Italy offers without a doubt some of the most beautiful cities in Europe like Rome, Venice, Bologna, and Florence. But when I am thinking Italian countryside, I am imagining picturesque villages far away from the loud tourist crowds. Small hilltop villages with medieval buildings, a fortress and stunning views of hilly terrain with vineyards and olive trees. I found a place exactly like that. It’s called Brisighella.
Falling in love with Emilia Romagna
Brisighella has been voted one of the most beautiful borghi in Italy. A typical Italian village way of life with an amazing nature backdrop. It doesn’t take many pictures and words to explain why. At the end of this post I’ll throw in another interesting borgo: Dozza, probably one of the strangest to be found in Italy….
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Brisighella – the Three Hills village
The outline of Brisighella is dominated by three rocky peaks, all which can be climbed easily. Next to stunning views of the area, each rock offers something unique on top: a 19th century clock tower, a 14th century fortress and an 18th century sanctuary. Care to visit all three of them? Start with the clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio.
From the heart of the village, start climbing up 350 steps towards the clock tower, which is actually working on a six-hours system (Ora Italica) compared to our current 12-hour one. This place offers the best views of the village. Just relax and look at the small maze of ancient streets. I loved to feel the cool breeze while listening to the sounds of villagers that made its way up from down on the streets.
From the clock tower to the fortress
From the clock tower go down a bit and take the road that starts at the back of the tower. I kept on taking pictures of the view, so don’t miss this one. The road will automatically take you to the fortress, La Rocca. The fortress was built in 1228, overlooks the village and can be visited during selected opening hours.
From the fortress go down a bit and climb up towards the Sanctuary Del Monticino on the 3rd hill. It’s a steep climb, I warn you. If you are running out of time just take the stairs down to the village from the fortress.
Medieval hill town Brisighella
Brisighella breathes history, which also originates from an unexpected angle. The three hills are loaded with gypsum. Gypsum is used in drywall and as a fertilizer, but was already used in the ancient world by the Romans in making cement. Gypsum crystals were used as glass panes. Brisighella was built around the trade of this valuable mineral.
When you walk down Via Naldi and Piazza Marconi you will enjoy the colorful medieval buildings who seem to have been gracefully curbed to offer visitors the most perfect view. These buildings actually have been built on top of the ancient city wall. But inside these buildings you will find an elevated street called Donkey Street (Via degli Asini). In the past donkeys actually walked here to transport gypsum from nearby quarries or mines in the hills. The gypsum was stored inside the buildings which can be clearly seen on old drawings. This part of the village is of historic importance!
The hills are no longer mined but you find traces of gypsum everywhere! The old quarries are now being used for caving and souvenir shops in the village have lots of gypsum jewelry of course…
Lovely wine and olive oil – the micro climate of Brisighella
There is more to Brisighella than medieval buildings and rocky peaks! Resting on those hills of gypsum, a natural fertilizer as well, the nearby area is actually an ideal microclimate for growing some of the best olives in the world. There are 70,000 olive trees in a small area around Brisighella, delivering one of the best olive oils in the world. The Brisighella valley is like an amphitheater that sometimes receives a warm Tuscan breeze while at other times it benefits from a cool sea breeze. Next to olive oil, the Brisighella soil (Terra di Brisighella) offers some lovely wines too! Do visit the shop at Piazza Marconi to try some.
Things to do in Brisighella
When I would have been able to stay for a couple of days, I would for sure rent a bike to explore the area. Visit olive trees farms and vineyards, other small villages in the valley, and more. There are lots of things to do in the area:
• Rent a bike at the tourist office (Via Naldi 2) and discover the region
• Hire a guide (via the tourist office) for a half or full day guided tour
• Enjoy the annual festivals (Romantica, Vintage, Medieval, Wine glasses under the 3 hills, etc)
• Learn about the local forgotten fruit
• Caving – old gypsum mines or now used for caving
• From Brisighella, visit Ravenna or Florence
• Enjoy gastronomy at La Grotta. We enjoyed an amazing dinner and love the atmosphere of dining inside a cave!
Where to stay in Brisighella
We spent the night at La Rocca hotel in the center of Brisighella. Make sure to ask for room 319 because of the excellent views: it feels like you can literally jump on the ancient roofs and start exploring the village. The hotel has a beautiful panorama terrace (which by the way is a good place to watch the sunrise too!)
How to get to Brisighella
Brisighella can be reached by train. Take the train from Bologna to Faenza where you have to switch the train to Brisighella. From Brisighella you can also easily visit Florence and Ravenna.
Brisighella is a picturesque medieval village in the Emilia Romagna region. One of those places where the only worry is to have nothing to worry about. Of course there are more of these beautiful villages (borghi) in Emilia Romagna (here is a list!). One of them is Dozza, situated 30 minutes from Brisighella. We had a quick look…
Consider Dozza a bonus when traveling in the area as it’s actually too small to act as a destination on its own. Dozza is strange. Walking through this village you will encounter works of art, painted on the walls of houses, clock towers and arches. Some of these works of art are beautiful while others are, well, not. I am not sure whether I liked the place or not. Yes, it’s strange but some of the art works just did not justify the uniqueness of the village. But again, if you love to visit less polished attractions, go and have a look!
We were invited by Emilia Romagna tourism to visit Brisighella. Big thanks to Silvia Mordini who showed us around. Her enthusiasm about the village was contagious. Care to leave a comment or ask a question? Just scroll down and leave a comment.