7) Valico del Paretaio
The climb, though relatively short (10.2 km) and with gradients of no more than 10%, has an average gradient of 5.6% and therefore requires particular strength. It climbs over 573 metres in height and 39/23-25 in. gears are needed for the first and third part of the course, while 39/17-19 in. are sufficient for the second part. The road surface is in good condition and traffic is scarce. Only parts of the climb are shady and there is only one water fountain to refill water-bottles. The average time it takes an amateur cyclist goes from 40 to 50 minutes, while it may take an excursionist from 1 hour to 1’10”.
The Valico del Paretaio is one of the passes that is least known to the public, but this doesn’t make it any less difficult or less spectacular. If anything, the fact that it runs through an area with little traffic and few houses makes the climb more pleasant, and reaching the goal even more enthralling.
We depart from Coniale (307 m.a.s.l.) a locality at approximately 11 kilometres from the centre of Firenzuola on the road to Imola, in the splendid Santerno River valley. The climb is immediately steep and low gears must be used. Just short of a kilometre, on the right, we find a fresh water fountain and the road starts to climb considerably (gradient of 7-8%) coasting Poggio di Stignano. This first part of the tour is characterized by a series of bends that lead to a crossroad that goes to Tirli (3.1 km, 512 m.a.s.l.). The climb then becomes gentler (3-5%) and the road straighter. This part of the course is fairly shady (this one alone) and runs for 2.5 kilometres through the localities of Albignano and Stignano.
Once past Stignano (5.5 km, 621 m.a.s.l.) the road starts to climb with a gradient of 6-7%. This is the most difficult stretch because the gradient remains constant for 4 kilometres. What's more, on this open stretch of road the wind blows rather strongly and often in an unfavourable direction. However, the effort is compensated by the view of the spectacular Apennine peaks that unfold before us.
As we come closer to the pass the tall woods disappear and shrubs and bushes take their place. This makes the heat of still summer days extremely intense.
Fortunately, one kilometre short of the mountain pass the road levels and we proceed gently towards the summit (10.2 km, 880 m.a.s.l.). From this point down, the road is full of bends and twists and after 8 kilometres reaches Palazzuolo sul Senio.
The return trip could go from Palazzuolo sul Senio to Casola Valsenio and then enter the Santerno River valley again at Fontanelice, and then climb up to Firenzuola (83 km), or continue through the gruelling climb up over the Sambuca and Giogo Passes (95 km, go to route 5, alternative route 1).