All pictures © Davide Calafa and Olaf Pignataro

To walk along Via degli Dei (literally the Route of Gods) from Bologna to Florence: this was the goal for us, adventure photographers Davide Calafa and Olaf Pignataro, as we wanted to retrace an ancient historical road, Military Flaminia, built 2000 years ago during the Roman period.
Via degli Dei is a 130 km long route consisting of paved and gravel roads, stretches of asphalt, as well as windy trails passing through the Appennines.
The itinerary can be divided in 5 or more legs, but ultratrail runners complete Via degli Dei in just 12 hours. We arrived at destination in four days, and proud.

We left from Piazza Maggiore in Bologna and reached Santuario San Luca through a monumental roofed arcade consisting of 666 arches (we counted). From there, we climbed down to Parco Talon near Casalecchio and walked upstream Reno river. As it was early in the season and it had rained a lot during the previous days, the bank of the river looked more like a swamp, making the walk difficult at some point.
We also made a 5km diversion to Sasso Marconi on a mission to find a grocery store. At the end of the first day walking, we found ourself in a protected area where camping was forbidden: too tired to keep walking, we decided to camp on top of Monte Adone, away from the route and well hidden from the Forestry Corps. Still, we got hit by a thunderstorm, and we woke up freezing and with our tent barely holding the force of the wind.

Next morning we walked a long stretch of asphalt road from Brento to Monzuno, facing more wind and heavy rain. Quite depressing if you ask us.
A lot of people prefer to arrive in Monzuno by train and start Via degli Dei trek from here, avoiding the first leg, which is urbanised and boring. From here, the route becomes more scenery, entering a chestnut forest and opening to a wind farm till Madonna dei Fornelli, our next stop: too cold and wet to camp again, we chose to stay in a bed & breakfast instead.

The leg between Madonna dei Fornelli to Sant’Agata is by far the most scenic of Via degli Dei. The trek climbs through three mountain passes, large woods and breathtaking views, before entering Tuscany countryside with its wonderful green hills framed by tall cypresses. It was also the longest leg for us, walking 40 km and gaining 1200 metres in elevation. We reached San Piero a Sieve camping site long after the sunset and crashed in our sleeping bags after a well deserved pizza.

Next morning, it was really hard getting back on our feet and moving our sore legs. But the backpacks felt light (did we forget something along the road, or did we  just get accustomed to the weight?) and the view of Florence dome from a distance gave us the extra boost to reach Fiesole, just 6 km to Florence itself. Here, most of the trekkers prefer to take a bus, instead of walking the urban road to the city centre. Not us, and we were almost running when we entered Piazza della Signoria, the arrival of Via degli Dei.

Orientation and maps
Route signage is quite bad in Emilia, while it gets better after Madonna dei Fornelli and in Tuscany. Better to download KML track and GPX track before hitting the road. Even better, you can purchase the map of the route at this link. Anyway, you’ll find 3G signal along most of the route, so you can check online maps while walking.
The path itself is shabby for long sections (again, mostly in Emilia), with fallen trees on the walk and the path becoming a muddy stream after the rain. The situation might improve in late springtime and summertime.

Food and water
You will find drinkable water only in residential areas, with no drinking fountains along the way. There are only a few clean streams on the route, so consider bringing an extra bottle of water or a water purifying device. On the other side, it is worthless to bring food with you for the whole journey or even for a full leg; just bring chocolate and energy bars in your backpack: in the villages you’ll find everything from grocery stores to bars and trattorias. And take your time to enjoy at least one full course meal to taste the cousine of this area.

Where to sleep
You will find a few b&b and homestays along the way, or you can camp.
Accommodations are not cheap (consider 25-30 € per night per person in private room, shared bathroom) and you better book em in advance during bank holidays and high season. But you will sleep comfortable and wake up refreshed.
Camping is all about adventure, especially if you free camp. Pay attention though, you are not allowed to camp anywhere inside the Pliocenico National Reserve, and you might struggle to find isolated places during some segment. More then that, if you really want to free camp, be ready to deal with wild animals: wolves will stay far away from your camp site (as you won’t meet any during the walk, they are smart enough not to deal with humans), but boars will be drawn to it by the scent of food. Always seal your food and hang it high on a tree away from your tent.
On the other hand, there are private campings along the route, where you can put up your tent for a little fee, legally and safely, and you can enjoy a warm shower and other amenities. Just be sure it’s not too early in the season to sleep in a tent, as the mountain weather can be unforgiven.

How to dress
During springtime and autumn you might find rain and even snow, especially on the higher passes. Dress accordingly, with a warm sweater and a waterproof cape or jacket. In the summertime you will suffer from the heat, with long sections of the route out of the woods and under the hot italian sun: bring a cap! But remember, even in the summer it can be cold at night, and you always have to be prepared to face an afternoon thunderstorm.
Trekking shoes are mandatory in all seasons, don’t even think of doing Via degli Dei with sneakers.