Panaro, beyond the hills and among the trees
The Panaro river is the ‘blue thread’ that crosses the Terre di Castelli, an ideal place for relaxation and leisure time for lovers of outdoor life.
The Panaro river is the natural path that unites the Terre di Castelli, characterizing the landscape and shaping its appearance and environment over the centuries. A unique place to discover everchanging nature and where relaxation, leisure, sports and excellent food and wine are always close at hand.
A protagonist, there is no other word to define the river Panaro (the stress goes on the penultimate syllable), the blue thread that crosses the heart of the Terre di Castelli. Through the centuries its course has shaped the landscape that we can see today, and its waters have been the lifeblood for the fields and especially for the orchards that have given sustenance and wealth to its inhabitants. The Panaro today is also an important source of environmental equilibrium, providing a refuge for plants and animals, where you can lose yourself in the evocative, fresh and relaxing nature, which is often a stone’s throw from the town and villages in this corner of the Modena province.
The last tributary on the right of the River Po (Italy’s longest river), the Panaro flows through the Terre di Castelli territory from its source in the Modena Apennines where the confluence of the Leo and Scoltenna streams. These originate from the slopes of Monte Cimone, the highest peak of the Northern Apennines, an altitude of 2165 meters. Although it retains the typical torrential features of Apennine rivers, the Panaro owes its elevated water flow (especially in spring and autumn) to the high altitude of these springs. On entering the Terre di Castelli, between the municipalities of Zocca, Marano and Guiglia, the Panaro flows first into a narrow valley that widens into the plain between the villages of Vignola and Savignano.
First flowing through the hills and then surrounded by lush vegetation follow its course towards the plain, the Panaro provides a number of idyllic spots, where you can recharge your batteries and pass moments of peace, pleasure and enjoyment.
Sport and relaxation by the river
The banks of the river are in fact an ideal site for a wide range of activities, from short walks just outside the historic centres of Vignola, Savignano and Marano, to longer nature walks. The footpaths along the river are perfect for jogging, while for lovers of trekking and mountain biking the river provides an optimal route to explore the many points of interest that overlook its course. You can also find several organised sites along the river where it is possible to enjoy picnics and barbecues.
In the summer season the Panaro is particularly inviting, thanks to the light breeze that often blows through its valley and the cool shade of its banks. Although you may be tempted to take a dip in its crystalline waters, you must take great care. While paddling in its gentle flowing, shallow waters, over its wide riverbed of pebbles, we shouldn’t forget the Panaro remains a river and not a swimming pool, with all the risks involved. We must therefore always avoid entering the water where it begins to deepen or its course narrows or where the current becomes more impetuous. The river remains an unpredictable element, so you should never risk putting yourself and others in danger.
So, whether it’s simply relaxing, having a delicious lunch or snack in one of the many restaurants or kiosks, riding a bike or going for jog, the river has something for everyone.
The River Park of Marano
Along the “Percorso Sole” (footpath) in the municipality of Marano sul Panaro, there is the Marano River Park, one of the best organised areas along the river, which is a nice stop-off for those who want to relax and have fun. Free use of the car park, picnic tables and barbecues, make "Marano Beach" an ideal place for a day out with family or friends.
Vignola Swimming Pool
At the foot of the hill on which the Fortress stands, in a large, green park, we find Vignola Swimming Pool, designed by Modena architect Cesare Leonardi, where you can have a refreshing dip in a beautiful riverside setting. Also stop here for lunch or dinner or to enjoy the live music on offer several evenings a week.
Savignano Museum of Venus and the Elephant
The River Panaro holds the key to past of this territory because on its banks, in the municipality of Savignano, have been uncovered two extraordinary finds from different eras that constitute an important heritage for scholars, as well as for the locals. The first is the famous Venus of Savignano, a statuette dating back to the Palaeolithic Era depicting a female; and the second, the skeleton of the so-called Elephant of Savignano, a mammoth from the Pliocene Era.
Discover the Panaro via its Percorso Sole / Natura (Nature Trail)
The left bank of the river is probably the best route to discover the Panaro in all its different facets. The footpath named "Percorso Sole", between Casona di Marano and Vignola, and "Percorso Natura" from Vignola to San Donnino, in the municipality of Modena, is a wide path that stretches for about 30 kilometers along the river, and that allows you to observe its transition from the hills to the plains and vice versa.
For long stretches the path passes through wooded areas that extend considerably even in the plains. This true "green corridor" also allows a large number of animal and plant species to live and thrive in close proximity to man and his activities. It is not uncommon, for example, that a herd of deer can be seen near the city of Modena thanks to this route that provides them with food and shelter.
The middle and lower course of the river is home to the typical black poplartrees, and if you are lucky along its banks you may spot a heron, elegant birds who love these places. Then we come to the historic centres of Spilamberto, Vignola and Marano. In particular, the Rocca di Vignola (the fortress of Vignola), which with its dominant position on the course of the Panaro is a truly spectacular sight from whatever direction you arrive. Going up towards Marano, the green vegetation of the river environment gradually merges with that of the woods and shrubs that cover the hills. Here are some of the points where you can enjoy the peace and beauty of the natural environment. The final stretch passes near Casona di Marano and takes us to border of the Parco dei Sassi di Roccamalatina (Sassi di Roccamalatina Park). We have now entered the realm of foxes and badgers, hawks and wild boar, hiding in the hills often sheltered from prying eyes.
Sometimes a river can become the symbol of a territory: the Panaro is certainly one of these, for the importance it holds in the hearts of the inhabitants and for the characteristics of its thriving ecosystem. Going up and down the river is one of the most exciting ways to discover the world of Terre di Castelli.