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ITALY

Population: 58.94 million (2022)

Surface area: 302,073 km

Specialities : pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne, macaroni, fusilli, fettuccine, farfalle, papardelle, linguine, gnocchi...), sauces (carbonara, al ragu, arrabiata, alle vongole, all'amatriciana, pesto), ravioli, lasagne, pizzas, risotto, bruschetta, focaccia, arancini, polenta, cheeses (ricotta, mascarpone, gorgonzola, parmesan, mozarella, pecorino, provolone), red wines (chiantis, barolo, montepulciano, valpolicella, bardolino), white wines, sparkling wines (prosecco), meats (carpaccio, Milanese cutlets, scaloppine al limon), Parma ham, fruit, olive oil. Desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta, canello, panettone). Soups (minestrone). Spirits (limoncello, Martini, Spritz, Campari). Chocolates (Toblerone, Nutella, Venchi, Caffarel...)

Sports clubs: National football team (Squadra Azzura, 4 world titles). National rugby team. Football clubs: Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, AS Roma, SSC Napoli, Torino, Fiorentina, Sampdoria Genoa, Atalanta Bergamo, Bologna, Parma, Udinese, Lecce. 

Competitions : Summer Olympic Games in Rome (1960). Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo (1956), Turin (2006) and Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo (2026). Football World Cups 1934 and 1990. European Football Cups. Six Nations Tournament. F1 Grand Prix at Monza and Imola.

Cycling: Giro d'Italia. Milan-San Remo. Tour of Lombardy. Tirreno-Adriatico. Strade Bianche. Legendary men riders - Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Felice Gimondi, Marco Pantani, Vincenzo Nibali, Alfredo Binda, Francesco Moser, Mario Cippolini, Claudio Chiapucci, Florenzo Magni, Learco Guerra, Costante Giradengo, Ottovio Bottecchia. Legendary women riders – Maria Canins, Elisa Longo-Borghini, Giorgia Bronzini, Elisa Balsamo.   

Festivals: Venice Carnival (February), Palio in Siena (August), Venice Mostra (cinema), Verona Lyric Festival (June-September), Taormina Arte, San Remo Music Festival, I-Days Festival (Monza), Ypisgrock in Castelbuono, Lucca Summer Festival, Perugia Jazz Festival.

Economy: the world's eighth-largest economy. Luxury goods and textiles (Gucci, Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton, Ray-Ban, Bulgari, Calzedonia, Max Mara, Fendi, Cerruti, Geox, Tod's, Ferragamo, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse, Lotto, Kappa, Diesel, Kiton, Alcantara). 40 pc of the world's luxury goods are made in Italy. Food (Ferrero, Parmalat, Perfetti Van Melle, Bolton Group, Buitoni, Barilla, Giovanni Rana, Campari, Galbani, Martini, Lavazza, Kimbo, Carapelli, De Cecco, Zanetti Segafredo). Automotive (Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Pagani, Maserati, Iveco; motorbikes Aprilia, Ducati, Cagiva and scooters Piaggio. Pirelli tyres). Industry: Leonardo (defence), Prysmian (cables), Italcementi and Buzzi Unicem (cement), steel industry (Tenaris, Riva, Marcegaglia, Lucchini RS and Groupe Beltrame), Beretta, Simmel Difesa, MBDA (weapons), Fincantieri and Ferretti (shipbuilding), Mapei Group (insulation), Candy, Indesit, De'Longhi, Smeg and Zanussi (domestic appliances), Olivetti (technology), Bormioli Rocco (glass), Marazzi Group (tiles), BTP Webuild, Gavio Group and TreviGroup (construction). Tourism (cruise operators). Pharmaceuticals, banking, media. Agriculture (8 pc of GDP).

Websites: www.italia.it, www.visititaly.com

TUSCANY

Italian region

Capital: Florence.

Population: 3.7 million.

Celebrities: Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Curzio Malaparte, Antonio Tabucchi (writers), Cosmo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Machiavelli and Catherine de' Medici (political leaders), Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Amedeo Modigliani (artists). Roberto Benigni, Mario Monicelli, Franco Zeffirelli, Stefania Sandrelli (cinema). Gino Bartali, Mario Cippolini, Paolo Bettini (cycling). Paolo Rossi, Marcello Lippi (football) and 14 popes.

Specialities: chianti, olive oil, white truffles. Tuscan black croutons. Colonnata bacon. Panzanella. Pappa al pomodoro. Ribollita. Cacciucco. Tripe and lampredotto. Steak Florentine style. Crostini di fegato. Florentine pizza. Artichoke omelette.

Sports: Fiorentina, Empoli, Pisa SC (football), Basket Femminile Le Mura Lucca, Mens Sana Siena (basketball).

Tourism: eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the centre of Florence, the historic centre of Siena, Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, the historic centre of San Gimignano, the historic centre of Pienza, Val d'Orcia, the Medici villas and gardens in Tuscany, the Sasso Fratino forest). Palio di Siena, Lucca Summer Festival, Pistoia Blues Festival, Lucca Comics Festival.

Economy: Fashion and the textile industry are the mainstays of the Florentine economy. Tourism.

Websites/ FB / Twitter: www.visittuscany.com

METROPOLITAN CITY OF FLORENCE

Replaced the province of Florence in 2015

Capital: Florence

Population: 995,000

Main towns: Florence (360,000), Scandicci (49,300), Empoli (48,840), Sesto Fiorentina (48,740),

Specialities: olive oil, wines (Chianti, Carmignano).

Celebrities: see Florence.

Tourism: Florence and Tuscan Renaissance architecture.

Km 1

BAGNO A RIPOLI (POP: 25,100)

The Bagno a Ripoli area, between Florence and the Chianti region, is surrounded by majestic Medicean villas and rock-hewn churches housing 15th-century and Renaissance masterpieces. Cypress trees and farmhouses, vineyards and olive groves, tabernacles and wine cellars follow one another. The most important place of worship in Bagno a Ripoli is undoubtedly the Pieve di San Pietro parish church in Ripoli, considered to be one of the oldest churches in Italy. Also worth a visit is the poetic Ninfeo del Giambologna, better known as the Fonte della Fata Morgana (Morgana Fairy Spring). Over the centuries, the mysterious and magical nature of the site has given rise to a number of legends surrounding the sixteenth-century Nymphaeum, including the appearance and disappearance of young girls and the magical properties of its waters. The town boasts an important amateur club, S.S. Aquila (formerly Aquila Ganzaroli), whose ranks have included professional cyclists such as Daniel Oss and the great Gino Bartali. That's why the town boasts a cycling museum dedicated to Gino Bartali. A native of Bagno a Ripoli, Bruno Giannelli was a loyal team-mate of Bartali, who had discovered him, before tiring of the professional world and returning to work as a plumber. The town hosted a start of the Giro Rosa 2023. Other local celebrities include Leonardo Fabbri, a native of the city and silver-medallist in the shot put in Bucharest in 2023, and pole vaulter Claudio Stecchi.

Pieve di San Pietro

Foundation: 790

Style: Romanesque.

History: the first document to mention the church dates back to 790 A.D. It became particularly active from the 11th century onwards and was redeveloped and enlarged in the 14th century. Under the control of the Bishop of Florence in 1530, it underwent a major restoration in the 18th century and a final refurbishment in 1932.

Characteristics: the façade is preceded by an interesting Gothic porch, on the left side of which is the bell tower. Originally, the porch was surmounted by two statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which can now be admired inside. The entrance portal dates from the Renaissance. The interior, austere and uncluttered, is very long and divided into three naves with a polychrome wooden roof.

Special features: at the back of the right nave is a fresco depicting Christ in the Pieta dating from around 1380 and attributed to Pietro Nelli. Also in the left nave are fragments of a fresco depicting the Annunciation, also attributed to Pietro Nelli, and Orazio Fidani's The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. The painting of the Annunciation is attributed to Francesco Mati.

Km 9.4

PONTASSIEVE (POP. 20,150)

Pontassieve lies at the confluence of the Arno and Sieve rivers, surrounded by the typical Tuscan countryside, a succession of hills covered in vineyards and olive groves and dotted with churches, castles and farmhouses. The area gained importance in the Middle Ages for its strategic position and in 1357 the Florentines decided to build a fortress called Castel Sant'Angelo, the original name of the village. Houses were then built around the fortress, which was surrounded and protected by massive walls. Hit by heavy bombing during the Second World War, it was rebuilt after the war and is now a town known for its high-quality wine and craft products, particularly leather goods. Today, only a few sections of the walls and three of the four original gates of the old medieval fortifications remain. In the main square, on one side is the church of San Michele Arcangelo, and on the other is the eighteenth-century Palazzo Sansoni-Trombetta, seat of the town council, which on the first floor preserves, in the Sala delle Eroine, frescoes attributed to Ferdinando Folks depicting female protagonists of glorious exploits. The town's most important monument, however, is the Mediceo Bridge, which crosses the Sieve and dates back to 1555. Wine lovers will be pleased to learn that the Fiasco, the bulbous glass bottle wrapped in straw typical of Chianti, was first produced industrially in Pontassieve in 1877.  

Church of San Miniato in Pagnolle

Foundation: 12th century.

History: to the north of the Sieci, in the municipality of Pontassieve, lies a beautiful valley overlooking the monastery of Madonna del Sasso. In this valley, in the 13th century, the Alighieri family owned land and even a building, while the Portinari family, Beatrice's family, owned a magnificent villa in a panoramic position. In the centre of the valley still stands the ancient church, dedicated to San Miniato, where it is said that the young Dante met his beloved Beatrice. The first documents to mention San Miniato in Pagnolle date back to the twelfth century, but the outer portico was not added until the sixteenth century.

Characteristics: this is a very simple building with a single nave, a wooden roof structure and a characteristic bell-shaped gable. Villa Montecchi, which belonged to the Portinari family, and the Alighieri residence are still visible, but only on the outside, as they are private buildings.

Km 17.8

RUFINA (POP: 7,700)

The rows of vines catch the eye when you contemplate the hillsides of Rufina. For centuries, Rufina has been the land of wine par excellence: as long ago as 1716, Cosimo III de' Medici officially designated it as one of the four Tuscan regions producing great wines. From time to time, as you follow the tall cypress trees, you can see villas, farmhouses and castles, once the homes of noble Florentine families. Rufina's wine-growing history is told by the Vine and Wine Museum at Villa Poggio Reale. The elegant sixteenth-century building, surrounded by a pleasant park, also houses the collection of Florentine artist Marco Romoli. The Villa is surrounded by a large park open to the public, including a wood called Ragnaia. Also worth a visit in the hamlet of Castiglioni is the Pieve di Santo Stefano parish church, which has retained its Romanesque appearance despite several alterations. The building is an example of architecture typical of the Florentine countryside, with stylistic elements of Lombard culture and the early Christian tradition.  

Chianti Rufina

Rufina is the smallest of the Chianti sub-zones, covering an area of 12,483 hectares, including (in whole or in part) the municipalities of Dicomano, Londa, Rufina, Pelago and Pontassieve, all located in the hills to the east of the Tuscan capital. Despite its small size, it is the third-largest sub-area in terms of production (after Classico and Colli Senesi), with over 7 pc of its territory cultivated with vines and listed in the Chianti register. It includes the Pomino DOC, produced in the hamlet of the same name in the municipality of Rufina. Along with Montespertoli, the Rufina sub-area is considered to be one of Chianti's best-designed sub-areas in terms of the uniform quality of the wines produced.

Km 28

DICOMANO (POP: 5,500)

In the heart of the Chianti Rufina region, the village is home to some interesting Etruscan remains. Excavations have revealed the remains of an imposing structure dating back to the Hellenistic period, in the 3rd century BC. This has given rise to two hypotheses: one considers the four metres of Etruscan walls to be an unfinished temple, while the other, more widespread, believes the ancient building to be a fortified residence. The Frascole Stele, a funerary monument dating back to the 6th century BC, bears witness to the presence of a burial site in the area and is now housed in the Dicomano Archaeological Museum.

Km 38.9

SAN GODENZO (Pop: 1,250)

San Godenzo lies between the mountains and thick woods of the Alto Mugello region. It is one of the gateways to the National Park of the Forests of Casentino, Monte Falterona and Campigna, part of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village's name derives from San Gaudenzio, a hermit who lived in prayer on these mountains in the 6th century. A Benedictine abbey was built in his name towards the end of the 11th century, and the first houses sprang up around the religious building. San Godenzo lies along the road to the pass later known as the Muraglione. San Godenzo and the Mugello region are famous for their chestnuts, which have a PGI.  

Abbey of San Gaudenzio

Foundation: 1028.

Style: Romanesque.

History: The first document to mention the abbey dates back to 26 February 1028, when the Bishop of Fiesole signed the foundation charter for the Benedictine monastery of San Gaudenzio. It was built on the site of a previous building dedicated to Saint Gaudenzio, a hermit who lived in the 5th and 6th centuries. The abbey became Cistercian and was nicknamed "Dantesque" in the 14th century because Dante Alighieri stayed there for a long time. He attended a meeting held in the monks' choir on 8 June 1302 with other exiles from the Republic of Florence. Servite monks moved in during the 15th century and occupied the abbey until it was destroyed by Napoleon's armies. In 1921, to mark the six hundredth anniversary of Dante's death, restoration work was carried out on the church, which regained its abbatial title and function as a parish church.

Characteristics: the heart of the village is the Abbey of San Gaudenzio, one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany. The interior is vast and solemn: three naves with quadrangular pillars and a raised presbytery with three apses. Many valuable works of art are preserved inside, including the wooden sculpture of Saint Sebastian by Baccio da Montelupo, a polyptych by Bernardo Daddi dating from 1333 and the painting of the Announced Virgin by the school of Andrea del Sarto (16th century).

In the land of Dante

Followers of the Tour will no doubt be able to describe this stage as Dantesque, as several of the towns it passes through, such as Pontassieve, San Godenzo and San Leo, are part of the legend of Dante Aligheri, considered to be the "father of the Italian language". Dante was born between 1265 and 1267 in Florence and died on 14 September 1321 in Ravenna. Along with Petrarch and Boccaccio, he was one of the "three crowns" who established Tuscan as a literary language. A major poet of the Middle Ages, he wrote the Divine Comedy, often considered to be the greatest work written in this idiom and one of the masterpieces of world literature. Prior of the city of Florence and a very active member of the "White Guelphs" faction, he was sentenced to the stake in 1302 after his side's defeat of Charles of Valois' "Black Guelphs" and ended his life in exile. He wandered from town to town before settling in Ravenna, where he died of malaria in 1321. Dante's banishment from Florence was only lifted in 2008, and Ravenna has always refused to return the remains of the exiled man to his native city. 

EMILIA-ROMAGNA

Italian region

Capital: Bologna

Population: 4.45 million.

Provinces: Bologna, Ferrara, Forli-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia, Rimini.  

Celebrities: Giuseppe Verdi (composer), Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini (car manufacturers), Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Valerio Zurlini (cinema). Luciano Pavarotti, Lucio Dalla, Raffaella Carra, Zucchero (singers). Carlo Ancelotti, Arrigo Sacchi (football). Alberto Tomba (skiing). Loris Capirossi (motorbike). Marco Pantani (cycling).

Specialities: al ragu (Bolognese) sauce, parmesan, balsamic vinegar, Parma ham, Grana Padano, mortadella, Bolognese sauce, tagliatelle, tortellini, etc. Cold meats, Pan Speziale.

Sports: Bologna FC, Parma Calcio 1913. Virtus Bologna, ASD Basket Parma (basketball). Tour of Emilia, Tour of Romagna (cycling). 

Tourism: Renaissance cities (Modena, Parma and Ferrara), tourist resorts (Riccione, Cattolica and Rimini).

Economy: Emilia-Romagna is considered one of the richest and most developed regions in Europe. The region is also an important cultural and tourist centre, boasting the oldest university in the western world, numerous Renaissance towns and tourist resorts, as well as being a major production centre in the food (Parmalat) and automotive (Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini) industries. Textiles (Max Mar, Furla, La Perla, Marina Rinaldi...)

Websites/ FB / Twitter: www.emiliaromagnawelcome.com / www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it

FORLI-CESENA

Province of Italy in Emilia-Romagna.

Capital: Forli

Population: 392,000 

Surface area: 2,378 km2

Main towns: Forli (118,000), Cesena (97,000), Cesenatico (26,000)

Specialities: olive oil, wines (chianti, carmignano). Piadina.

Famous personalities: Benito Mussolini (born in Predappio), Ercole Baldini, Marco Pantani (cycling). Tourism: seaside tourism in towns along the Adriatic coast, from Cesenatico to Rimini. Spa tourism in Castrocaro Terme, Bagno di Romagna and Fratta Terme. Forli (cathedral, San Mercuriale abbey church, Ravaldino castle), Cesena (Malatesta fortress). Farmhouse inns on the Apennine hills.

Economy: The province of Forli produces olive oil and is notable for its agriculture (fruit, vines, olives). 

Website: www.provincia.fc.it

Km 63.6

PREMILCUORE (POP: 800)

Legend has it that the village was founded by a Roman centurion by the name of Marcellianus, who took refuge in the remote Rabbi valley to escape the wrath of emperor Caracalla, against whom he had revolted. The village, which has been documented since the 12th century, lies within the Casentino, Monte Falterona, Campigna National Park. It is worth a visit for its medieval centre, dominated by its fortress, the Rocca di Premilcuore.  

Casentino, Monte Falterona and Campigna Forests National Park

It is one of the oldest and most important forest complexes in Europe, including the Lama Forest and the Sassofratino Strict Nature Reserve, a nature sanctuary that has won several awards from the Council of Europe and, since July 2017, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park covers around 36,000 hectares, straddling the Tuscan and Romagna Apennines, between the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Arezzo and Florence. It is an area dotted with picturesque villages, an important artistic and architectural heritage and an abundance of flora and fauna, including the largest population of wolves in the Northern Apennines, as well as the exceptional presence of five species of ungulates: wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, red deer and mouflon. Premilcuore is home to a park visitor centre and a museum of "wildlife and the senses", focusing on the wildlife of the park's woods, clearings and waterways.

Km 80.5

GALEATA (POP: 2,470)

In ancient times, Galeata was a refuge for the Umbrians, as evidenced by the remains of the village of Menaviola, 3 km from the present-day town centre. The town prospered around its powerful abbey, dedicated to Saint Hilarius (now Italianised as Sant'Ellero), which for centuries dominated and administered the surrounding area, with a defensive system that included troops and three strongholds (Santa Sofia, Civitella and Pianetto). At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the town came under the control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1860. This rich past is still evident in the important architecture of the Palazzo del Podestà, the Abbey of Sant'Ellero, the parish church of Santa Maria in Pantano and, in the village, the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, with its recently faithfully restored monastery, as well as the archaeological area of Mevaniola.  

Sant'Ellero Abbey

Foundation: 497

Style: Romanesque.

History: construction began in 497, although what has survived, after several restorations and alterations, is essentially the church from the 9th and 10th centuries. The abbey was exempt from episcopal jurisdiction until 1785, when it was annexed to the Roman Catholic diocese of Sansepolcro.

Characteristics: only the abbey church remains, with its Romanesque portal decorated with capitals featuring mermaids, symbols of sin, and monks at prayer. The crypt is the part that holds the most surprises. Here you will find the 8th-century sarcophagus of Saint Hilarius, made of Greek marble, sculpted crosses, leaves and flowers in the Byzantine style. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York holds a column from Sant'Ellero, probably belonging to the cloister, which has now disappeared.

Special features: in May, a pilgrimage is held in the church, as Saint Ellero is reputed to cure migraines.  

Podestà Palace

Construction: 15th century.

History: the building dates back to the early 1400s, when the Florentine Republic ordered the palace to be used as the seat of the Podesteria de Galeata. It seems that in 1426 the mayor of Florence, Zanobi del Pino, a person hated by Machiavelli, resided here. After the earthquake of 1584, the palace was completely rebuilt and further important changes were made in 1890, when it became the seat of the Town Hall.

Km 86.6

SANTA-SOFIA (POP: 4,000)

The town, like other surrounding municipalities, is part of the territory that until 1923 was part of the Tuscany region and is now part of Emilia Romagna. Here, Tuscan and Romagna styles blend together, as can be seen in the typical architecture of the historic centre. Today, Santa Sofia is the centre of contemporary art in the Romagna Apennines, thanks to the Vero Stoppioni contemporary art gallery and its open-air sculpture park, featuring works by artists of national and international calibre. In 2019, the town hosted a stage of the Baby Giro won by Briton Ethan Hayter. It is also the birthplace of the Colinelli family, cyclists from Lyon, one of whose members, Angelo, took part in the Tour de France in 1953. 

Km 113.7

BAGNO DI ROMAGNA (POP: 5,600)

Bagno di Romagna (the Romagna Bath), in the province of Forli-Cesena, has always been famous for its natural sulphurous waters and its forest heritage. The presence of thermal waters attracted the Romans and poet Martial in particular, who celebrated its curative virtues in his verse. From the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, the Romans used the area as a stopping-off point on the road from Ravenna to Rome, equipping it with a vast spa complex. The springs are still very popular today, attracting thousands of visitors who flock to the three spas at San Agnese, Euroterme and Roseo. The "Gnome Trail", located close to the historic centre, is a walk designed to entertain young and old alike. Bagno di Romagna is twinned with Moutiers in France.

Km 121.4

SARSINA (POP: 3,350)

Sarsina is perched on the slopes of a hill overlooking the valley through which the River Savio flows. It is best known as the birthplace of Plautus, the great Roman playwright, who found inspiration for his plays in the landscapes of the Romagna Appenines. Its strategic position, at the crossroads of important trade routes, has enabled Sarsina to prosper since it was founded in the 2nd century BC by the Umbrian populations. The remains of this long history can be admired today at the National Archaeological Museum, or in the large, welcoming Piazza Plautus in the centre of the village. The cathedral basilica of Saint-Vicin also attracts many pilgrims.  

Plautus, the first great Latin playwright

Plautus, in Latin Titus Maccius Plautus, born around 254 BC in Sarsina and died in 184 BC in Rome, was a Latin comic playwright and the first of the great dramatists of Latin literature. He drew his inspiration mainly from Greek writers of new comedy such as Menander, Philemon and Diphilus, to whom he gave a typically Roman flavour. He also enjoyed great success during his lifetime, and many Roman writers praised him. He influenced some of the great literary figures, including Shakespeare and Molière (L'Avare is partly based on Plautus' Aulularia).

Km 137.1

SOGLIANO AL RUBICONE (POP: 3,120)

Situated at the source of the Rubicon, the small coastal river made famous by Julius Caesar, Sogliano al Rubicone has suffered a major rural exodus since the 1950s, but since the 1980s the town has been enjoying renewed economic development thanks to the revival of the production of formaggio di fossa (pit cheese), a typical product of the town already known and produced under the Malatesta family, the lords who ruled the region in the Middle Ages. This cheese is aged in tufa pits for a hundred days and eaten with honey. The country's most famous child is poet Giovanni Pascoli, to whom an itinerary is dedicated in the city, taking visitors to all the places of interest, such as the Palazzo della Cultura and its three permanent exhibitions. Sogliano is the birthplace of Luciano Sambi, a rider from the 1960s who took part in the Giro twice. Since 2013, it has also been a stage town for the International Coppi-Bartali Week: in 2021, Jonas Vingegaard won here.  

Crossing the Rubicon

The Rubicon rises near the municipality of Sogliano al Rubicone and flows into the Adriatic Sea south of Cesenatico. It is to this river that the expression "crossing the Rubicon" refers. From 59 BC onwards, this river served as the border between Roman Italy and the province of Cisalpine Gaul. It had a special significance in Roman law because no general was allowed to cross it with armed soldiers. The law thus protected Rome from internal military threats. It became famous when Julius Caesar crossed it with his armed legions on 11 January 49 BC, following in Pompey's footsteps and breaking the law of the Roman Senate. According to Suetonius, as he crossed the river he uttered the famous phrase: Alea jacta est or "the die is cast". This episode gave rise to the expression "crossing the Rubicon", which has survived to the present day. It evokes a person embarking on a risky venture with no way of turning back.

PROVINCE OF RIMINI

Province of Italy in Emilia-Romagna.

Capital: Rimini

Population: 339,000 

Surface area: 921 km2

Main towns: Rimini (150,000), Riccione (34,500), Santarcangelo di Romagna (22,000)

Specialities: piadine, piada (bread), egg pasta, passatelli, strozzapreti (priest's stew, pasta), spit-roasted cockerel, mora romagnola (salami), ciambella (cake), piada dei morti (dried fruit brioche), fiocchetti (cheese-stuffed pasta), pagnotta (bread ball). 

Celebrities: Federico Fellini (film director), Marco Pantani (cyclist), Hugo Pratt (comic strip artist), Giovanni Evangelisti (athlete).

Tourism: seaside resorts along the coast from Bellaria-Igea Marina to Cattolica. The Republic of San Marino and the entire Marecchia valley. Miniature Italy theme park to the north of Rimini and Fabilandia to the south. The medieval centres of Rimini, San Leo, Santarcangelo di Romagna, Verucchio and Torriana.

Economy: essentially based on tourism and agriculture (olives and various fruits), with all the small and medium-sized businesses that make a living from it (services, hotels, restaurants, crafts, etc.).

Website: www.provincia.rimini.it

Km 145.1

NOVAFELTRIA (POP: 7,000)

The town was first mentioned in 950, around the church of San Pietro and the oratory of Santa Marina. It was chosen as a residence by the Counts Segni of Bologna in the 17th century. It was part of the Marche region from 1860, before becoming part of Emilia-Romagna in 2009, a decision disputed by its home region. The hamlet of Perticara, a former mining centre, is home to a museum dedicated to the history of the sulphur mines (the largest in Europe), as well as archaeological evidence dating back to the Bronze Age and the civilisation of the Umbrians, Etruscans and Romans. Novafeltria is the birthplace of Angiolino Piscaglia, who took part in the Giro five times between 1957 and 1961.  

Perticara mine

Perticara is a hamlet in the municipality of Novafeltria whose inhabitants, at the beginning of the 20th century, lived at the pace of a large industrial community rather than as a rural population. The large sulphur mine, where extraction was launched by the Montecatini company in 1917, employed over 1,600 men at the time. The mine was closed in 1964, and today the Sulphur Museum, housed in the restored buildings of the old site, bears witness to the hard work of these workers, along with the completely renovated Vittoria extraction shaft. It was here that the world's largest sulphur crystal was extracted, and it is now kept in Milan's Natural History Museum. It is the largest mine in Europe and one of the largest in the world, with a labyrinth of galleries stretching for over 100 km.

Km 157.1

SAN LEO (POP: 3,000)

San Leo is located in the heart of the Montefeltro countryside to the south-west of Rimini, on a hill 600 metres above sea level that has been occupied since Roman times. It is listed as one of the "most beautiful villages in Italy" and has also been awarded the orange flag for sustainable tourism. Umberto Eco called it "the most beautiful village in Italy". Its highlight is its castle, perched on a steep rock. It impressed Dante, who was inspired by it in his descriptions of purgatory. Piazza Dante is where visitors will find to the most important religious and civil buildings. Among the religious buildings, the oldest is the parish church (7th-9th century). It contains two remarkable works: the ciborium, donated by Duke Orso (882), and the Sacello (chapel), built by Saint Leo in the fourth century. In the same square is the 12th-13th century cathedral, built in the Roman-Lombard style. A few metres from the Cathedral of San Leo is the twelfth-century watchtower and its fourteenth-century bell. The civil buildings include the sixteenth-century Palazzo Medici, which houses the San Leo Museum of Sacred Art.  

Rocca de San Leo (fortress)

Construction: 15th century.

Style: fortress.

History and characteristics: the area surrounding the fortress has been used for strategic purposes since the Middle Ages, but the current building dates back to the second half of the 15th century, when Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482) restored it under the supervision of architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1501). The fortress is divided into two levels: at the top stands the impressive tower and below it two towers linked to the rest of the building.

Special features: the fortress has played host to many illustrious figures, including Dante (1265-1321), the Count of Cagliostro (1743-1793), who was a prisoner of the Papal States, and St Francis (c. 1182-1226), who is said to have founded the convent of San Igne, nestling in the countryside two kilometres from San Leo.

REPUBLIC OF SAN MARINO

Population: 33,607

Capital: San Marino

Surface area: 61 km2

Specialities: pasta, caciatello (fresh cream cake), golden raisin fritters, bustrengo (polenta and apple cake).

Sports clubs: Victor San Marino (football, Italian Serie D), San Marino Academy (football, Italian Women's Serie B). National football team since 1986 (67 defeats and one win against Liechtenstein in 2004)

Major competitions: San Marino Automobile Grand Prix (held in Imola). San Marino Motorcycle Grand Prix (held in Imola and Mugello). Thirteen visits by the Giro between 1951 and 2019.

Festivals: national holiday (3 September)

Attractions: Unesco World Heritage-listed historic centre, San Marino public palace, national museum. San Marino Towers, San Marino Basilica. 

Economy: agriculture, wine, livestock, crafts, tourism (60% of resources). Stamp issue (10% of GDP)

Km 180

SAN MARINO

San Marino is a European micro-State landlocked within Italy. It is the third smallest state in Europe after the Vatican and Monaco, and the fifth smallest in the world after those two states, Nauru and Tuvalu. It is also the oldest continuously existing republic in the world, with a constitutional system dating back to the 16th century. It is landlocked within Italy, between Emilia-Romagna and Marche. In August 2020, the country had a population of 33,607, including 5,579 foreigners. There are 13,842 San Marino residents abroad. The Republic is an integral part of the historic Montefeltro region. San Marino became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and joined the United Nations in 1992. San Marino was the first state in Western Europe to be ruled by Communists, between 1945 and 1957. San Marino has hosted the Giro d'Italia on thirteen occasions, most of them time trials won by Charly Gaul in 1958, Eddy Merckx in 1969 and most recently by Primoz Roglic in 2019. The International Coppi-Bartali Week has also stopped here in 2021 and 2022, with Jonas Vingegaard and Ben Tulett winning respectively.

Km 187.7

SERRAVALLE (POP: 11,000)

Serravalle is San Marino's most populous town, with almost 11,000 inhabitants. First mentioned in 962, the town was called Castrum Olnani (Elm City). It became part of the Republic of San Marino in 1463. Serravalle is home to San Marino's 5,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where the national team plays all its international matches.  

Florence

Discover the charm and beauty of Florence, where history echoes through every cobblestone. At the heart of the city’s Renaissance splendours sits the Uffizi Gallery, home to timeless masterpieces by the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo. While artisanal crafts can be found on the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge lined with shops that crosses the River Arno.

The Mercato Centrale offers a feast for the senses, and is the perfect place to discover the celebrated flavours of Tuscany. You can enjoy sweeping views of the city from the Duomo, and experience the city’s beating heart in the trendy Oltrarno district. Nearby highlights include the majestic Palazzo Putti, one of Florence’s finest museums, and the Boboli Gardens.

At the end of the day, head to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Here, a breathtaking sunset paints the city in hues of gold. Florence is a city where culture and culinary excellence converge, and is a must-visit for those interested in exploring Italy’s rich heritage.

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Rimini

Dive into the seaside resort of Rimini and enjoy both relaxation and excitement. By day the sparkling beaches are the perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun, while at night the lively promenade is home to an eclectic selection of bars and cool clubs. Rimini seamlessly blends coastal charm with after-hours allure, creating a symphony for the senses.

However, Rimini's allure lies not just in its beachfront, but also in its rich history. Monuments like the Tiberius Bridge date back to the Roman era, while renowned artists worked in the city during the Renaissance. From beachfront bliss to ancient wonders to thrilling nightlife, Rimini promises an unforgettable escape where every moment is a celebration.

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