Historical routes in the Province of Bologna
The via Cassìola
Documents prove that the Via Cassìola already existed in the Middle Ages; this name is still used today for certain villages or country roads around the Via Emilia and the Via Bazzanese.
The most important sections start from Bazzano, where the Castle and the Chiesa di Santo Stefano which dates back to 871 are worth visiting.
Monteveglio is another important fortified centre famous for its castle, which once belonged to the countess Matilde di Canossa, and for the Pieve di S. Maria Assunta, which once offered shelter to pilgrims.
Another stop along this route is Castello di Serravalle, another village fortified by people of Bologna in 1227 and long fought over by the people of Modena; the remains can still be seen. Another important site is Santa Lucia di Roffeno, an important Benedictine monastery once owned by the rich and powerful Abbazia di San Silvestro a Nonantola.
After Castel d'Aiano, mentioned in 969 with the name "Fontana Longobardorum", the route goes to Bombiana, which in the 14th century had a hospital for wayfarers; the route then continues to Gaggio Montano, a village which already existed in Longobard times with the name "Gaium Regine", meaning the queen’s woods. Along the border the route reaches Rocca Corneta, which from the Riva Mountains dominates the Dardagna Valley, near the highest passes in the Apennines.
THE MAIN ROAD OF SARAGOZZA OR FRANCESCA DELLA SAMBUCA
This itinerary leads along the most important road in the western Apennines in the province of Bologna which, from Etruscan and pre-Roman days, followed the Reno River leaving Bologna from the Porta Saragozza gate. In modern times the road was called the “maestra di Saragozza” while in the Middle Ages the people of Pistoia called it the
Francesca road meaning the road to and from France.
The route leaves Casalecchio and heads south stopping in Pontecchio with its Pieve and Abbazia of Santo Stefano and the Ospedale, and in Sasso Marconi where the small chapel of Sant’Andrea was cut into the rock in 1283 to offer shelter to passing pilgrims. Marzabotto, an important archaeological site for the necropolis and remains of an Etruscan town, is significant proof of the ancient use of this road, which ran from Bologna to Pistoia. In the Middle Ages the road did not run through Porretta but through San Giovanni Battista di Sùccida, now called Borgo Capanne, and then crossed the Reno River reaching the pilgrim’s hospice in Prato del Vescovo.
Those travellers in ancient times who wanted to make their way along the Limentra Valley east of Riola had two alternatives on the respective sides of the valley: after the two Savignano bridges they could take the eastern route or the valley’s western route.
THE VIA DELLO STALE OR VIA DEGLI DEI
The tourist name given to this road evokes the many mountains in the area called after pagan divinities like Mount Adone and Mount Venere, while the name Via dello Stale refers to the pass of the same name, not far from the Futa Pass, which was used by pilgrims and travellers making their way along this road.
Brento, the first town on this historic road was the strategic seat of a castle built by the Byzantines to stop the Longobard’s advance towards the end of the 6th century and even in later periods it maintained this defensive function. The route continues along the ridge to the important feudal town of Monzuno, the rulers of which enjoyed a good rapport with the counts Alberti, the counts of Panico and later with the municipality of Bologna. Not far from Monzuno, in Ospitale, stands a Hospital which was built in the 13th century for pilgrims by the Vallombroso order and which can now be admired following renovation in the 15th and 18th century .
The first stop along this itinerary is in Madonna dei Fornelli and past this village it reaches one of the major attractions on this road: the remains of the Monte Bastione road consisting of slabs of local sandstone.
The second part of the route along the Via dello Stale and its stretch in the province of Bologna territory ends at the Futa Pass. The road then continues across the border into Tuscany running to Fiesole and Florence.
THE VIA TOSCANA
The so-called Via di Toscana owes its name, which was attributed from the 13th century, to the fact that it was the official road to Florence. It was also referred to as the Via Romea which means it was possibly connected with Rome.
This road starts from Bologna’s Porta Ravegnana cross-roads and runs past the Abbazia di Santo Stefano which has Hospital for travellers since the 11th century.
The next stop, the Chiesa di San Ruffillo, was extended with a Hospital for pilgrims in 1143 while the Monastero di San Bartolomeo di Musiano is even older as it was founded in 981 by the family of the Counts of Bologna. It is possible to visit this church which has been restored on various occasions; the well is the only part of the cloister that remains.
The Via di Toscana, with its many artistic and religious treasures, continues past Carteria di Sesto, the Chiesetta di Santa Maria di Meleto di Sesto which dates back to 1116 and which in the second half of the 14th century was a welcome shelter for travellers. Although the church has been restored we can still admire the original Romanesque architecture.
The next stage leads to Pianoro which - at least in 1094 - had a Hospital which used to offer accommodation to travellers making their way along this mountainous stretch of road. Another important stop for pilgrims was the Pieve di San Pietro di Barbarolo, which was mentioned as early as 1034.
In the Middle Ages the town of Loiano, the name of which “fundus Lollianus” meant it was the rustic property of a Roman landowner, found itself hemmed in between the Barbarians of Barbarolo and the Goths of “Mons Gothorum”, today’s Monghidoro. In the Middle Ages this town’s Pieve di Santa Maria was an important stop for travellers before reaching the Raticosa Pass and crossing the border into Tuscany.
THE VIA MONTANARA
The Via Montanara which runs from Imola up through the Santerno Valley, to Firenzuola, Scarperia and Florence was a road mainly used for trading. From Imola the ancient road ran along two itineraries to Tossignano, crossing the river where there was a fracture in the Romagna gypsum. Close by, in Serraglio, a funeral slab carved by the Cesis was found, which is now in Bologna’s Civic Archaeological Museum. In medieval days travellers would venerate the image of the Madonna in the Parish Church named after her of which there is no trace today but which must have been a late 14th century church built by the pupils of Vitale from Bologna; travellers could also stay in the Hospice of Santa Maria.
Taking the right bank of the Santerno River the route leads to Castel del Rio which is famous for its Palazzo Comitale and its characteristic humped-back bridge both of which were built by the Alidosi family between and the middle of the 15th and middle of the 16th centuries.
Once in the Firenzuola valley, which was part of the historic and political region known as Tuscan Romagna, it is worth visiting the town and the Palazzo Pretorio which dates back to 1371 and was rebuilt after the war.
The route ends in Florence where we suggest the charming and little visited Giogo di Scarperia road.
HOW TO GET HERE
Take the A1 motorway and exit at Casalecchio di Reno (for those who come from the south), or Borgo Panigale (for those who come from the north); or take the A13 motorway and exit at Bologna- Arcoveggio, or the A14 motorway and exit at Bologna-San Lazzaro.