On the traces of the “Iron athletes”
Would you like to feel like an “Iron athlete” for once in your life? Try to follow the Ironman cycling route that has been held in Romagna for a few years now. Starting from Pinarella and reaching Bertinoro it continues through the land of the Spungone up to Castrocaro, along a very suggestive path with striking landscape views and the opportunity of interesting cultural visits.
For some years Romagna has been the setting of the Italian edition of the Iron Man, the gruelling race that includes 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and 42 km of running to be covered consecutively within a maximum of 16 hours.
To feel (at least a little bit) like an 'iron athlete', you can follow the Ironman's cycling route. It is a medium difficulty route, about 40 km long, that starts in Pinarella and ends in Bertinoro: the Ironman participants cycle it more than once in both directions until they reach a total of 180 km (that are added to the 3.8 km of swimming and the 42 km of running), but amateur cyclists can enjoy the easy route, which is mostly flat; you ride uphill only in the last part, covering an elevation difference of 256 metres and a maximum slope of 11%.
And once you reach Bertinoro you can keep riding through theland of the Spungone up to Castrocaro.
From Pinarella to Santa Maria Nuova
Starting from Pinarella's pine wood , the route goes through the town until the Statale 16, which must be passed to take Via Bollana/Sp 71 bis. After about 3 km you leave the provincial road heading to Villa Inferno (a disturbing name for a peaceful agricultural village not far from Cervia's salt pans). From here the route develops through the roads of the Romagna countryside: the first stage is about 8 km long and leads to the twin hamlets of Castiglione di Cervia and Castiglione di Ravenna, separated by the Savio River, but joined by two bridges. Ideally going up the river course for about 5 km, you pass the resorts of Mensa Matellica and Cannuzzo, and then divert to the right, to Santa Maria Nuova Spallicci, a lowland hamlet part of the municipality of Bertinoro.
From Forlimpopoli to Bertinoro
Cycling west between the neat and tidy farmlands, after about 6 km you reach Forlimpopoli, famous for being the birthplace of Pellegrino Artusi, father of Italian gastronomy. Crossed by Via Emilia, Forlimpopoli is located at the foot of the hills and from here the most challenging part of the route starts, the one that leads to the top of the Bertinoro hill. The route is short (about 7 km), the view is beautiful, between rolling hills and vineyards, but the climb is challenging, with a slope of up to 11%. To repay those who arrive at the top of all the hard work is the extraordinary view of the Romagna plain and the sea that is enjoyed from the main square of Bertinoro aptly called 'the balcony of Romagna'.
The Ring Column situated on the same square is a symbol of the hospitality of the people of Bertinoro: in the Middle Ages every ring was assigned to a family, and the stranger who arrived in town and tied his horse to a ring was hosted by that family; this ancient tradition is still alive today with the Hospitality Feast, which is celebrated on the first Sunday of September and which welcomes visitors hosted for lunch in the houses of the town's inhabitants. With one last effort, you can reach the Interreligious Museum, dedicated to the three great monotheistic religions, housed within the thousand-year-old fortress that dominates the town.
Continuing through the Land of the Spungone: from Bertinoro to Fratta Terme
For those of you who still have some energy left and wish to put themselves to the test, from Bertinoro you can continue through the Land of the Spungone. The route which is about 50 km long, is varied and quite challenging, with a succession of climbs and descents and an elevation difference of 1240 metres.
From Bertinoro you descend towards Fratta Terme, passing by the 17th-century Sanctuary of Casticciano. The church, which stands in a particularly scenic location, was built to remember the miracle obtained on July 2, 1612, by Agnese Dalle Tombe, a lady from Meldola, who regained her sight after praying in front of the image of Madonna delle Grazie painted by the master Bentivoglio and then placed in an ancient cell.
Today the sanctuary is only open during the celebrations of the miracle, but nearby you can visit Via del Rosario by the sculptor from Faenza Gaetano dal Monte.
After a few kilometres, you reach Fratta Terme, with its healing waters coming from 11 sources and its large thermal spa lapped by the Rio Salso.
Meldola – Predappio - Castrocaro
The next stop is Meldola, which is reached by crossing the Ponte dei Veneziani, built in 1508 during the dominion of the Serenissima. Dominating the elegant centre in 19th-century style is the mighty fortress built on the "Sasso" (rock) of Spungone, one of the largest in the whole Romagna region.
From here you continue towards the Rocca delle Caminate, now a university, from which you can view much of the territory of Romagna.
The route then touches Predappio, unmistakable for its buildings in rationalist style next to the 20th-century buildings. The road then climbs up to Predappio Alta, a medieval village perched around its mighty castle.
The last stop of the route is Castrocaro, with its hot springs already renowned at the time of the Romans. The spa complex, which offers therapeutic treatments and state-of-the-art wellness paths, is a jewel of the Liberty style. The route continues towards Castrocaro Fortress, whose underground dungeons were dug into the Spungone rock, and reaches the city - renaissance fortress of Terra del Sole.