Unusual Places in Italy: Pietra di Bismantova


Luoghi insoliti in Italia: la Pietra di Bismantova
Pietra di Bismantova

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On his journey from Padua to Tuscany’s Lunigiana in 1306, Dante Alighieri passed by the Pietra di Bismantova and, like many before and after him, was so enraptured by it that not only did he make a stop in order to walk to the top; he was even said to have taken inspiration from it for the description of the Purgatory mountain in the Divine Comedy, that is a high mountain rising like an island, whose sides are rugged rocky crags and whose top is a large flat space. 

From whatever angle you look at it, the Pietra di Bismantova (literally Stone of Bismantova) is unmistakable for its shape and majesty, rising isolated out of the flat valleys that surround it, where the king of Italian cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, is made. The Pietra di Bismantova is located in the Reggiano Apennines, in Emilia-Romagna, near the rural town of Castelnovo ne’ Monti.

The Pietra has always exerted a magnetic attraction on the inhabitants of Castelnovo ne’ Monti, so much so that there is even a dialectal expression, “al mal d'la Preda,” a sort of nostalgic and obsessive feeling for the Pietra, which, in popular legends, has always been described as a place of magic and supernatural events.

Indeed, anyone who’s visited it know the particular energy that this huge arenaceous rock radiates.  

The Pietra di Bismantova emerged from the sea, like the whole Apennine chain, during the lower Miocene era, about 19 million years ago, and, if you look closely, you may find marine fossils. 

The mountain also has a role in the local Christian history: an ancient sanctuary with an effigy of the Madonna del Latte built on its slopes has a been a place of devotion since at least the 15th century. The visit to the ‘Madonnina’ was often a pilgrimage undertaken without shoes; it began at Castelnovo, proceeded along an ancient path, reached the hermitage and ended with the ascent to the top.

Today, you can easily reach the top of the Pietra in 30 minutes starting from the parking lot at the foot of the mountain. In addition, it is possible to walk around the base of the Pietra, a 16-km loop known as “al gir d’la Preda,” which allows you to see the cliff from all angles and to pass by the quaint rural villages of the area.


Nel suo viaggio da Padova alla Lunigiana toscana nel 1306, Dante Alighieri passò per la Pietra di Bismantova e, come molti prima e dopo di lui, ne fu così rapito che non solo fece una sosta per raggiungere la cima; si dice che ne trasse persino ispirazione per la descrizione del monte del Purgatorio nella Divina Commedia, descritto come un alto monte che si erge come un'isola, i cui fianchi sono aspre rupi rocciose e la cui sommità è una vasta distesa piana.

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