My love of cycling in Italy is strong. Soon after coming home from last year’s wonderfully arranged (by Gabriele Brunetti and others) BIG meeting event in the Ligurian Alps and the whole Ponente part of Liguria, I was looking forward to the next visit to Italy. My former bicycle club in Gothenburg – CK Master – decided to arrange a trip to Rimini in the Easter of 2010 and I joined in on this. 11 guys and one very good girl went down through the Brenner pass (photo at the end of the last page) in two rented mini-buses to Rimini for the Easter week looking for a little warmer weather than back home. The Winter had been very cold across all of Europe this year though. This had the consequence of worse roads than normally after the Winter – very much so home in Sweden, and to a lesser extent even down here.
I had made extensive plans for possible circuits for myself as I wanted to visit as many of the nicest passes and mountains as possible in the surrounding Apennine mountains, while the others were mostly focused on getting good training for the racing season back home in Sweden. I still wanted to go cycling with others part of the time and had originally not thought I would find so many places to visit nearby which would take such a long time. However, given that we were travelling with buses all the way from Sweden, we only had six full days of cycling. We had hoped to do some cycling the day we arrived, but the traffic was difficult on the way down.
We arrived rather tired at Rimini around 17-18 in the afternoon and basically only had time to visit a grocery to get some food and then a few of us went out to eat a fine pizza. I took a photo from our balcony before it turned dark (the last on this page).
No one had wanted to follow me on my trip for the first day and that was lucky for them, even though I had not originally planned to go as far as I did. Going alone was good as I could decide on time to go up, train to take and time needed to get there and make a longer planned route than otherwise. Few things anyone would have agreed with me on. I was up in the morning before anyone else had woke up (including Göran, who is very early otherwise). Got some cereals for breakfast and hurried off to the train station in central Rimini, that I reached just time to get tickets (€3 for me and €3 for my bicycle) to Forlimpopoli.
The train also went a little late and slowly made its way to Forlimpopoli, where I jumped off and went to the main plaza where I had a coffee and took the first photo for the day. It was a splendid day with good temperatures – a little chilly at first, but I had to take off clothes only a little later when the climbing started.
First I found a flat little road (second photo) out of the city to Meldola (58m), where I started on the first minor climb up to Rocca delle Caminate (367m) and got some nice views (third photo). Then a quick descent to Predappio (133m), where I was passed by a big group of cyclists going further up the valley. Here I stopped for another photo of the church in the village and took off some clothes. Another nice and somewhat steep (in places) road took me up to Predappio Alta (next photo) and further up to (Passo) Monte Mirabello (alt. name (Valico di) Monte Colombo) (620m) where I had another photo. Up here it was above 600m height and the road goes higher than the pass(es).
Near the highest point I met some other cyclists – in good weather there are cyclists all around in this region! After taking a turn down toward Rocca San Casciano (210m), I came to a place where they carried down a lot of branches from trees for some unknown reason and I just managed to get by them after some time. The road was very narrow and not always the best as I later noticed many roads where not the best around here. I also found a lot of bad roads around the Bergamo area last Easter and now I no longer think it is clear cut that roads are better in Italy than in France as I have thought since visiting the Pyrenees in 2001.
Rocca San Casciano was a real crossroad place for cyclists and I almost hit into someone there. From here I followed the main road up the Valle del Montone. First I hanged on to some other cyclists, but it soon turned out I was quicker than them and I went ahead on my own up the winding road which is not always so good lower down, but it becomes better higher up. I was surprised how narrow this road was, considering it was a red marked national route from Cesena to Firenze/Florence. Many motorcyclists on this road also, but it was still quite nice.
Rather fun, but I bounced into the same group as I saw in Predappio continuing straight up there at the turn off for the Passo della Valbura/Valico Manzo (836m) (that I had decided to skip) and waved. From San Benedetto in Alpe (495m) the proper climb up to Passo del Muraglione (907m) starts. It is a bit more climbing than the moderate height suggests and it felt fine reaching the pass with lovely views down toward Firenze.
I went down three kilometres on the other side to turn off up the road to the parallel, but minor, pass Valico dei Tre Faggi (991m). The views were somewhat similar up here. (There are several pass signs with different altitudes at the top.) The road down back toward Predappio is quite nice and lonely through the Valle del Rabbi. I passed by the turn-off for the recently asphalted Passo della Braccina (958m) and continued to Premilcuore (450m), where I turned into the village to find something to eat. They only had a little bar (that I found) and I had a sandwich and something to drink.
After a while I started to talk about planning to go to Passo della Calla (1296m), but that I had seen a sign back in Meldola at the start of the day suggesting that the main road up to this pass was not open. (These types of signs in Italy are not always to be taken literally … .) The bar owner confirmed that the road from Santa Sofia (257m) to Corniolo (551m) in Valle del Bidente had indeed been damaged beyond repair (?) and that it was impossible to get by there even on foot. The only other guest at the bar, an old man, confirmed that the Passo della Calla was however open to traffic and that I could go over Passo della Braccina to Corniolo in order to get there. As I was not going to be able to get to this pass from any other direction (reasonably) and that I was not planning to go this far northwest from Rimini again during my stay, I simply had to change my plans and try and do this pass today.
I only looked quickly on the map to get an idea of the road ahead, but I did not want to check the actual distance I had to cover as that would only had been discouraging and anyway I had a room for the night in Rimini and my lights for the bicycle with me and the weather was splendid. It was only a few almost flat kilometres back to the turn-off for the Braccina pass.
Passo della Braccina (958m) is indeed a quite nice little pass with little traffic (somewhat more now perhaps as the Santa Sofia-Corniolo road is closed), but they have also built in road bumps along the road, so it is not a very quick road. It is narrow with nice views at the top (photo below). The descent to Corniolo (551m) is a bit shorter. Down at Corniolo there was a road sign blocking the road announcing it was closed down the valley. Just outside Corniolo the real climb up to Passo della Calla (1296m) starts. It is a somewhat steep climb, enough to keep you warm in the forest on the way up. I stopped at the pass and found an older man to take a photo of me.
At Passo della Calla, a road goes off toward S. Godenzo on the Firenze side of the Muraglione pass, but this road should not be practicable with a road bike and is also closed off to traffic at the start of the descent. I went up as far as the parking place, which is apparently a recognised pass (at least by the park authorities) called Passo dei Fangacci (1484m) (it crosses a minor spur in the mountain here. I had wanted to get to the end of the asphalted road, which should end only 1.5 kilometre ahead at the last pass, Passo di Piancancelli (1487m), but after a little descent the road had not been further cleared of snow and walking was not really an option as there were almost a metre high snow here.
When I turned around I noticed another small asphalt road (private) that climbed much higher than the main road and I could not resist to see how far up I could go here as this might be the highest I could get during my week in Rimini (and so it later also turned out). This road ends at a big Television (?) mast just below Monte Falco (1655m) at 1564m (cannot find any reference on the web for either the mast or this road – like usual people just reiterate what the tourist information handout tells them and take the same photos – well, I also do not post my photo of the mast here). I dragged the bicycle up a few metres extra to get some nice photos of the far reaching views (one photo below).
It was quite cold up here and people were skiing (cross country) and kids were playing. People wandered with snow shoes up where I took my photo. The descent was thus a bit cold down the other side of Passo della Calla, but the road was quite good and there were not much traffic. Down at Pratovecchio (421m) (shortly after Stia), I took the road recommended by Gabriele to Monte Camaldoli (1212m) and Eremo di Camaldoli (1104m). It was a quite nice road with pen views almost all the way to the top. Now I was starting to feel the distance and not being used to this much climbing yet, I was getting very tired and had to go slowly up.
Eremo di Camaldoli is a monastery (apparently popular with tourists). There are not much views from here as the odd place is located in the woods. I parked my bicycle outside the church and just after having taken a photo and going to collect my bicycle, the priest came out. I said ciao and he made some sound back and then came a lot of other people out, so I took off.
I had planned to take the gravel road (partly gravelled) over the nearby Passo Fangacci (1234m) to Badia Prataglia (835m), but the road was closed and had some snow left already at the start, so I did not think twice about trying that road. Instead I took the curious direct road down (there is a more normal road back also from a little before the monastery). This direct road is indeed asphalted, but not in a very good condition and it is also very steep and narrow.
The road from Camaldoli (816m) was a nice road and soon I came to the main road up toward Passo dei Mandrioli (1173m). I stopped in Badia Prataglia (835m) at a café that was open and had a coffee and cake as it soon getting dark now and I did not know when I would stop next, if at all before reaching Rimini. It was getting dark as I reached Passo dei Mandrioli (1173m) as you can understand from my heavily Photoshop manipulated photo of the pass sign. It was just light enough that I could realise that it was indeed a quite nice pass, but on the way down the other side it got dark very quickly. I managed to get down the steepest part before I had to turn on the light.
As I never looked at the map since I glanced at it down in Premilcoure, I had been under the impression (wishful thinking) that the valley down the Mandrioli pass would lead directly to Rimini eventually. This I now started to realise was not true as the signs was for Cesena. The idea had originally been to cross over some minor passes here to avoid going the detour via the big and boring Cesena town. I still considered this idea, but realised that climbing passes in the dark would not be extremely safe or quick or easy to find the right roads, nor would I get any photos to show you. So I took the easy way down. Cesena seemed like it took forever to reach, however. I was also getting very tired at the many bumps on the main road down here (not so easily avoided now in the dark).
Down in Cesena it was so late that there was no time/point in stopping. I tried to find the right way by looking at the geography and guessing, but after crossing the railway on the wrong way out of town I luckily realised this was wrong and eventually found the right way to Rimini. All signs are of course only for the motorway.
Now the road was good, flat and straight, but with some more traffic, but since it was quite late the traffic was no big problem. Apparently people in Italy do not like that you bicycle on the roads in the dark even if you have lights on, oddly enough, as a few cars honked on me.
I found the correct road to take off on without any problems and was back at the hotel in Rimini 3 minutes before midnight and the others were sleeping, just like when I took off in the morning. Strange – I thought the idea to get down here was to bicycle and not to sleep! ;-) I took some handful of cookies I had bought the day before and water before going to bed myself. I decided to take off with the others the next morning to get some more sleep.