The most striking mountain scenery in these parts can be found around Sestola, a winter and summer resort near the highest peak of the Northern Apennines, Monte Cimone (7,100ft).. From Sestola you can visit the pretty glacial Lago della Ninfa and the Giardino Esperia, planted by the local Alpine club in 1950 at the Passo del Lupo, a botanical frontier, where Alpine and Apennine flowers, trees and herbs grow side by side.
Sestola also has the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali Meccanici, with calliopes and carillons, barrel organs, automated birds and singing dolls.
Another excursion from Sestola is to Pian Cavallaro, and from there to the summit of Monte Cimone for a unique view – on a clear day you can see both the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas, and all the way north to the Julian Alps and Mont Blanc.
You can also make the ascent from the old village of Fiumalbo, just below the Passo Abetone that separates Emilia from Tuscany. Two other mountain lakes are just south of Fiumalbo: Lago Santo and Lago Bacio, connected by an easy footpath. Not as pretty, but more unusual, is the small Lago Pratignano, in the meadows south of Fanano, a little to the east of Sestola. In the spring its banks are strewn with unusual wild flowers and carnivorous plants—bring your waders.
For a ski report around Monte Cimone call +39 053 662350
Giardino Esperia: Hours Open mid-June to mid-Sept Tues–Sun 9.30–12.30 and 2–6; July and Aug daily; Adm donations. +39 053 661535
Museo degli Strumenti Musicali Meccanici: Hours Open July–Aug 10–12 and 4–7, Sun and hols from 3; rest of year Sun and hols 10–12 and 3–6, other days by appointment. Adm €3. +039 053 662324
Images by: Roberto Ferrari