisighella
Now that you know the delicacies that can be found in this delightful village and let’s move on to the best restaurants in which to enjoy them.
Restaurant "La Grotta"
Located towards the end of the famous Piazza Marconi, the La Grotta restaurant surprises not only for its interior, made from an ancient gypsum cave with an elegant and romantic style, but above all for the menu proposals rich in tradition and innovation.
To experience a true culinary immersion in the flavors of the area, we suggest you try the tasting menus.
Cantina del Bonsignore
In the heart of the historic center, this restaurant is found in a real cellar and will amaze you with typical and tasty dishes and the courtesy of the staff makes the stop even more pleasant. Do not miss the spoja lorda with cold burrata cream and goose speck.
Caffè Della Loggia
For a short but tasty break, a tasty piadina at the Caffè della Loggia is a must. If the weather permits, sit outside on one of the characteristic tables and enjoy the view of the Rocca and the picturesque Via degli Asini.
The thermal baths of Brisighella
Brisighella is a renowned destination not only for the beauty of the area and good food but also for well-being, in fact since the nineteenth century many visitors went here for spa treatments.
At the moment the famous thermal baths of Brisighella, set in a park a few meters from the historic heart of the village, are closed pending a forthcoming reopening.
Before their closure, people went here for specialist treatments and for cures with sulphurous and salso-bromine-iodine waters as well as mud bath therapy.
While waiting for their reopening, you can still opt for one of the hotels with wellness centers in which to relax and have targeted treatments.
Where to sleep in Brisighella: hotels and other accommodations
There are many options for a pleasant stay in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Whether the reason for your trip is a romantic getaway, a family weekend or a trekking holiday, we will help you find the accommodation that’s right for you!
Hotel "La Rocca"
Via delle Volte, 10 – Brisighella (RA)
The three-star hotel La Rocca is located in the heart of the historic center and is the ideal refuge for spending a romantic weekend in the magical medieval village.
It offers all the best comforts, from the SPA to the restaurant. The property also has an apartment that can accommodate up to 4 people.
The hotel has a fabulous terrace with a panoramic view over the roofs of the city and the suggestive clock tower.
What are you waiting for to order a drink and enjoy the view with your other half?
Via Bacello, 29 Brisighella (RA)
Overlooked by the green hills of Brisighella, the Modus Aquae welcomes its guests with a style between modern and rustic.
The structure offers rooms with hydromassage and the possibility of relaxing in a private SPA.
The outdoor swimming pool is also appreciated by guests. We recommend it above all to those who need to recharge their batteries at the end of the day surrounded by a comfortable climate.
Brisighella Green Wellness
Via Corte, 86 Brisighella (RA)
If you’ve always dreamed of taking a dip in a hot tub under the stars, surrounded by greenery, Brisighella Green Wellness is the place for you.
This pleasant accommodation, surrounded by hills, boasts a 7-hectare park. In addition, it offers the possibility of staying in rooms with stone and exposed beams with an outdoor whirlpool tub. The property is also equipped with a sauna and a hammam.
The pride and joy of its guests is the breakfast with homemade products. We recommend it to those traveling by car and want to take refuge in an oasis about 5 kilometers from the city centre.
History of Brisighella
Thanks to the finds found in the Tanaccia cave, we know that this area has aroused interest since the Neolithic period, in the area of present-day Brisighella traces of peoples of Celtic and Roman origin have also been found.
However, the true origin of today’s town is due to the leader Maghinardo Pagani: it was in fact under the slopes of his fortress, now the clock tower, that the current village began to develop towards the end of the 13th century.
The country’s calendar is full of events, among these we point out some of the most fascinating.
Volpina Pear Festival
The Volpina Pear Festival offers a special occasion to taste one of the tasty forgotten fruits of tradition together with other local products that enhance its flavour.
The Medieval Festival of Brisighella
It is undoubtedly one of the most loved events by inhabitants and visitors as well as our favorite, every year it gives visitors the opportunity to wander around the village in a suggestive medieval atmosphere.
It will be possible to walk surrounded by knights, skilled craftsmen, jesters and many other characters.
In this 4-day historical recalling there is also room for good food thanks to the various taverns ready to satisfy the palates of patrons with reinterpretations of medieval dishes.
Every first weekend of the month of June
Festival of the Moretto artichoke
The festival dedicated to the native artichoke of the city. It will be possible to discover all the secrets about this specialty and taste it in a themed menu, there is no shortage of musical proposals and conviviality.
During the month of May
How to get to Brisighella
By car: the easiest way to reach Brisighella by car is via the motorway, taking the Imola or Faenza exit and then continuing for another 20 minutes on an easy road that crosses the Emilian countryside. From Bologna it can be reached in just over an hour’s journey.
By train: Brisighella has a convenient station on the slopes of the hill on which the town is located. From Bologna it will be enough for you to make a single change in Faenza and reach your half in an hour.
Interesting places and cities to visit nearby
Dozza: The beautiful city of murals, where you can get lost in the colors while strolling in the narrow streets surrounded by paintings and admiring the majestic Rocca Sforzesca.
Faenza: Famous and evocative city of ceramics.
Bologna: Good food, culture, medieval architecture are just three of the reasons to visit our beloved city and you will surely find many more to come back to.
Florence: Definitely the most famous. Among the splendid Cathedral, Giu Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio, the many museums and parks, there are many attractions to discover in the famous Tuscan city.
Cervia: Known above all for its fascinating salt pans but also for its spas and bathing establishments, it is certainly a stop not to be missed for wellness lovers.
The Po Delta: The Po Delta Park is the ideal place for those who love to immerse themselves in nature – Whether by car or by ferry, be prepared to find yourself surrounded by flamingos.
The most beautiful villages near Bologna: in addition to Brisighella, there are many villages to discover nearby. La Scola, Monteveglio and the very small Borgo di San Pietro are certainly among the most beautiful and worth visiting.